Twelve major European Football clubs join a new European Super League (ESL) that is considered to be a breakaway tournament from the UEFA Champions League.
In an exponential development in European Football, a new league is set to venture out ‘as soon as practicable’. The inaugural edition of European Super League aims an August start in which two groups of 10 teams will play home and away matches and the top three qualifying for the quarter-finals. The fourth and fifth-placed teams will play off for the remaining quarter-final spots. The quarter and semi-finals will be played over two legs and the final is a single game at a neutral venue.
Twelve established Football teams from England, Spain and Italy have agreed to collaborate for the European Super League and will be recognised as its founding clubs. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are the English clubs involved; Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid are the Spanish teams and AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus are the Italian sides. Three more teams are expected to join as founding clubs. These 15 clubs are guaranteed participation each year, with another five qualifying annually, making it a 20-team competition. Notably there are, till now, no French and German teams signing in as founding members.
Challenges to UEFA, FIFA
The matches of this Super League will be played at mid-week, leaving them free for domestic fixtures but ruling them out of the Champions League. This approach challenges the supremacy of UEFA, the organiser of the Champions League and the governing body of European Football.
The UEFA president, Alexsander Ceferin, wants the 12 clubs banned from European competition at the earliest and the players who play for them prevented from appearing at major tournaments. “Because we respect the fans, the traditions, Football, the Football community, our society, we will win. In the end, we will win,” Ceferin says.
The English Premier League, La Liga and Serie A– the major European domestic leagues under which all the 12 teams became big global brands- are also against this newly-formed European League. UEFA is united with those leagues and insisted that any involvement in the ESL must carry a heavy punitive cost. “We’re still assessing with our legal team but we will take all the sanctions that we can,” said Ceferin.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino expressed ‘disapproval’ and called for dialogue. The world body’s decision is likely to be crucial. Earlier, FIFA and the six global confederations warned that any club or player involved in a breakaway would be ineligible for FIFA competitions.
Florentino Pérez, president of Real Madrid and the first chairman of the Super League, said in a statement, “The global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model. 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.”
The European clubs’ revenues have been tremendously hit by the pandemic because of disruptive fixtures and lack of spectators on grounds. Moreover, the clubs have superstar players with highly-paid salaries. The Super League is expected to bring far more than the Champions League. Currently, Europe’s top clubs have to qualify for the Champions League by placing high in their domestic competitions, and then make it through the season-long tournament to reach the high-profile latter stages.
But in European Super League, the founding clubs are expected to receive more than 10 billion euros in uncapped ‘solidarity payments’ during their initial commitment period. Backed by finance company JP Morgan, the Super League is also offering the founding clubs 3.5 billion euros for infrastructure investment and to offset pandemic costs.
Actions and Reactions
“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,” Florentino Pérez said. Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli has resigned from the UEFA executive committee and as the chairman of the European Club Association (ECA). He said, “The 12 clubs had come together at this critical moment, enabling European competition to be transformed, putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future”.
Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer who will be a vice-chairman of the Super League 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.” Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano have also resigned from their roles at UEFA.
However, there is a widespread condemnation from the opposite section who is not involved in the newly-formed league. German clubs Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich have said they will not be joining and are committed to the ECA.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron welcomed French clubs refusing to join. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “It is your game — and you can rest assured that I’m going to do everything I can to give this ludicrous plan a straight red.” Prince William, president of English FA’s tweeted, “Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire Football community — from the top level to the grassroots — and the values of competition and fairness at its core.”
The Football Supporters’ Association said the plans were motivated by nothing but cynical greed’. World players’ union Fifpro said, “This decision leaves players and their unions with many concerns and questions about its impact not only on the fabric and cultural identity of Football but also more practically on their careers.”