In 2021, the British government, at the initiative of Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, rushed to draft a decree by which it threatened to expropriate football clubs which participated in any competition breaking with the he order established by the Football Association, the oldest existing federation, a prominent member of UEFA and FIFA. The decree was never promulgated. It was not necessary. It was enough to prepare it, as a weapon of deterrence. The measure, an extraordinary gesture in the cradle of free trade, was the urgent reaction to the announcement of the creation of the European Super League, on April 19 of the same year, in the midst of a pandemic. This is what a manager of a Premier club says on condition of anonymity. His club, he explains, was one of the 12 signatories of the manifesto establishing the schismatic project led by Florentino Pérez as an alternative to the UEFA Champions League. An original project which lasted a little less than 48 hours, and which still weighs on the condemnation of the British Crown, sponsor of football as an asset of cultural interest in the country which invented it.
Between the morning of April 20 and the afternoon of April 21, 2021, according to this source, the owners of the six Premier clubs in collusion with the Super League received notification from the Government. There was a decree ready to be published and it aimed directly at expropriation. Joseph Lewis, the owner of Tottenham; Joel Glazer, the owner of Manchester United; John Henry, of the Fenway Sports Group which controls Liverpool; Roman Abramovich, then owner of Chelsea; Stan Kroenke, owner of Arsenal; and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, owner of Manchester City, received the news from Downing Street with horror. Before sunset on April 21, everyone had resigned from the project. With them, they coached Atlético de Madrid, Milan and Inter.
On November 7, King Charles III announced to Parliament that the Football Governance Act would be enacted in 2024. The regulations, drawn up in collaboration with the FSA, the Supporters’ Association of England and Wales, guarantees the introduction of a supervisory body for football clubs. According to the UK government, “safeguarding” football will be the responsibility of an independent regulator who will control the licensing regime to operate in England and Wales. In the words of the government, “it will have the power to monitor and enforce compliance with requirements in financial matters, corporate governance, ownership regime through tests on owners and managers; connection with supporters and protection of cultural heritage; as well as approving participation in competitions. The supporters of each club, grouped into associations, will have more powers than ever. There gold stock It will allow them to veto decisions of an existential nature, such as changing shields, jerseys, the location of the field or participation in tournaments that break with the order established by the FA, the English federation.
None of the nine repentant clubs, neither on the Islands nor on the mainland, have again come out publicly in favor of anything resembling a tournament outside the historic regulators. Nor did they do so this Thursday, after learning that the Court of Justice of the European Union, the last instance supposed to illuminate the way forward after a long legal battle, had censured UEFA and FIFA for abuse of dominant position in the application. of their admission rules with other tournament organizers. On the contrary. Far from applauding the CJEU’s decision, the six English clubs published a virtually identical statement in which they indicated that the decision did not change their position. “Our position has not changed; “We firmly believe that by working with the Prime Minister, the FA, the European Club Association, UEFA and FIFA, we will continue to develop football for the benefit of all,” Chelsea said in a letter which reproduced practically word for word those published by United. , Liverpool, Tottenham, City and Arsenal. Among the nine repentants, only Milan remained silent this Thursday: neither declaration of support for UEFA nor congratulations for the decision of the CJEU.
Few cases of change are more radical than that of Atlético Madrid, who went from the Super League to joining the UEFA cause thanks to Miguel Ángel Gil. Since September, the red and white general manager has been a member of the UEFA executive committee representing the European Club Association (ECA) of which he is an executive. Juventus, Madrid and Barça left the ECA in 2021. The others returned. Atlético too, which showed this Thursday that it was insensitive to the decision of the CJEU in a press release: “The European football family does not want a Super League. Germany, France, England, Italy and Spain (except Real Madrid and Barcelona) do not want a Super League.
Where the streets have no name
Concerning the three clubs remaining involved in the schismatic enterprise, their reaction to the sentence was not unanimous either. Real Madrid and Barcelona, through their presidents Florentino Pérez and Joan Laporta, celebrated that European Justice had defined UEFA as a monopoly and announced in unison the creation of a “historic” opportunity to rebuild football thanks to the advent of an era of “freedom”. But Juventus, the recalcitrant third member, has not issued any official statement. Only Andrea Agnelli, who was its president, resigned a year ago with his entire board of directors after learning that Italian prosecutors were investigating the club’s accounts for alleged fraud. Agnelli used the social network X, formerly Twitter, to publish his first message after a year of silence. The message concentrated all the darkness of oracular prophecies: the lyrics of the song Where the streets have no nameby U2, and a coda: “I love football”.
The CJEU’s ruling on the prior authorization of football competitions by UEFA opens the door to the enigma. Firstly, it criticizes UEFA for controlling entry and exit from the football market until 2022 without adhering to transparent, objective or proportionate criteria, which has given rise to arbitrariness and discrimination. Secondly, he warns that “a competition like the Super League project should not necessarily be authorized” if it does not first meet these same criteria.
Justice has reached its limits. The legal framework of football has opened up to a new world. Beyond that, there is a dilemma that only clubs can resolve. And the clubs, for the moment, do not seem very convinced to abandon the UEFA Champions League and embark on the still disconcerting path to the Super League.
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