The collapse of the proposed European Super League football tournament within hours of it being announced was in part a victory for the law, a leading solicitor said today.
Gareth Ruddock, Partner at award-winning law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, said the six rebel clubs behind the breakaway plan would have faced a barrage of legal action from the sport’s governing bodies for breaking their rules.
Gareth said the prospect of lengthy and potentially unsuccessful court battles and the huge public backlash against the scheme meant its collapse was inevitable.
Under the plan, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal had agreed to form a new league with a number of top European clubs from which they could not be relegated.
They were immediately threatened by the Football Association (FA) with expulsion from the Premier League – English football’s top league – and all other domestic competitions, whilst the Premier League itself said it would hold ‘those shareholders involved to account under its rules’.
Gareth, of the law firm’s Commercial Litigation department, said the FA and Premier League action – and a similar threat by the European governing body Uefa - was based on sound legal principles.
“The rebel clubs would undoubtedly have signed agreements with the Premier League, Uefa and FA to abide by their articles of association and there was every likelihood that the courts would have expected them to honour those.
“Those articles of association would have made it clear exactly how each competition would operate, what other competitions member clubs could take part in and on what basis they could be expelled.
“It may well have been the case that the rebel clubs thought they could make more money by breaking away and setting up the ESL, but to have done so they would have had to break their own agreements into which they had freely entered.
“The case is a strong illustration of how a well-written contract or legal agreement can prevent unilateral behaviour such as this, and also shows that directors of companies have a responsibility to uphold the articles of association of organisations they have joined.”
However, Gareth said a threat to ban players from the six clubs from international competitions could have been harder to uphold.
“The ban on players representing their countries at World Cups and such like would have been a much more difficult legal issue. It’s certainly not clear that individual players could be held responsible for the actions of their employers, particularly as it is clear they knew nothing of the breakaway league prior to its announcement.”
For help and advice on these issues Gareth Ruddock will be able to help.