'European Championships ban for players taking part in the ESL would be illegal', says Coventry University EU sports law expert - The Coventry Observer

11th Aug, 2022

'European Championships ban for players taking part in the ESL would be illegal', says Coventry University EU sports law expert

Tristan Harris 20th Apr, 2021 Updated: 20th Apr, 2021

AN EU sports law expert from Coventry University has said UEFA would be acting illegally if it threatened to ‘blacklist’ footballers for taking part in a European Super League were the proposals to come to fruition.

And Dr Stuart MacLennan, Associate Professor of Law, said ‘disruption’ to sport should not always be looked on as a bad thing as previous incidents had led to improvements in football and other sports.

“What we must not forget is that the Premier League was a breakaway league and we have also seen similar examples in darts and women’s tennis.

“The WTA tour was a breakaway competition and brought vast improvements to the women’s game.”

He added had it not been for the WTA, women’s tennis would not be as successful as it is now.

Plans for the European Super League were unveiled over the weekend, sending shockwaves across the footballing world.

Among the 12 clubs signing up were six from the Premier League – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – along with Spanish clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona and Athletico Madrid and Italian teams AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus.

It is understood the matches would be played midweek – when Champions League and Europa League games are usually held.

Many high profile people both inside the beautiful game and outside of it, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince William, have spoken out against the plans.

They argue it would go against competition as those teams would have guaranteed places in the league and, with no promotion or relegation, other clubs would not have the opportunity to take part.

But Dr MacLennan added, although it was ‘a huge blow to UEFA’s commercial dominance in the sport’, its monopoly was a ‘total lack of competition of competitions’ and any action to ‘blacklist’ players from particpating in European Championships would be illegal in the eyes of the European Court of Justice and prevented.”

He added a similar action attempted by the International Skating Union failed because it breached EU Competition Laws.

Likewise he said similar threats by the Premier League to ‘throw clubs out’ would fall foul of UK Competition Law.

“The ESL idea has been mooted for a long time but I think the surprising thing was the intent shown by the proposals.

“Some thought it was being done to tighten the screw on UEFA to shake up the Champions League but it looks more than that and if it is a threat, it’s a good one.

“The decision by the clubs involved is not a sporting one – it’s more of a business one and UEFA’s reaction to the move is also a business one as its commercial monopoly is under threat.”

In a statement yesterday after UEFA unveiled a new post -2024 format for UEFA club competitions, President Aleksander ńĆeferin said of the ESL proposals: “It is not just the football community.

“All of society and governments are united.

“I cannot stress more strongly at this moment that UEFA and the footballing world stand united against the disgraceful, self-serving proposals we have seen from a select few clubs in Europe that are fuelled by greed above all else.”

Dr MacLennan said there had been incredible bad faith on both sides and going forward, with the public backlash he felt had been unforseen by the ESL organisers, he expected some kind of conciliary conclusion.

He said it was a case of ‘watching this space’ but predicted there could be concessions on both sides with maybe the Champions League being revamped and UEFA allowing its counterparts to be involved in some way as part of a compromise in everyone’s best interests.

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