Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus face the renewed threat of a Champions League ban over their role in driving plans for a Super League.
An injunction blocking UEFA from taking disciplinary action against the trio has been overturned by the Madrid commercial court which imposed it last year, appearing to give European football’s governing body the chance to reopen disciplinary proceedings against them.
Real, Barca and Juve have remained steadfast and unapologetic over their role in the foundation of the Super League a year ago, which collapsed within 48 hours amid pressure from UEFA, FIFA, the British Government and outrage from supporters.
They therefore risk the threat of hefty sanctions from UEFA should it reopen disciplinary proceedings. The decision to overturn the injunction can be appealed against by the clubs.
The other nine clubs involved in the Super League reached an agreement with UEFA in May last year over their reintegration which included ‘goodwill’ payments of 15 million euros each and the withholding of five per cent of revenue from their next season in a UEFA club competition, plus a commitment to pay huge fines if they joined an unapproved tournament in the future.
However, the Madrid court injunction also prevented UEFA from following through on the penalties against those nine clubs, who have all now rejoined the European Club Association.
A UEFA spokesperson said: “UEFA has today received the order of the Madrid court, lifting the precautionary measures in their entirety.
“UEFA welcomes this decision and is considering its implications. UEFA will not be making any further comment for the time being.”
⚽ UEFA is supporting Win It On The Pitch – a new campaign from @FansEurope to protect the principles of sporting merit, promotion & relegation, and financial solidarity.
— UEFA (@UEFA) April 21, 2022
Meanwhile, UEFA has endorsed a fans’ petition called ‘Win It On The Pitch’ amid signs it may be prepared to drop controversial plans to award two places in the new-look Champions League based on historic performance.
Representatives from European football’s governing body met with Football Supporters Europe this week, a year on from the collapse of the Super League.
UEFA expressed its support for the petition, called a European Citizens’ Initiative, which asks the European Union to protect the principles of sporting merit, promotion and relegation in law.
Those principles do not appear to be reflected in the proposal to allow two clubs a place in the lucrative Champions League group phase from 2024 onwards based on their historic coefficient score, if they finish just outside the regular Champions League qualification spots. The coefficient is calculated based on a side’s European performance over the previous five seasons.
However, sources have told the PA news agency they believe UEFA could still drop the coefficient places, a move which would no doubt create a row with the ECA which supports their introduction. It is understood there remains some strong internal pushback within UEFA against the idea of granting the places.
UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said on Thursday: “Football belongs to its fans and they played a critical role in stopping last year’s shameless attempt by a few wealthy clubs to take it away.
“We applaud FSE for this European Citizens’ Initiative, which we fully encourage and support.”
UEFA’s executive committee is expected to make a final decision on the new format for European club competitions post-2024 on May 10 in Vienna.
The decision on coefficient places is a hugely controversial one. UEFA is under pressure on the one hand to keep onside the fans who helped sink the Super League, but on the other to keep Europe’s biggest clubs happy by providing a safety net, on the basis that the big clubs drive the revenue to the competition.
Sources close to the ECA say that a failure to concede some ground to Europe’s commercial powerhouse clubs via the coefficient places risks reviving the threat of a Super League. Fans’ groups such as FSE argue that UEFA would be laying the ground for a competition that could ultimately morph into a Super League if it approves those places, and increases the number of group stage matches from six to 10.
FSE executive director Ronan Evain said on Thursday: “The Super League plot may have failed, but the fight is far from over.
“‘Win It On The Pitch’ is a simple way for ordinary citizens to demand the EU take action to secure the future of our most popular and played sport.”