Press release: Football fans launch legal challenge to Financial Fair Play
25/07/2014 -- Football fans – from France, Belgium and England – have filed a complaint with the European Commission arguing that the "requirement for break even" imposed by UEFA in its Financial Fair Play regulations contravenes European Union (EU) fundamental freedoms, including the right to free competition.
At the same time, these supporters have also joined the proceedings initiated by the player agent Daniel Striani before the Court of First Instance in Brussels which make the same case before the court of violations of EU law. In this process, the Belgian judge is being asked to refer the case to the European Court of Justice, thereby enabling the EU’s supreme court to rule on the legality of the UEFA regulation.
The fans are acting primarily in their capacity as consumers of products offered by football clubs and argue that:
- The UEFA rule creates a "oligopoleague" comprising a few clubs which are better established and, therefore, in practice, condemning - forever - all other clubs to "supporting roles"; and
- Since the contributions of owners are now restricted, the economic pressure on supporters is inevitably expected to increase.
- It should be recalled that the ultimate function of EU competition law is consumer protection.
- Among the complainants is Louis Smal, a former Belgian senator and former president of the Standard Liege football club supporters’ association.
Commenting on the UEFA rule, Mr Smal said "it is a double punishment for major clubs in small countries who have been first penalized by the small size of their domestic market (which is the area of economic life imposed on them by the statutes of UEFA), and now see themselves deprived of a possible source of investment (i.e. the equity of their owners) and therefore potential sporting growth, thereby discouraging any prospective buyer from undertaking any ambitious plans”.
Complainants’ supporters insist that the UEFA regulation not only harms the few clubs recently sanctioned by UEFA but supporters of all clubs, with the exception of a few top European clubs which form the current elite.
The position of the fans is supported by many economic and legal commentators who have forcefully argued that UEFA’s rule and its adverse effects contravene EU law. These commentators have also clearly established that several alternatives to the existing UEFA rule are available, such alternatives being both more efficient and more respectful to EU Law (for more details, see below note to editors).
Moreover, the French and Belgian complainants’ supporters in France and Belgium have turned to social media to set out their opposition to Financial Fair Play. On a dedicated Facebook page, they make the case that "under the friendly name of ‘Financial Fair Play’, the UEFA rule is nothing other than a ban on investment which encourages the path from an open to a closed league system". For more information on the supporters Facebook page, please go to:
For their part, the complainants’ English fans have created a website setting out their opposition, arguing that "UEFA Financial Fair Play Fair is the single most ridiculous initiative in sport of all time”. For more information, please go to https://Fairplayfc.org
The complainants are represented by Jean-Louis Dupont (Barcelona Bar, Spain) and by Martin Hissel (Eupen Bar, Belgium).
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