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In a league of their own?

26 Apr 2021

It has been an extraordinary week in European football.

Most elite football clubs are now seen as playthings for the rich, or cash cows for the greedy. Supporters have learned to accept this, but the proposed European Super League was perceived as a step too far.

The breakaway clubs probably expected a public backlash, but not the mayhem that unfolded.

The clubs were prepared for a legal challenge. Indeed, some were already poised outside the doors of a Spanish court to obtain an interim injunction preventing football’s authorities from using sanctions such as expulsion to block the breakaway. The court decided, much to the rebels’ delight, that such punishments would have contravened competition law.

However, the clubs clearly didn’t expect Governments, and even Royalty, to intervene. The UK government quickly promised to legislate, effectively in order to grant football an exemption from competition law.  This was deemed crucial in thwarting the Super League plotters.

The breakaway clubs now appear to be fighting amongst themselves, with those who pulled out of the new league being accused of breach of contract. It will be interesting to see whether anything comes of these accusations, but legal action seems unlikely. The villains of this pantomime will probably realise that when the world is against you, it’s best to stick together.

Contracts (LinkedIn)

There are many lessons to be learned from the “not so super league” debacle, some of them legal:

  1. Make sure you’re on firm legal ground before you make a bold move.
  2. Never underestimate the willingness of rule-makers to move the goal posts in order to appease the public.
  3. Before you embark on any kind of joint venture, make sure all of the parties are firmly bound together contractually. You’ll sink quickly if people start abandoning ship.

This all serves as a reminder that it may be time to review your commercial contracts to ensure that they are fit for purpose and to help you minimize any costly, damaging and time-consuming disputes. To find out how we can help, do not hesitate to get in touch with Paul Armstrong at paularmstrong@hay-kilner.co.uk or on 0191 232 8345.