The president of Spain’s La Liga wants Europe to set new rules for the beautiful game.
According to Javier Tebas — Spain’s fiery football boss — the Continent’s major leagues have turned into the Wild West, where club giants pillage Europe’s footballing heritage and abuse their power.
Football “is nothing like it was 20 years ago,” the La Liga chief told POLITICO in a recent interview in Brussels. “Just like other industries, it has evolved to require regulation.”
Tebas landed in the European Union capital last week to hold talks with officials from the European Commission’s sports policy department, where he made the case for new regulations in order to preserve the Continent’s footballing model.
Specifically, the head of La Liga wants Brussels to prohibit European clubs from ever again being able to abscond from continental competitions, following last year’s Super League scandal, in which a clique of Europe’s star teams attempted to flee the European Champions League in favor of a new competition.
For Tebas, EU-wide regulation — modeled on Spanish rules, where La Liga is the only body responsible for forming professional football competitions — is required in order to counter the drives from some of Europe’s largest clubs.
“In Spain, the law says that there cannot be another professional football competition next to the first and second division,” Tebas said. “If we had something similar in Europe we wouldn’t have the problem of the Super League.”
The original concept of the European Super League would have seen the establishment of a semi-closed competition, where the same 12 to 15 clubs would participate every year. Up to five other clubs would have been able to qualify for the tournament on sporting merits.
But just days after the grand announcement of the Super League plans, the project lay in ruins.
Public outcry provoked a majority of original members to abandon the project — such as Chelsea, Manchester City and Inter Milan.
Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona, meanwhile, continue to fight for the right to form their own league in the EU courts, claiming that UEFA operates an illegal monopoly in European football.
Those Super League loyalists were dealt a blow in December when an EU court opinion noted that the UEFA and FIFA have a right to impose sanctions on clubs that participate in breakaway leagues.
Tebas’ proposal of EU-wide regulation — which he claims would solve the issue of spendthrift footballing giants trying to set up their own competitions — has, however, drawn no shortage of criticism.
As part of a recent Brussels conference sponsored by A22, the organization behind the Super League plans, Melchior Wathelet, former first advocate general of the Court of Justice, poured cold water over the Spaniard’s pitch.
Wathelet, an ex-Belgian justice minister who had previously faced demands for his impeachment, said that there was “no legislative basis” for the EU to regulate teams who wished to set up international competitions.
Tebas, meanwhile, remains hopeful that the EU court’s final ruling on March 15 in the Super League case will strengthen his position. But at the same, the Spaniard fears that the possibility of top clubs forming a breakaway league will continue to exist unless Brussels intervenes. The day of the ruling “will just be another date in the battle,” he said.
The case is C-333/21 European Superleague Company.