Recent legal history shows that Super League can happen

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A leading sports competition lawyer says he would feel more confident representing the proposed breakaway Super League than UEFA if the row that has engulfed the world of football ends up in the courts.

With UEFA consulting legal teams on Tuesday (April 19) as it battles to prevent up to 20 European clubs forming their own league, Munich based lawyer Mark Orth told Reuters on Monday (April 19) that precedents under competition law left UEFA on weak ground.

“Just imagine Amazon or Google would act similarly and say anyone who’s offering goods currently on Amazon marketplaces is not allowed to do that, or on any competing marketplace and the outcry,” he said.

“I won’t imagine that way. And just compare Amazon and UEFA, UEFA is a monopolist, they have a 100% market share in organising football games and is different from Amazon. Amazon has just appeared years ago and and UEFA has now monopolistic position for centuries. So that is quite clear from my point of view.”

Orth added that UEFA’s threat to ban players from the World Cup or the European Championship was also unlikely to succeed, given other rulings, including one involving wrestlers in Germany and another that saw the skating’s governing body, the ISU, fail in an attempt to penalise speed skaters for taking part in lucrative, unproved competitions.

Last year, the International Skating Union (ISU) lost its bid to overturn an EU antitrust order that it stop penalising speed skaters for taking part in new money-spinning events, as Europe’s second-highest court backed the earlier order.

The case centred on a complaint by Dutch Olympic speed skaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt after ISU threats of a lifetime ban stopped them from competing in lucrative Ice Derby events run by a South Korean company.

The Luxembourg-based General Court agreed with the EU competition enforcers.

UEFA finds itself in a similar position to the late 1990s, when a breakaway Super League was also threatened under what become known as ‘Project Gandalf’. Although nothing came of it, Orth said that the threat of the new competition forced UEFA to come up with new ideas.

“There is no innovation without competition and in the organisation of European sports we only have one company, only one organisation and I think that’s always bad,” he said. “And if you look back to that Media Partner International case, the project Gandalf, then there was a pressure from Media Partners International on UEFA. And the thing is that UEFA improved competition and the competition became much more attractive.

“Clubs got more money and in the time afterwards much more viewers were interested in that competition, so it was even in the best interest of UEFA to have that competition.”

Reuters / CDE / ComuniqEU

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