Advocate General's opinion on the Super League case states that FIFA-UEFA rules under which any new competition is subject to prior approval are compatible with EU competition law

Advocate General's opinion on the Super League case states that FIFA-UEFA rules under which any new competition is subject to prior approval are compatible with EU competition law


On 15 December, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) published Advocate General Rantos’ Opinion regarding the Super League case.  The Advocate General suggested that the Court acknowledges the compatibility of European Union competition law with FIFA-UEFA rules. While organizers are allowed to create their own competitions outside of UEFA and FIFA, Rantos said that without their approval, organizers are not permitted to participate in UEFA and FIFA tournaments. According to the Advocate General EU competition rules do not prohibit FIFA, UEFA, their member federations, or their national leagues from issuing sanctions against clubs when those participate in a project to set up a new competition that would risk undermining the objectives that those federations legitimately pursue.  
 

The Opinion strengthens the European Sport Model (“Article 165 TFEU gives expression to the ‘constitutional’ recognition of the ‘European Sports Model”) and also reinforces Art. 165 of the Lisbon Treaty in the application of competition policy to sport “(Art. 165 …emphasises the special social character of that economic activity (of sport), which may justify a difference in treatment in certain respects”). The General Advocate identified the various components of the European Sport Model, including its pyramidal structure, open competitions and financial solidarity. In the application of competition policy to sport, the preservation of these aspects can be seen as a justifiable goal. 

According to a different Advocate General's Opinion, Rantos has requested that the judgment of the General Court of the European Union of 16 December 2020, International Skating Union (ISU) v Commission (T-93/18), be set aside in part and requests that it be referred back to the ECJ. In particular, the opinion states that sports federations can prevent athletes from competing in alternative tournaments in some situations without breaking competition law. Sports federations are allowed to act as regulators of their sport and event organisers at the same time, but market access can be denied if legitimate interests are pursued, the objective is reasonable and the measures are proportionate. In addition, Rantos strengthens arbitration in sport, in this case the CAS, by stating: “that the exclusive and binding recourse to arbitration is not to be interpreted as an "enhancing factor" in the sense of a restriction of competition”. 

The European Court of Justice’s final decision in the Super League case is expected in March 2023. The ECJ generally abides by Advocate General’s recommendations.   

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