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Plan For European Super League “Violates EU Competition Law” Says Leading Sports Economist

Plan For European Super League “Violates EU Competition Law” Says Leading Sports Economist

There has been widespread anger inside football at the plans to create a breakaway European Super League with six English teams involved (Alamy)

3 min read

A leading sports economist says plans to create a “European Super League” of top football teams will not get off the ground as he believes it “violates EU competition law”.

The controversial proposals, which have drawn condemnation from politicians as well as leading figures within football, would see six clubs from the English Premier League join as founding members of the new competition.

But Tsjalle van der Burg, assistant professor at the University of Twente, said that according to EU competition law, the clubs cannot band together in a way that reduces opportunities, not just for other teams, but for supporters too.

Speaking to PoliticsHome Dr van der Burg, who investigates sports economics, said: “Football clubs are companies according to the European courts, and according to European competition law, companies are not allowed to make agreements which lead to a reduction in competition.

“The Super League is obviously based on an agreement between clubs, so it's based on an agreement between companies, and in my view this agreement reduces competition, which implies it violates competition law.”

Dr van der Burg said grouping football clubs as proposed reduces competition in a number of ways by effectively creating a closed shop of the best teams in Europe, including for fans – who will have less choice in supporting a club that can win the highest honours.

“Once you're playing in it you will stay in it, and for all the other clubs it will be very difficult to get in even if there is promotion and relegation.

“So the competition in England is to be reduced, now this means it clearly violates European competition law.”

Pointing out similar ideas have been mooted for more than 20 years, he said he threat of a Super League has already led to a breach of competition law, as the European football governing body UEFA was forced to give the bigger teams more revenue from the elite Champions League tournament each year.Dr van der Burg said the argument of the Super League is that UEFA is the one with the monopoly, which they are trying to break – claiming the existing competitions can still go ahead.

But he said this has been refuted previously, with reference to American sports where competitor leagues have been set up against the traditional closed shop tournaments, but they have always failed, with the rival one collapsing or merging into the existing league.

“Ultimately, there will be one league organiser organising the highest race for the highest European title.

“In all likelihood this will be the Super League, so the argument that there should be competition for leagues is not really interesting, and only for a short time.

“Even if the argument were valid for a long time, then we still would have to factor in that at a national level the competition for fans is diminished.”

The Super League has already said it has commenced legal action to head off any challenge to its plans, and sports competition law expert Mark Orth says he believes they would win a potential court case.

Orth, of MEOlaw based in Munich, told the Mail he thinks they have “a strong case” based on the fact two European courts have now passed two judgements ruling against sporting federations blocking athletes from taking part in rival competitions they didn’t sanction.

He said: “If a monopolist is allowed to prohibit the generation of competition, then you do not need competition law at all.

“If that is allowed it touches on the fundamentals of competition law. There should be an opportunity to open the market.”

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