Ceferin: Hard to understand Real, Barca, Juve approach to ESL

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has refuted suggestions the ongoing power struggle with the three remaining Super League clubs could paralyse European football and instead claims Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid are doing that to themselves.

Nine of the 12 clubs who signed up to the European Super League withdrew following huge external pressure, including six Premier League teams.

But Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid have so far refused to do so and last week they released a joint statement accusing UEFA of a ‘flagrant breach of the decision of the courts of justice’ and stating ‘we either reform football or we will have to watch its inevitable downfall’.

“They paralysed themselves with the approach they took,” Ceferin told Sky Italy.

“It’s strange to read press releases that the three clubs out of thousands of clubs think their idea will save football and nobody else likes it.”

Ceferin was unable to give an update on disciplinary proceedings against the three clubs and what sanctions they could be hit with if they persist with their ESL plans.

“Our disciplinary committee is independent so the moment they start to work on a case, I don’t have a reach or information there,” said Ceferin. “I don’t know when, if or how the sanctions would be.

“For me what is strange is that you publish you are still part of the Super League and then you send a letter applying to play in the Champions League. So you are in Super League but play Champions League. It’s quite hard to understand what they mean.

“They should call us, send us a letter, ask for a meeting. They just sent some press releases saying they want to have a dialogue. It’s quite a strange approach.”

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin speaks during the 45th UEFA Congress in Montreux (AP)


Ceferin says he ‘can’t imagine having a more difficult year’ but is optimistic the Euros will now go ahead as planned this summer

He continued: “It’s really hard to understand what they want. If they say Super League exists – and nobody prevents them from playing Super League, the three of you can play your Super League. But they say they want to play Champions League as well at the same time.

“We are not afraid of those things. If the courts decide one way or another we have to be honest and work for football, which those clubs are not.”

Ceferin said the first 48 hours were difficult after the Super League proposals were announced but was blown away by the continent’s unified approach.

“We didn’t know if it is coming,” he said. “When it came it was tough for two days but all of the European community stood together, not just the football community but everyone.”

PA - European Super League - 'big six' clubs


Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says relations between the six European Super League ‘breakaway’ clubs and the rest of the division are strained and will take time to be restored

EU Court of Justice confirms ESL claim

Meanwhile, the European Union Court of Justice (EUCJ) has confirmed it has received a claim from Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus that FIFA and UEFA are in violation of EU competition laws.

The trio maintain FIFA and UEFA are breaking EU rules by operating a cartel and abusing their dominant position with the claim based on EU Antitrust Policy.

EU Antitrust policy is developed from Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Article 101 prohibits anti-competitive agreements between two or more independent market operators while Article 102 prohibits abusive behaviour by companies holding a dominant position on any given market.

In response, UEFA says it is confident in its position and will defend itself robustly.

A statement read: “UEFA takes note of the announcement by the European Court of Justice of the referral from a Madrid court on the so-called European Super League, notwithstanding the withdrawal of nine of its founding member clubs. UEFA is confident in its position and will defend it robustly.”

Scrapping away goals ‘might be a good solution’

The Champions League final was last staged at Wembley back in 2013


Ceferin says the away goal in European competitions could be scrapped to improve the spectacle of games for fans

Ceferin believes scrapping the away goals rule in the Champions and Europa Leagues will lead to more “interesting” matches.

The rule has been in place since 1965 but moved a step closer to being scrapped after UEFA’s club competitions committee decided to abolish it.

The final decision will be taken to UEFA’s executive committee for approval.

“It might be a good solution because, all in all, football fans watch football to see goals and attractive matches,” said Ceferin.

“If for example, you draw 2-2 away, you are almost safe to qualify by this away goal rule.

“In the case that this would be changed, and it’s not sure yet that it will be, I think we might have more interesting matches.

“Maybe more extra-times as well but that’s also fine.”

Ceferin ‘optimistic’ about Euro 2020

It is hoped a capacity crowd will watch the Women's Euro 2022 final at Wembley Stadium
Wembley will stage three group matches, a round of 16 game plus the semi-finals and final

Ceferin admits Euro 2020 has been a logistical challenge during the pandemic but remains confident it will go ahead as planned.

The tournament begins in Rome on June 11 when Italy face Turkey, with Wembley due to host the semi-finals and final in July.

“It’s very hard to organise anyway and now in Covid times it’s double,” said Ceferin.

“I can’t imagine having a more difficult year in my life than this year.

“I hope everything goes fine but this pandemic situation is changing every day. But more and more people are vaccinated, the health protocol is strict so we are still optimistic things will go well.”

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