On Sunday night, a joint statement by 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs confirmed their plans for a breakaway ‘Super League’ competition.
Instead of replacing the domestic leagues, the new competition is set to be played midweek and would therefore replace the Champions League. However, it won’t be that simple, 12 clubs join European Super League In their statement on Sunday, European footballing governing body UEFA confirmed that teams would face bans from domestic competitions, while players involved in the Super League would miss international tournaments.
🗣 “It’s an absolute disgrace.”
Roy Keane & @MicahRichards give their reaction to clubs signing up to the proposed European Super League pic.twitter.com/14ZFOd7WhA
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) April 18, 2021
And if that didn’t serve as much of a deterrent, UEFA has also threatened to sue the clubs involved up to €60bn.
What has happened?
Initially spearheaded by Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, the proposed new competition could generate £3.1bn for the first 15 members.
To put that into context, UEFA currently distributes about £3bn in prize money, and television broadcasting deals with clubs participating in all its European competitions each year.
Secret talks have been taking place for years about generating a bigger prize pot for the most prominent teams, but a plan has accelerated since last autumn.
Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan have also signed up – but not Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, or Paris St Germain.
Which clubs are involved?
AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as ‘Founding Clubs.’
It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which, according to the clubs, “is intended to commence as soon as practicable.”
Why has this come about now?
The proposals appear to be an 11th-hour bid to derail sweeping Champions League reforms due to be rubber-stamped from 2024.
Fans had already branded that deal as an “indefensible” power grab due to increased matches and revenue for the top clubs. Ed Woodward, executive vice-chairman at United, and Ivan Gazidis, chief executive of Italy’s AC Milan, were known to have objections over commercial arrangements.
UEFA had been confident that the current changes to the format of the Champions League from 2024 were enough to see off a breakaway, having drawn up plans to guarantee more fixtures and – most controversially – more certainty that the most prominent clubs would be involved in the lucrative competition in the first place.
But, while clubs on Friday gave the governing body the green light to approve the plan on Monday, concerns remained among the giants around media and sponsorship rights.
Under the last offer from UEFA, 51 percent ownership would remain with the governing body, with the rest controlled by the European Club Association.
Jurgen Klopp comments on European Super League resurface
What has the reaction been?
Almost universal condemnation from everyone but the clubs involved.
Gary Neville, the former Manchester United and England defender, was among those outraged by plans that could cause untold financial damage to smaller clubs and create billions more for the top clubs.
“I’m a Manchester United fan and I have been for 40 years of my life but I’m absolutely disgusted,” he told Sky Sports.
“I’m disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool most. Liverpool, they pretend ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone, the people’s club, the fans’ club.
“Manchester United, 100 years borne out of workers round here, and they’re breaking away into a league without competition, that they can’t be relegated from? It’s an absolute disgrace.”
“This is disowning your own club stuff.” 🚮@GNev2 hits out at the six clubs linked with a Super League breakaway and says they should be ‘punished heavily’ by the Premier League and English governing bodies. pic.twitter.com/Sy0gM6qdgm
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 18, 2021
What would the format be?
There will be two groups of 10 clubs each, playing home and away fixtures within the group each year.
In their statement, the clubs themselves have outlined the format in three stages:
- Twenty participating clubs with 15 Founding Clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season.
- Midweek fixtures with all participating clubs are continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar, which remains at the heart of the club game.
- An August start with clubs participating in two groups of ten, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals. Teams were finishing fourth, and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.
UEFA to ban clubs and players from participation in competitions
When will it start?
According to the Super League statement released on Sunday night, the new competition “is intended to commence as soon as practicable.”
They are proposing a general August start for when the new Super League season does get underway, but there are, of course, lots of hurdles to overcome, most notably from the likes of Uefa and Fifa, before anything is being close to being rubberstamped.
How would the league be financed?
About $5billion has been committed to this new project by the American bank JP Morgan.
In their own announcement, the breakaways clubs state, ‘The Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.’
American investment bank JP Morgan have confirmed they are financing the new European Super League.
More: https://t.co/9QGsuAzERE pic.twitter.com/P16qWnBf5O
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) April 19, 2021
How realistic is it to happen?
This does feel significant, both for the future of English and European football.
We have been here before – namely Project Big Picture – but what feels different this time is the level of planning and what may or may not have been signed.
The furious reaction from the Premier League, UEFA and other European leagues signify just how much this threatens the integrity of domestic and European leagues.
Clubs would need the approval of the associations, who govern the domestic competitions, to join an unsanctioned breakaway league.
Under Premier League rule L.9, which all 20 clubs sign up to, clubs must obtain ‘prior written approval of the Board’ if they wish to enter to anything other than the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, FA Community Shield, Carabao Cup or any other competition sanctioned by the county association.
In January, FIFA had said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that “any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation.”
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