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Court case may free Old Firm giants Celtic and Rangers chance to leave SPFL for a bigger league  

Bosman lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont insists Scotland’s top clubs will benefit from a new legal challenge to UEFA’s stance on cross-border competition.

Minnows FC Swift Hesperange has filed a lawsuit against the European governing body and the Luxembourg Football Association.

If successful, it could open the door for the likes of Celtic and Rangers to increase their earning potential by participating in transnational competitions with larger television markets.

Backed by the club sponsors, Swift Hesperange claims that UEFA’s opposition to cross-border competitions has hindered their ability to participate in a proposed Benelux League with teams from the Netherlands and Belgium.

The club has filed a claim with the Tribunal D’Arrondisement in Luxembourg, stressing that UEFA and their national FA are limiting their growth prospects through “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 with clubs from Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Republic of Ireland. The blueprint, prepared by Andrew Doyle, co-owner of Shelbourne, the League of Ireland, had the backing of investment bank JP Morgan and predicted annual broadcast revenues of up to €400 million.

Celtic and Rangers (pictured April 2022) could be free to pursue transnational competition if landmark lawsuit by minnows FC Swift Hesperange is successful

Celtic and Rangers (pictured April 2022) could be free to pursue transnational competition if landmark lawsuit by minnows FC Swift Hesperange is successful

Talks stalled when Celtic’s majority shareholder Dermot Desmond Doyle’s SAL Sports Capital informed the Parkhead club that it was no longer interested.

However, Dupont, the legal mastermind behind the Bosman ruling and a key figure in the battle between UEFA and the clubs striving for a European Super League, is convinced that cross-border competitions will come ‘sooner rather than later’. refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) at a preliminary hearing this fall.

“Swift and its sponsor Leopard are ambitious,” said the Belgian Sports post. “The club had already publicly complained in the past about a number of FLF and UEFA rules, in particular the rules for homegrown players, which put clubs from small countries at a disadvantage. But their voice was not heard. They decided to take it to court.

Clubs will not “move”. But clubs from small countries would have the right to produce their domestic football in a larger area, to match the production power of the big leagues.’

Dupont admits that a successful challenge could have huge consequences for major clubs outside the five major leagues. Dupont foresees that players like Ajax, Anderlecht, Benfica, Celtic, Copenhagen, Porto and Rangers will join transnational leagues with bigger 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 income that negatively affects their competitiveness on the European stage.”

The hopes of both Glasgow clubs competing in the Champions League group stage are hanging by a thread after Rangers lost their third qualifying round first leg to Union Saint-Gilloise.

Convinced clubs in Scotland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and Scandinavia need to join forces to become more competitive, Dupont said: “I think so. But in an organized and smart way, once the ECJ has decided on all legal issues.

“We will hold a preliminary hearing in the Luxembourg state court in the autumn and it will be up to this judge to decide whether to refer the case to the ECJ.”

The chance to be part of a bigger move could give Old Firm rivals a shot at more money

The chance to be part of a bigger move could give Old Firm rivals a shot at more money

The 58-year-old Dupont, a specialist in European law, was part of the legal team that secured the Bosman ruling in December 1995, a move that revolutionized football transfers.

When asked whether a successful lawsuit against UEFA competition rules could have an even greater impact on European football than Bosman, he replied: “Yes, because it affects the manufacturing market rather than ‘just’ the labor market.”

Pressed to set a timetable for the introduction of cross-border competitions, he replied: ‘No. But rather sooner than later.’

Dupont, the scourge of UEFA and FIFA, has filed multiple cases against the football authorities and currently represents the European Super League Company – backed by Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona – in their struggle to establish the principle that the world bodies are not alone owners of the rights to football and cannot prevent the emergence of rival leagues.

Recognizing the links between the Super League and the pursuit of cross-border competition, he said: “Intellectually there is a common ground: in both cases, some clubs are challenging the EU legality of UEFA’s monopoly on the organization and management of transnational club competitions. .’

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