Europe united against football Super League proposal – EURACTIV.com
From senior European officials to European leaders, including British politicians and nationalist party leaders: universal condemnation against the plans for a new football tournament has brought Europe together for once.
In an unprecedented move, twelve of the biggest football clubs in the world on Sunday (April 18) revealed their intention to launch a new international midweek competition, the Super League, to compete with the Champions League tournament, hosted by the governing body of European football, UEFA.
The separation move, driven by shrinking audiences and the economic potential of such an operation, was immediately condemned by UEFA, which threatened to ban the Super League rebels from all other competitions.
Global outcry over the announcement quickly descended on Brussels, with Commission Vice-President in charge of promoting the European way of life, Margaritis Schinas, one of the first to criticize the idea of the Super League.
“We must defend a European model of sport based on values and founded on diversity and inclusion”, he said. tweeted Monday April 19, adding that there is no place to reserve football for the few rich and powerful clubs.
Schinas, a supporter of Greece’s Aris Thessaloniki team, was among European lawmakers who met UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin last December while lobbying at European level against the Super League.
Since 2017, UEFA has had a representative office in Brussels, engaging in close dialogue with the EU institutions in different policy areas such as the promotion of physical activity and social inclusion through sport.
UEFA and the European Commission also signed a cooperation agreement in 2014 and renewed in 2018 to work in a tangible and constructive way on issues of common interest.
Later Monday (April 19), the Commission clarified its position, claiming that the EU executive defends a model of European sport, which is part of the fabric of society.
“The main principles of this model are autonomy, openness, solidarity between grassroots and elite sports and the interdependence of sports federations ”, declared a Commission spokesperson.
According to the Commission, good governance based on clearly defined, transparent and non-discriminatory rules is a condition for the autonomy and self-regulation of sports organizations.
“This is our tradition, our DNA, and must not be jeopardized. We therefore invite all parties to take these principles into account when assessing the potential impact of this proposal, ”the spokesperson concluded.
The Commission’s reaction suggests that, although sharing Schinas’ overall position, the EU executive does not really want to be involved in the matter at the moment, as it could result in a dispute over competition law at some stage. ulterior.
The Commission declined to comment on the antitrust aspects of the proposals, in the absence of detailed information.
“If disputes relating to the governance of sport arise, they can usually be better dealt with by the relevant arbitration bodies and national courts, ”said another spokesperson.
But a precedent seems to allow the rebels of the Super League to organize their tournament without facing sanctions.
In 2015, the European Commission opened antitrust proceedings after a complaint lodged by two Dutch professional speed skaters who were sanctioned by the International Skating Union (ISU) for participating in a competition not authorized by the governing body.
In a decision released in 2017, the Commission ruled that the sanctions violated EU antitrust law, asking the ISU to change its rules.
“The severe penalties that the International Skating Union imposes on skaters also serve to protect its own business interests and prevent others from organizing their own events,” said competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager at the time.
United football Europe
Contact the French football newspaper The teamThe President of the European Parliament David Sassoli – a supporter of Italian Fiorentina – declared that “in Europe, football belongs to the people, with a model based on fairness and solidarity”.
He mentioned that one of the articles of the founding treaties refers to the European dimension of sport, based on cooperation and transparency with the competent bodies in this field.
“The initiative of these big European clubs does not respect these principles. It even goes against them. That is why I am firmly opposed to this project, ”he said.
Asked what the EU institutions could do, he replied that “the idea is to support all the initiatives of leagues and national authorities to move towards a sport open to all”.
Likewise, the European Parliament’s intergroup on sport blasted the project in a statement: “The proposal for a closed competition of super-rich clubs would form a privileged caste outside the structures of European club football, with no other aim than to make profits. ”
Opposition to the Super League project has spread across Europe and beyond.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said his government “will look into anything we can do with the football authorities to make sure it does not go the way that is currently being proposed.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, a supporter of Olympique de Marseille, praised the position of French clubs, who refused to participate in the Super League project.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also said his government will support UEFA to preserve national competitions, meritocratic values and the social function of sport.
Nationalist politicians, from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party, have joined in the criticism.
“I like victories won in the sweat of the field, not those bought with millions on the stock market,” said Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing Italian Lega party, which backs AC Milan, one of the teams joining the Super League.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]