UEFA’s disciplinary action against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus has been suspended after it was served with a court order banning it from intimidating the Super League rebels.
The European football governing body announced last month that it had launched a disciplinary investigation into the three clubs, after they refused to recant their support for the breakaway competition.
If found guilty of breaking UEFA’s rules the clubs could face a ban from European competition, including the Champions League, for two years.
But the court order has forced UEFA to back down, at least for the time being, and it announced last night it has ‘stayed’ disciplinary proceedings.
While nine of the 12 founding clubs in the failed European Super League project were quick to bail out, apologise and offer some amends, Madrid, Barca and Juve, have refused to yield, to the fury of UEFA and its president Aleksander Ceferin.
UEFA’s aggressive approach to the rebel clubs has been seen as risky by lawyers because on April 20, the Super League obtained an interim court order in Madrid, on the very eve of the Super League's collapse.
The court banned UEFA and FIFA from making more threats or doing anything to intimidate the breakaway league or any of its participants.
UEFA appeared undeterred and continued to rebuke the rebels and launched its disciplinary process, regardless.
It has now emerged that UEFA, which is based in Switzerland and therefore outside of the European Union, continued to plough its own course until the Swiss authorities served it with the Spanish court order, which only happened on June 2.
In a statement, the Nyon-based football body said: ‘UEFA notes that the decision to temporarily stay the proceedings has been taken by the UEFA Appeals Body following the formal notification made to UEFA by the Swiss competent authorities on 2 June 2021 of an ex-parte court order obtained on 20 April 2021 by the legal entity European Super League Company SL from the Madrid Commercial Court No. 17 (the “Court Order”).
However, UEFA insists it sees the suspension in proceedings against the clubs as temporary. The governing body claims there is extensive legal precedent that allows it to discipline clubs in these circumstances with parties having a right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport.
"In reliance on the Court Order, the mentioned three clubs have sought to shield themselves from potential disciplinary consequences related to this so-called ‘Super League’ project," said UEFA’s statement.
"UEFA understands why the disciplinary proceedings needed to be suspended for the time being, but remains confident in and will continue to defend its position in all the relevant jurisdictions."
The legal issues surrounding the failed Super League project involve competition law and the right to establish rival leagues. Despite UEFA’s confidence, lawyers insist the issues are not clear cut and there is also legal precedent on the side of the rebel clubs.
Some experts predict the legal wrangles will continue for years.
The matter is now being considered by the European Court of Justice – Europe’s highest court – in Luxembourg.
The Spanish judge, who heard the initial case referred the matter to the higher court for legal opinion. That is expected to take months, before the case is returned to Madrid.
At that point, UEFA will have to appear in court and give its legal argument against the establishment of the Super League before the court makes its ruling, which would then be subject to appeal by either side.
While the latest version of the Super League is undoubtedly dead, the legal action now taking place could determine whether the creation of a rival competition in the future has a sound legal basis.
In addition, it may also decide whether UEFA is able to take disciplinary action against the rebels.
Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus have never flinched from the support for the Super League. When UEFA launched a disciplinary investigation last week, it prompted an extraordinary joint statement.
The clubs reiterated their commitment to 'modernising football' and accused UEFA of 'coercion... towards three of the most relevant institutions in the history of football'.