What next for European Super League and when could it start after court victory

Oh no. This again.

The European Super League (ESL) is back on the agenda following a court ruling which effectively prohibits FIFA or UEFA from intervening in the establishment of a new club competition. First launched in 2021, the ESL proposed a breakaway division involving many of the continent's biggest teams in a closed shop format.

12 clubs, including six from England, signed up for the mutiny, though nine of them withdrew almost immediately after the controversial plans were met with fierce opposition from fans and the sport's governing bodies. Within days of its launch the ESL was dead in the water, but, crucially, not actually dead. So what does this mean for the future of football? Here's everything you need to know:

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What have the courts decided?

On Thursday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that prior approval for the formation of a breakaway competition isn't a legal necessity, and that any sanctions handed out to clubs involved would be unlawful.

It stated that both UEFA and FIFA acted against competition law when they moved to block the ESL, ruling that they were illegally denying "the freedom to provide services".

Would you stop watching if your club signed up to the European Super League? Let us know in the comments section below.

What does the ruling mean?

It means that there is no lawful reason why the formation of a breakaway competition, such as the ESL, could be blocked by FIFA, UEFA, or any other governing body. Those in favour of the ESL will be emboldened by the fact that prior approval for a breakaway isn't required, however, the ruling doesn't necessarily mean that the establishment of a new tournament would face no opposition.

It's difficult to tell at this stage precisely what the ruling will mean in practice, but the fact of the matter is it's good news for European Super League supporters, and bad news for anyone who opposes it.

Is a European Super League relaunch imminent?

Very little is certain, but the court ruling means there's nothing preventing the formation of a new competition, so an ESL relaunch is a very real possibility now. Sky Sports' Kaveh Solehkol says he doesn't expect anything to happen quickly, but that another breakaway attempt could be on the cards if ESL chiefs remain committed to a split from UEFA.

"A lot of people in the background will be plotting, holding talks, trying to organise a new European wide tournament in the background. UEFA would have to work with them," he said. "They’ll be talking to clubs, trying to convince them to join their project.

"UEFA must consider their plans in an open, non-discriminatory way. Do I expect there to be a European Super League next season? No I don’t. But do I expect conversations and meetings behind the scenes, yes I do.

"This is good news for people who want to set up a European Super League. They think fans want to see the big teams play each other – Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich, Manchester City vs Juventus. But it won’t be something that happens quickly."

What does this mean for UK teams?

Six Premier League clubs (Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, all signed up to the ESL in 2021, though all six withdrew hours later following intense fan backlash. English supporters were particularly vocal about their opposition to the breakaway league and news of a relaunch will likely be met with the same ferocity.

According to Solehkol, the imminent introduction of an independent regulator in English football, as well as supporter backlash, could help prevent Premier League teams from re-joining the ESL. He said: "They’ll say if you want to be a professional football club in the UK, you'll have to have a license. And to have that license, you’ll have to say you’re not going to breakaway to join a European Super League."

He added: "If [UK fans] want to stop this happening, they will. They have a big voice and a lot of power."

The UK Government has also maintained: “We took decisive action at the time by triggering the fan-led review of football governance, which called for the creation of a new independent regulator for English football. We will shortly be bringing forward legislation that makes this a reality, and will stop clubs from joining any similar breakaway competitions in the future.”

What would a European Super League relaunch look like?

A22 Sports Management – the company in charge of ESL promotion – announced on Thursday that 64 clubs would take part in the competition if it was relaunched. Those clubs would be split across three different divisions: Star, Gold and Blue.

The Star league would 16 teams, as would Gold, while Blue will have 32. All clubs would then play in groups of eight, home and away, resulting in a guaranteed minimum of 14 matches per year. The matches would also be streamed live for free.

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A22 also announced 10 guiding principles which would govern the ESL, which are listed as:

  • Meritocratic competitions, with multi-divisional format and no permanent members
  • Clubs remain committed to domestic tournaments
  • Improve competitiveness with stable, sustainable resources
  • Player health at the centre of the game
  • Well-enforced and transparent financial sustainability rules
  • Create “the world’s best football competition”
  • Improved fan experience
  • Develop and finance women’s football by putting it “centre stage” side-by-side with men’s game
  • Significant increase in solidarity
  • Respect for EU laws and values

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