BRUSSELS — France is siding with UEFA against closed breakaway soccer leagues.
On the eve of the UEFA Congress to be held in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin expressed “their shared vision in favor of the European sporting model, based on open competitions, the principle of solidarity, sporting merit and recognition of the social impact of sport,” according to a statement released by the Elysee Palace on Wednesday.
The statement did not mention the rebel Super League, but Macron “reaffirmed France’s determination to defend this model and the ability of European federations to organize competitions.”
Meanwhile, France is seeking to form a coalition at European Union level supporting the model of open competitions, according to EU diplomats.
France has been pushing for a joint EU statement in a bid to ensure the link between annual performance in domestic competitions and qualification for European competitions, according to two EU officials. The diplomats could not be identified in accordance with EU practices. The statement, signed by several EU sports ministers, was expected be released on Thursday.
Initial plans for the Super League were unveiled in 2021 and included some of Europe’s most storied clubs. The proposed 20-team elite tournament would have seen 15 top clubs protected from relegation.
It would have effectively replaced the Champions League — Europe’s elite club tournament — and had the potential to impact domestic leagues given the guaranteed entry of teams regardless of their success in national competitions.
The lack of relegation was fundamentally at odds with European soccer which, unlike elite U.S. sports leagues, has the risk and reward of moving up or down divisions based on performance.
Those plans quickly fell apart under pressure from fans and the British government.
However, Real Madrid and Barcelona remained in favor and launched legal action in Spain. They won a decision last year at the Court of Justice of the European Union, which ruled that UEFA and FIFA acted contrary to EU competition law by blocking plans for a breakaway competition.
Emboldened by that ruling, organizers quickly revealed plans for the new competition. Unveiled in December, the newly proposed Super League would have promotion, relegation and exit from the breakaway competition.