Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City tempted to play in United States for Champions League rival

By Mark Ogden

The billionaire owner of the Miami Dolphins, Stephen Ross, wants the Premier League's most powerful clubs to sign up to a global summer tournament which could ultimately develop into a pre-season rival to the Champions League.

Talks between the chief executives of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City and senior figures from Ross's Relevent Sports took place in London on Tuesday at the instigation of the American events company.

And although discussions covered issues such as the forthcoming International Champions Cup (ICC) this summer - to be staged in the United States, China and Australia - and possible changes to the Champions League format, Relevent's primary objective was to convince English football's big five of the merits of becoming equity partners in the business.

Should the top-flight clubs - which are all under foreign ownership - accept the proposal, it would involve a commitment to play in key football markets every summer, as well as a readiness to explore similar post-season opportunities and potential mini-tournaments, should a Premier League winter break become a reality.

The Premier League clubs would be offered shares and the prospect of a future sale to a media company.

But while fears of a breakaway to form a European Super League were immediately raised by images of the United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis, Manchester City's Ferran Soriano and Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck emerging from the Dorchester Hotel on Tuesday, it is understood that Ross and Relevent currently have no interest in launching a rival to Uefa's Champions League.

Senior figures from all clubs involved have privately dismissed the prospect of a breakaway. But Arsenal went further, insisting publicly that they are not pursuing any kind of break from either competition.

"We are strongly opposed to any breakaway," an Arsenal spokesman said.

"Not Arsenal, nor any clubs at the meeting, are seeking changes to the Premier League and European landscape.

"Discussions were primarily around the ICC and formats of European competitions that would complement the existing Premier League."

United, Liverpool, City and Chelsea have all participated in the ICC over the past two years.

United and Liverpool are due to compete in the tournament again this summer, with City confirmed participants in the China series and Juventus, Tottenham and Atletico Madrid already signed up to play in the Australian leg.

Belfast Telegraph

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