European Super League: What’s happened? Which clubs are involved? What’s been the reaction? How likely is it? What are the potential ramifications? What would be the format and who is financing it?
Six English teams are part of plans for a breakaway European Super League, but what do we know so far?
What has happened?
Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have announced they have agreed to establish a new midweek competition, the European Super League, governed by its ‘Founding Clubs’.
The proposal involves the clubs forming their own competition to rival the UEFA Champions League.
Which clubs are involved?
The Premier League’s big-six clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – are all 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’.
German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are not included and nor are French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Why has this come about now?
The clubs say that ‘the formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model. Further, for a number of years, the Founding Clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.’
‘The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid.’
What would the format be?
The Super League website reads: “The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and five annual qualifiers. There will be two groups of 10 clubs each, playing home and away fixtures within the group each year.
“Following the group stage, eight clubs will qualify for a knockout tournament, playing home and away until the single-match Super League championship, in a dramatic four-week end to the season.
“Games will be played midweek, and all clubs will remain in their domestic leagues.”
In their statement, the clubs themselves have outlined the format in three stages:
20 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 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 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.
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.’
What happens next?
Going forward, the Founding Clubs say they “look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole.”
What has the reaction been?
The plans have prompted widespread condemnation, with Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, speaking before the announcement on Sunday night, labelling the English clubs involved a “disgrace” and calling for them to be sanctioned by the Premier League.
Governing bodies and leagues across Europe are viewing the proposal as an attempted power-grab.
The Premier League released a statement saying a super league would “destroy” the premise of open competition.
“Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best,” said the statement. £We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.”
UEFA was similarly critical in a joint-statement with the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Spanish FA, La Liga, the Italian FA and Serie A and threatened to ban participating clubs from their domestic competitions.
“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.
“The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.”
Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had his say, tweeting: “Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action. They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country.
“The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps.”
How realistic is this?
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 signifies 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.
“I cannot envisage any scenario where such permission would be granted,” said Premier League chief executive Richard Masters in a memo to all 20 Premier League clubs.
What would the ramifications be?
Potentially huge. 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.
Any player whose club agrees to join an unsanctioned competition risks not playing in any UEFA or FIFA competition, including the European Championships and World Cup.
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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