EU Court of Justice: Belgium's home-grown players rule 'could violate EU law', blocking Super League was 'illegal'
The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on two football cases on Thursday morning. A rule requiring Belgian clubs to have at least eight locally trained players in their squads could be in breach of EU law, the court said. It also ruled that football's governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, had abused their dominant positions to block the proposed Super League in 2021.
The home-grown player rule of UEFA and the Belgian football federation requires clubs to have at least eight locally trained players in their squad. Royal Antwerp FC, the reigning national champions, and footballer Lior Refaelov challenged that rule at the court of first instance in Brussels. They believe it restricts clubs' ability to recruit players and hinders players' career opportunities.
The court asked a number of preliminary questions to the European Court of Justice, which has judged that the rule may infringe European law, in particular European competition law and the free movement of workers. UEFA and the Belgian football federation still have the opportunity to prove that the rule is justified.
The final decision lies with the Brussels court. It will rule on the basis of the EU Court's interpretation.
Abuse of position
The EU Court of Justice also ruled on a case concerning the Super League, an initiative by some of Europe's biggest football clubs to create their own competition in 2021. The rules used by UEFA and FIFA to stop the Super League were in breach of European law, the court said, adding that the associations had abused their dominant position.
FIFA and UEFA opposed the Super League and threatened sanctions against clubs and players who entered the new format. Most of the Super League participants eventually abandoned the project under the pressure of these sanctions and objection from fans.
The ruling breathes new life into the Super League or a potential successor. It could have significant implications for the sport and could see FIFA and UEFA lose their grip on the world of football.
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