The prospect of a breakaway European Super League has not gone down well with the majority of football fans and administrators, with many left wary of the competition’s potential to put an end to fair competition across European football.
Going by the buzz since it was announced Sunday that plans are underway for this breakaway to happen as soon as practicable, the concept of association football as many have grown up to know it – if this sees the light of day – is on the verge of being altered forever.
But with major football governing bodies across Europe, including UEFA, the Football Association in England, and their counterparts in Italy and Spain making clear their stance that all the participating clubs will face severe punishments, and that all players involved will also be banned from representing their respective national teams, the chances of this competition seeing the light of day seems very blurry at the moment.
However, with many a football fan still asking pertinent questions, we took the opportunity to dig out some useful information about the European Super League.
Founding clubs are being enticed with a share of a €3.5bn (£3bn) grant provided by the investment bank JP Morgan.
- According to the official ESL website, “the Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and 5 annual qualifiers.” If it happens, it will controversially mark the end of the UEFA Champions League.
- More controversially, all 15 founder members, similarly to Major League Soccer, cannot be relegated.
- Currently, the 12 confirmed participating teams are Arsenal, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus, Inter Milan, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur.
- Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have all opted not to join for now, but are widely expected to be the teams to complete the 15.
- A further five places each season will be set aside for five teams who qualify, most likely by winning their domestic leagues.
- The 20 clubs will be split into two leagues of 10, in which teams will play all others home and away for a total of 18 group games, with eight teams advancing to a knockout stage to be held over four weeks at the end of the season.
- All three Spanish sides – Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona – will need approval from their Sócios to join the Super League, as they are not privately owned clubs.
- The founder European Super League clubs, while all historically successful, are not all among the current top 12 based on results. However, they do comprise 11 of the 14 richest, according to Deloitte’s most recent Football Money League.
- A kick-off date of 2022 has been rumored, but so far, organizers have only said it would begin “as soon as practicable” with a women’s version of the competition to follow.
- Real Madrid President Florentino Perez, who became the first high profile personality from an elite European team to speak in favour of the European Super League back in 2009, has been assigned the role of Chairman, with Manchester United and Juventus chiefs Joel Glazer and Andrea Agnelli as co-chairmen.
- According to reports, American investment bank JP Morgan have committed around $5 billion to this new competition.
- Founding clubs will each receive a sum of €350 million to join the Super League in its first edition, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.
- When the initial plans were being made a decade ago, there were talks of including as many as 38 clubs – forming a two-division structure. Clubs like Rangers FC and Celtic FC were also interested in being part of it.
- The competition is scheduled to be played in midweek to allow clubs to continue taking part in their domestic leagues.
- On Monday, in a fiery press conference, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin emphasized the potential consequences for players participating in the competition, prompting the group to respond swiftly via a letter sent to FIFA and UEFA leaders, informing them that the Super League has already taken legal action to protect all participating clubs and players.
“We are concerned that FIFA and UEFA may respond to this invitation letter by seeking to take punitive measures to exclude any participating club or player from their respective competitions.
“Your formal statement does, however, compel us to take protective steps to secure ourselves against such an adverse reaction, which would not only jeopardize the funding commitment under the Grant but, significantly, would be unlawful. For this reason, SLCo (Super League Company) has filed a motion before the relevant courts in order to ensure the seamless establishment and operation of the Competition in accordance with applicable laws.
“It is our duty, as SLCo’s board members, to ensure that all reasonable actions available to protect the interests of the Competition and our stakeholders are duly taken, given the irreparable damage that would be suffered if, for any reason, we were deprived of the opportunity to form promptly the Competition and distribute the proceeds of the Grant.”Reaction: Jurgen Klopp, Ian Wright, Micah Richards, Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher
From social media, to press conferences, to the studios and booth rooms – A number of high profile personalities within football have continued to vent their displeasure so far.
Wolverhampton Wanderers’s Portuguese attacking midfielder Daniel Podence posted this on Twitter:
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) was joined by compatriot Joao Cancelo (Manchester City) to become the first players from a participating club to weigh in on the backlash after posting a screenshot of Podence’s tweet on Instagram.
Cancelo and Fernandes both posted a screenshot of Podence’s tweet on their Instagram stories to show solidarity | Image credit: Instagram
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright expressed shock after finding out his club was one of six English clubs pushing for a breakaway Super League:
“This is the same Arsenal that only a couple of weeks ago was commended for the tribute to David Rocastle.
“God, the man would be turning in his grave knowing what is going on now. Is this how far we have fallen?
“That we are getting into competitions because we are not good enough to get into them, so at the detriment of the English game we are getting a seat at the table we have no right to be at.”
Former Manchester City defender and club ambassador Micah Richards was left in absolute disbelief:
“From where Manchester City have come from, from Division Two [what is now League One] all the way to the Premier League and they earned that the right way through hard work, great support and not doing things the easy way and went all the way to winning the Premier League.
“Now, having the audacity to believe they should be better than everyone else – I was flabbergasted.”
Former Manchester United defender cum SkySports pundit Gary Neville has been very vocal and critical of the idea. He had this to say on Monday Night Football:
“I think there’s a lack of willingness. They want to change the system, they want to chase the very fabric of the pyramid – relegation and promotion – so they have certainty and rely on their income year-in, year-out.
“Manchester United, they lose loads of money from their sponsors when they don’t qualify for the Champions League and they’ve been really good at not qualifying for the Champions League over the last 10 years, but they were banking on it all the time under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“There weren’t massive amounts of money being invested and still getting into the Champions League every season and they just thought it was their right, they’re entitled, they think they’re entitled to be in there – but they’re not and they’ve had the shock of their lives.
“Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United, Chelsea have fallen out of it, Liverpool, to be fair, (haven’t) under Jurgen Klopp. They want to change the system for their own benefit, more people watch those clubs, they want to own subscription, they want subscription models, they want to put it on their phone. You think about it: 150 million Man United fans worldwide paying £1 for every match every weekend, they get 150 million quid per week.
“They want to own their own commercial income, their own image rights, their own TV rights, they want to break away from what would be the system happening in this country.”
Ex-Liverpool defender cum SkySports pundit Jamie Carragher, also speaking on Monday Night Football believes the ESL plans can be stopped:
“My message to everyone is I think these clubs think this is a done deal, it’s done, I don’t think it is, I think supporters up and down this country can stop this – I really do believe this and I think at the forefront of that will be Liverpool because I’ve seen it before.
“We have tribalism in this country, we have rivalry, that’s what makes the game we love. Football fans get together, all of us, in TV, pundits, players, managers, get together and stop this because it can be stopped. I’m convinced of it.
“What I would say is this is not Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Man City involved, this is John Henry and FSG, this is the Glazers, this is Roman Abramovich, Sheikh Mansour, Stan Kroenke, Daniel Levy – these are the people to blame for this.
“What they’re doing right now is dragging institutions we’ve seen in this country for over 100 years basically through the mud, burning the history of what those clubs are about because from your own club’s point of view, the only reason Liverpool are in this or have a chance of being in the Super League is because they’ve won six European Cups or 20 league titles, only one each came under FSG.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is the first manager from one of the breakaway clubs to publicly kick against the proposal:
“I am 53 years old and since I was a player, the Champions League was there and my aim was always to be there, I have obviously no issues with the Champions League.
“I like the competitive element of football, I like the fact that West Ham might play Champions League next year, no problem, I don’t want them to to be honest, because we want to, but I like that they have the chance.”
Liverpool fans hung banners outside Anfield on Monday morning in opposition to the plans of club chairman John Henry and Fenway Sports Group.
Similar protests also took place outside of Elland Road ahead of Monday night’s 1-1 draw with Leeds United, with a Liverpool shirt set ablaze as the team bus was booed on its way to the stadium.
Meanwhile, Klopp reiterated the most important part of football is the players and the teams, and says he understands the frustration and anger fans across football are feeling right now.