Bosman lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont insists Scotland’s top clubs stand to benefit from a new legal challenge to UEFA’s stance on cross-border leagues.
Minnows FC Swift Hesperange have filed a lawsuit against Europe’s governing body and the Luxembourg Football Federation.
If successful, it could open the door for the likes of Celtic and Rangers to boost their earning power by taking part in transnational leagues with bigger television markets.
Backed by the club sponsors, Swift Hesperange claim UEFA’s opposition to cross-border leagues has hampered their ability to join a proposed Benelux League with teams from Holland and Belgium.
The club have filed a claim with the Tribunal D’Arrondisement in Luxembourg insisting UEFA and their national FA are restricting their prospects of growth via ‘rules prohibiting clubs from creating and running transnational competitions’.
In 2020, Aberdeen, Celtic, Hibs, Hearts and Rangers were informed of plans for a 20-team competition featuring clubs from Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Republic of Ireland. Drawn up by Andrew Doyle, co-owner of League of Ireland side Shelbourne, the blueprint had the backing of investment bank JP Morgan and projected annual broadcasting revenue of up to €400million.
Talks ground to a halt when Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond informed Doyle’s SAL Sports Capital that the Parkhead club were no longer interested.
Confident that cross-border leagues are coming ‘sooner rather than later’, however, Dupont – the legal brain behind the Bosman ruling and a key figure in the fight between UEFA and the clubs pushing a European Super League – will ask a Luxembourg judge to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) at a preliminary hearing this autumn.
‘Swift and its sponsor, Leopard, are ambitious,’ the Belgian told Sportsmail. ‘The club had already complained publicly in the past regarding some FLF and UEFA rules – in particular, the homegrown players rules, that disadvantage the clubs from small countries. But their voice was not heard. They decided to make it heard in court.
‘Clubs will not “move”. But clubs from small countries would be entitled to produce their domestic football in a larger territory, in order to match the production power of the big leagues.’
Admitting a successful challenge could have huge repercussions for large clubs outside the big five leagues, Dupont foresees the likes of Ajax, Anderlecht, Benfica, Celtic, Copenhagen, Porto and Rangers joining transnational leagues with larger TV markets – and more money.
He said: ‘Celtic and Rangers are great clubs. But how much do they get for their media rights compared to the smallest (English) Premier League club?
‘And this is the lack of domestic incomes that determines negatively their competitiveness on the European stage.’
Hopes of both Glasgow clubs competing in the group stage of the Champions League hang by a thread after Rangers lost the first leg of their third qualifying round tie to Union Saint-Gilloise.
Convinced clubs in Scotland, Holland, Belgium, Ireland and Scandinavia need to pool resources to become more competitive, Dupont said: ‘In my view, yes. But in an organised and clever manner, once the ECJ has decided all legal issues.
‘We will have an introductory hearing in the fall in the State Court of Luxembourg and it will be for this judge to decide if she/he refers the case to the ECJ.’
A specialist in European law, 58-year-old Dupont was part of the legal team which secured the Bosman ruling in December 1995, a move which prompted a revolution in football transfers.
Asked if a successful court challenge to UEFA’s competition rules could have an even bigger impact on European football than Bosman, he replied: ‘Yes, because it affects the production market rather than ‘only’ the labour market.’
Pressed to put a timescale on the introduction of cross-border leagues he replied: ‘No. But sooner rather than later.’
The scourge of UEFA and FIFA, Dupont has brought multiple cases against the football authorities and is currently representing the European Super League Company – backed by Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona – in their fight to establish the principle that the world bodies are not the sole owners of the rights to football and cannot prevent rival competitions springing up.
Acknowledging the links between the Super League and the push for cross-border leagues, he said: ‘Intellectually, there is a common ground: in both cases, some clubs challenge the EU legality of UEFA’s monopoly on the organisation and management of transnational club competitions.’