European lawmakers voted their opposition to breakaway competitions on Tuesday following the aborted Super League project that Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus are still backing.
Some of Europe’s biggest football clubs wanted to break away from the Champions League and run their own competition called the Super League, but it quickly collapsed within 48 hours of launch in April following protests by fans and governments.
With 597 votes to 36 and 55 abstentions, members of the European Parliament said they want European sporting culture “to be aligned with EU values of solidarity, sustainability, inclusiveness for all, open competition, sporting merit and fairness.”
On Tuesday in Strasbourg, European lawmakers overwhelmingly backed a report on EU sports policy that calls for a European sports model based on “solidarity, inclusiveness, open competition and fairness.” The report strongly opposes breakaway leagues, a shot at the rebel Super League, which launched and quickly collapsed in April.
The resolution was endorsed by deputy EU ambassadors last week and is set for final approval on November 30.
Though the Council’s resolution and Parliament’s report are not legally binding, they are part of a clear direction of travel as EU policy crystallizes against the Super League, whose backers are not giving up and are battling European football’s governing body, UEFA, at the Court of Justice of the EU, in a case that will shape football governance in Europe for decades to come.
Tomasz Frankowski, a center-right Polish MEP and former professional footballer who led work on the Parliament’s report, said its adoption was a key moment for the future of sport in Europe.
In the plenary debate in Strasbourg Monday night, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas called for “a model which is open, which rewards sporting merit, which prioritizes solidarity and sustainability — not profit and power.”
For their part, Super League officials insist the proposed competition is not actually a breakaway or closed league — and after the vote again accused Switzerland-based UEFA of being a “monopolistic private regulator” which also acts as a “sole, dominant operator and gatekeeper.”
The Council resolution will be a win for the Slovenian presidency, as it is the first resolution adopted at EU level on the European sports model in more than two decades.
In the resolution, ministers also want to “Promote values in sport and sport organisations … governed in compliance with the principles of democracy, transparency, integrity, solidarity, gender equality, openness, accountability, accessibility, social responsibility and respect for fundamental and human rights.”
It also calls for sports issues to be included in debates at the Conference on the Future of Europe.
A spokesperson for the Slovenian Council presidency said that cooperation with the incoming French presidency had been “very good” on sports policy.
EU lawmakers opposed breakaway competitions “that undermine these principles and endanger the stability of the overall sports ecosystem.”
They did not detail plans for the solidarity mechanism by sports federations but said it should ensure adequate funding for amateur and grassroot sports.
“MEPs want a balance to be struck between professional sport’s commercial interests and its social functions, by strengthening the links between grassroots and elite sport,” they said, calling for better financial redistribution to amateur sports.
Lawmakers also pledged to tackle gender inequality and harassment in sports, “in particular when it comes to pay and equal representation on the boards of sports organizations.”
The company behind the Super League, which Barca, Madrid and Juve aren’t giving up on, complained about the lawmakers overlooking issues with the governing body behind the Champions League. UEFA not only commercializes the competition but regulates the European game from its base in Switzerland.
“There is no other circumstance in Europe in which a monopolistic private regulator such as UEFA, based outside the European Union, would also be allowed to be the sole, dominant operator and gatekeeper,” Super League officials Anas Laghrari and John Hahn said in a statement.
“European sports, and particularly football, need protection against the abuses being committed by a number of actors sitting outside the European Union, pursuing interests unrelated to sports while using football clubs as platforms for their own agendas, breaching financial fair play regulations and damaging traditional football and its sustainability.”
The 12 Super League founding clubs all left the UEFA-recognized European Club Association to launch the project, though the other nine have all since returned to the 240-member organization.
The ECA welcomed the lawmakers’ vote as “another major defeat for those who continue to try to divide European sport based on self-interest, rather than building a future built around the interests of all pursued by ECA.”