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UEFA accuse judge involved with European Super League case of 'clear bias'

UEFA accuse judge involved with European Super League case of 'clear bias'
© Reuters
The governing body has had to declare disciplinary proceedings against three clubs still committed to the breakaway league null and void.

UEFA has called for the removal of the Madrid judge at the centre of its legal dispute with the European Super League, arguing he has demonstrated "clear bias" toward the breakaway competition.

Rulings from the Madrid commercial court headed by judge Manuel Ruiz de Lara have forced UEFA to abandon disciplinary proceedings against Super League rebel clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.

Now, European football's governing body has filed a motion calling for Ruiz de Lara's recusal and has also launched a formal appeal against the commercial court rulings to a higher jurisdiction.

The recusal motion, seen by the PA news agency, highlights a number of resolutions and actions by Ruiz de Lara which it argues demonstrate his lack of impartiality.

Among them, the motion states, is his announced participation in a legal conference in Bilbao on October 15, titled 'Cases of abuse of dominant position: The Super League Case'.

The announcement of the judge's participation in such a conference "destroys any appearance of impartiality that this magistrate may have in the exercise of his functions", the motion states.

It adds: "The title of the conference in which the judge will participate prejudge per se the merits of the case."

The Madrid court has ruled that all attempts by UEFA to block the Super League, and any penalties and proceedings issued against the clubs involved, are against EU competition law.

The European Court of Justice must make a final ruling on the matter, but this is not expected until next year at the earliest.

The motion to recuse Ruiz de Lara also highlights the "unprecedented speed" with which precautionary measures protecting the Super League from legal challenge were issued in April, in the hours after the league's formation was announced.

The motion states a claim was filed at 11.38pm on Sunday, April 18, transferred to the Madrid commercial court at 10.33am the following day, with the judgement adopting precautionary measures issued and signed electronically by Ruiz de Lara at 12.53am on Tuesday, April 20.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez remains committed to the idea of a Super League
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez remains committed to the idea of a Super League (Tim Goode/PA)

The motion said the claim was 157 pages long, along with 103 exhibits to make a total of approximately 1,500 pages attached as evidence.

"However, in this highly complex case with economic consequences amounting to millions of dollars, the head of the court was able to investigate the case and adopt a resolution of 15 pages in 24 hours," the motion document states.

The motion also says there was "incessant leakage" of judgements related to the case, so that decisions appeared in the media before the parties involved had been notified.

Elsewhere in the document it is claimed that the resolutions and actions of Ruiz de Lara demonstrate "a special sensitivity" to the Super League.

UEFA released a statement on Tuesday morning which said: "In line with Spanish law – and in the fundamental interests of justice – UEFA fully expects the judge in question to immediately stand aside pending the full and proper consideration of this motion."

As well as declaring disciplinary proceedings against Real, Barca and Juve null and void, UEFA will not seek payments from the other nine clubs initially involved in Super League plans which had been part of a peace agreement reached in May.

A UEFA statement issued on Tuesday morning read: "(We) will continue to take all necessary steps, in strict accordance with national and EU law, in order to defend (our) interests and – most importantly – those of its members and all football stakeholders."

A formal appeal will also be made to a higher court, the Provincial Court of Madrid (Court of Appeal), against the commercial court's judgement, UEFA said.

UEFA's stance on the Super League – which was formally launched in April but quickly collapsed – has not altered, but it has had no option but to comply with the Madrid ruling.

It sees the league as a threat to the European sports model of open competition, and that its existence would threaten UEFA's ability to distribute revenue in an equitable way. It remains ready to defend itself should any new attempt to revive the plans be made.

Those behind the Super League say it is not dead, and the PA news agency understands it is working on an open format for the future, having acknowledged the closed nature of the original league made it deeply unpopular among supporters in particular.

The Super League holdout clubs are all involved in this season's Champions League.

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