European Super League to include Real Madrid and six Premier League teams
LONDON – A dozen of the richest and richest football clubs in the world announced on Sunday that they have formed a separatist European club competition which, if it comes to fruition, would upend the structures, economy and relations that unite world football for almost a century. .
After months of secret talks, the separatist teams – which include Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain; Manchester United and Liverpool in England; and Juventus and AC Milan in Italy – confirmed their plans on Sunday night. They said they plan to add at least three more founding members, organize midweek games that will put the league in direct competition with the existing Champions League and start playing “as soon as possible”.
“We are going to help football at all levels and bring it to its rightful place in the world,” said Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez, who has been appointed. the first president of what the clubs called the Super League.
The league they agreed to form – an alliance of top clubs closer in the concept of closed leagues like the NFL and NBA than the current model of football – would lead to the most significant restructuring of elite European football. since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small group of teams in modern sports history.
In its current form, European football complements the game of the national league – an English league for English teams, a Spanish league for Spanish clubs – with continental competitions between the best clubs. The most prestigious of them, the Champions League, brings together each year the best teams from each national championship to play for the title of best club in Europe, and arguably the best club in the world.
The current system transfers hundreds of millions of dollars in annual TV and sponsorship income to the world’s wealthiest clubs, which supplement their domestic income with multi-million dollar Champions League payouts. But the format also supports smaller teams in each country, who benefit from the brilliance of their encounters with the giants and share the money those teams make to broadcasters.
The new superleague model would change that, stripping the Champions League of its most attractive and successful teams and effectively isolating the wealthiest clubs in their own closed competition – and allowing them to share the billions of dollars of annual income between them. According to the Super League announcement, the founding clubs will share 3.5 billion euros (nearly 4.2 billion dollars) to commit to creating “a sustainable financial foundation”. The squad figure means each founding club will receive around $ 400 million, more than four times what the Champions League winner won. in 2020.
The 12 teams that have registered as founders are, for the moment, limited to ten Spanish, Italian and English clubs. A cohort of six Premier League teams – United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – represent the largest grouping in a single country. Atlético Madrid are the other Spanish team that have reportedly approved the plan, while Milan rivals Internazionale and AC Milan are said to join Juventus as representatives of Italy.
Three more clubs will join as founding – and therefore permanent – members, organizers said, and a qualifying mechanism will be created to fill the remaining five places in the 20-team Super League each season.
A women’s league will also be launched, according to the announcement, likely including women’s teams from several of the same clubs.
European football officials acted quickly to try to block the project. The Premier League condemned concept in a statement on Sunday and also sent a letter to its 20 member clubs warning them not to participate. Officials at European football’s governing body UEFA, which leads the Champions League, called the closed superleague proposal a “cynical project” in a statement.
The missive was co-signed by the Premier League, La Liga in Spain and Italian Serie A, as well as the football federations of each country. Within hours, the French federation and the French league had joined their voices to growing opposition inner key European football circles. Politicians, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron have also spoken out to denounce the plans.
But UEFA took the threat seriously. Its leaders have spent the weekend discussing how to block the plan, including banning separatist teams from their national leagues and preventing their players from competing for their national teams in events like the World Cup. EU officials have also pointedly reminded future superleague clubs (and, indeed, their players) that football’s world governing body FIFA has backed their threats of expulsion.
FIFA on Sunday expressed its “disapproval” of the concept of a closed league, but refrained from the type of threats launched by senior European officials.
“We will examine all the measures at our disposal, at all levels, both judicial and sporting, in order to prevent this from happening”, the UEFA press release says. “Football is based on open competitions and on sporting merit; It can not be otherwise. “
At the same time, football officials have also started to contact European Union lawmakers, hoping the bloc would be able to strengthen its hand in preserving the status quo.
The leaders of the separatist group have tried to convince other top teams, such as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund and French champion Paris St.-Germain, to sign up. But to date, these clubs – and others – have refused to move away from the national structures and continental competitions that have underpinned European football for generations.
Their concerns can be political and financial. PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi sits on the UEFA board of directors, for example, and also runs beIN Media Group, the Qatar-based TV channel that has paid millions of dollars for broadcast rights. Champions League matches and various national competitions. .
The Premier League, however, wrote to its 20 clubs after its board meeting on Sunday, warning teams that bar club league rules cannot join outside competitions without approval.
“This business cannot be started without the English clubs and we call on any club considering partnering or joining this business to withdraw immediately before irreparable damage is done,” he said in a letter. to the teams.
The timing for Sunday’s news appears to have overshadowed UEFA’s plans to ratify a newly-designed Champions League on Monday. This competition would be devastated by the departure of its biggest teams.
The repercussions of a split between European football and its best-known, best-followed and wealthiest clubs would be seismic. Without the top teams, UEFA and the domestic leagues would face millions of dollars in reimbursement demands from broadcasters who pay billions for TV rights to broadcast their tournaments. Excluded clubs would face a severe blow to their budgets as many still grapple with the financial wreckage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. And any ban on playing for the national team would affect the players individually, even if they had no role in decision-making.
Among the most notable teams involved in the separatist group is Juventus, the Italian serial champion. Its president, Andrea Agnelli, was until Sunday – when he resigned his two posts – a member of the UEFA executive board and also at the head of the European Club Association, which brings together more than 200 top clubs. division, the majority of which be excluded from the proposed Super League.
When asked this year by The New York Times to discuss his role in separatist league talks, Agnelli brushed off the idea as a “rumor.”
Yet, according to documents reviewed by The Times in January, plans for the Separatist League had gathered pace since last summer. Top clubs have sought to take advantage of the uncertainty in the football industry caused by the pandemic to chart a new course that would provide them with some financial stability, but almost certainly lead to significant loss of value and income – and potentially devastating. for teams excluded from the project.
Each of the potential permanent members of the proposed superleague has been promised 350 million euros, or $ 425 million, to register, according to the documents. The group leading the effort had started discussions with JPMorgan Chase to raise funds for the project, according to people familiar with the matter. The firm has so far declined to comment.
Earlier this year, UEFA found a strong ally against FIFA’s plans, which warned that any player who participated in such an unauthorized league would not be allowed to participate in any of its tournaments, including the World Cup. The statement comes after UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin asked for the support of his FIFA counterpart Gianni Infantino amid growing speculation that the separatist group had FIFA backing.
On Sunday evening, even Juventus’ Agnelli-led alliance of clubs, ECA, appeared to reject his idea.
Significant obstacles to the implementation of the plan remain. Governing bodies and leagues could follow through on threats to expel clubs and their players. As member-owned clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid would most likely need the support of thousands of their supporters before officially joining, and any German club that agreed to participate would face similar obstacles. All can also expect strong internal opposition; fan groups across Europe have always opposed the very idea of a closed superleague.
On Sunday, a group of supporters, Football Supporters Europe, called the superleague idea “illegitimate, irresponsible and anti-competitive by design”.
“Specifically, he is exclusively motivated by greed,” the group said. “The only ones to win are the hedge funds, the oligarchs and a handful of already wealthy clubs, many of which perform poorly in their own domestic leagues despite their inherent advantage.”