Spain is the only EU country not to oppose the Super League. GETTY IMAGES. GETTY IMAGES

Spain was absent from a group of 26 European countries that signed a joint declaration against the controversial Super League football project.

Ahead of the start of UEFA's 48th Ordinary Congress in Paris, representatives from 26 European countries have signed an important declaration stressing the need for open competition and respect for sporting merit and equality of opportunity. While the letter, signed by sports ministers from across Europe, does not explicitly refer to the Super League, it makes clear their opposition to the concept. 

So far, only two clubs, Spain's Real Madrid and Barcelona, have publicly linked themselves with the Super League project, a competition that aims to replace the UEFA Champions League or at least seriously challenge its position as the world's premier club football league. In the letter, the ministers "invite sports governing bodies to organise sports competitions according to the principles of openness, equality of opportunity, sporting merit, the link between annual performance in domestic competitions and all European competitions, financial solidarity, integrity and fairness."

This comes after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in December that FIFA and UEFA had breached competition law by blocking the independent league, allowing it to be created and challenged.

The new league, which includes 12 of Europe's biggest clubs, provoked an angry reaction from fans and a stern warning (some would say threat) from UEFA that clubs and players would be banned from elite competitions, including the World Cup, if they took part.

Then, 48 hours later, nine of the 12 clubs, including six from the English Premier League, pulled out and the project began to lose momentum. The promoters of the project, A22 Sports Management, launched a legal challenge through the Spanish courts, which referred the matter to the ECJ. The company hailed the ruling as a major victory and promised to relaunch the tournament with a new project that would involve 64 teams from across Europe, divided into three divisions with promotions and relegations

But many of the big clubs, even those who had given cautious support to the previous venture, said they would not back the new plan. 

The document was signed by the sports ministers of 26 of the European Union's 27 member states. The only country missing is Spain, whose sports minister is Pilar Alegría. Commenting on Spain's absence from the list of signatories, a source from the Spanish High Council of Sports made a direct reference to the Super League. "The Spanish government has decided not to sign the declaration... because the issue of the Super League has not been resolved."

Spain is the only country in the EU where legal proceedings are ongoing in relation to the independent league, the source added. In light of this, Barcelona president Joan Laporta said last week that the Super League "could start next season or in 2025-26, and if not, I will reconsider everything."

What the document says:

  • "We promote values in sport and sport organisations that are governed in accordance with the principles of democracy, transparency, integrity, solidarity, gender equality, openness, accessibility, social responsibility and respect for fundamental and human rights."
  • "We support the key characteristics of a European sports model, including the pyramid structure, the open promotion and relegation system, the grassroots approach and solidarity, the role of sport in national identity, community building and volunteer structures, as well as its social, educational, cultural and health functions".
  • "We urge the sports governing bodies to preserve these key characteristics and values and, in this sense, to ensure a balance between the economic dimension of sport and its educational and social functions, as well as the relationship and solidarity between the grassroots and professional levels."
  • "We invite the sports governing bodies to organise sports competitions respecting the principles of openness, equality of opportunity, sporting merit, the relationship between the annual performance in national competitions and all European competitions, financial solidarity, integrity and fairness, in order to promote the social function of sport and access to it for all.