12 European clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham have agreed to join the controversial European Super League.
The Premier League ‘big six’ will be joined by Serie A sides AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan and also La Liga teams Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid. The European Super League (ESL) has said that the clubs would establish a “new midweek competition” that would allow them to “compete in their respective national leagues” at the weekend. The ESL also said it “anticipated that a further three clubs” would join the league which it hopes will “commence as soon as practicable.” 5 sides will qualify for the league annually through their domestic achievements resulting in the league having a total of 20 teams, these will then be split into two groups of 10. The top 3 from each group qualify automatically for the quarter-finals with the teams in fourth and fifth playing a two-legged play-off for the two remaining spots. The quarter-finals and semi-finals would use a two legged knockout format before a single leg final.
Why has the announcement been made now?
UEFA have been looking to confirm reforms to the Champions League that would increase the number of teams to 36 and had hoped that this change would put an end to any Super League discussions. In October 2020 there had been talks involving Wall Street bank JP Morgan which would have seen a £4.6billion investment and the Super League teams do not believe the Champions League reforms go far enough. The ESL said the global pandemic has “accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model. In recent months, extensive dialogue has taken place with football stakeholders regarding the future format of European competitions. The founding clubs believe the solutions proposed following these talks do not solve fundamental issues, including the need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid.”
Attraction to the clubs
The 12 club owners and board members have come under heavy criticism from the football community with many arguing the decision has been driven solely by a greed for more money. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez will be the first ESL chairman and said “Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.” And added that the league would “help football at every level.” Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer said “By bringing together the world's greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid.” All 12 clubs have resigned from the European Club Association with individual club members resigning positions from UEFA.
Reaction and backlash
The announcement has been met with widespread criticism and anger with UEFA releasing a joint statement with the FA, Premier League, Spanish Football Federation, La Liga the Italian Football Federation and Serie A saying they “will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever. 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 statement continued to say that “As previously announced by FIFA and the six Confederations, 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.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the proposal would be “very damaging for football” if it were to come to fruition. Former professionals such as Gary Neville and Danny Murphy have criticised the announcement with Neville giving a powerful speech on Sky Sports where he said he was “absolutely disgusted” and called for the six Premier League clubs to be immediately docked points as this new Super League would result in the death of lower league clubs.
The six Premier League supporters groups have all condemned the decision saying it is unforgivable and has resulted in the death of their club so they will do everything they can to fight against it.
Ligue 1 and Bundesliga
Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris St Germain were all invited to join the league but rejected the request. UEFA said “We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.” One of the main reasons for the Bundesliga clubs not joining is because clubs must be at least 51% owned by the fans meaning that large corporations cannot own the vast majority of a club, as is the case in England. The result of this would be that the fans could ensure that it does not join the league because they control the majority. PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi is a UEFA board member and also chairman of the beIN Media Group which currently has rights to broadcast the Champions League so will be factors in why PSG rejected the proposal.