New plans being worked on for a European Super League involve the competition being 100 per cent open, with no clubs holding permanent membership, the PA news agency understands.
A statement from the three clubs which still endorse the hugely controversial project – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus – released on Friday conceded there were “elements of (the) proposal that should be reviewed”.
It is understood one of the key changes would be that no club would be immune from relegation from the continental league. The notion of a ‘closed shop’ was one of the major criticisms of the plans first announced in April.
Sources close to the project have told PA that plans being worked on now are for a fully open competition, and that if the English qualifiers on merit were Leicester, Leeds, West Ham and Wolves in any given season, then they would be the clubs involved.
Opening up the competition could make the Super League more popular with fans, whose opposition to the initial plans contributed significantly to the project’s downfall.
The league’s backers say the project is far from dead, and that the problems in the game which led to the 12 founder clubs making their move have not gone away – chiefly what they see as UEFA’s refusal to engage with them.
The Super League trio issued a joint statement on Friday reacting to the latest ruling from a Madrid court. They said an appeal from UEFA against the court’s initial judgement had been dismissed, which means all sanctions imposed against the 12 founder Super League clubs must be stayed pending a final ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
That includes disciplinary proceedings which had been opened against the three Super League rebel clubs but also the terms of ‘peace agreements’ reached between the other nine clubs and UEFA, and a similar deal between the Premier League and its ‘Big Six’.
The statement warns any breach of the Madrid injunction would lead to fines or criminal charges.
Earlier this month, PA learned that the ECJ had rejected a request from the Super League for an expedited decision in the case, a development which appeared to significantly derail the Super League project.
While that decision is accepted by all sides to be the one that will be binding, the Super League insists the Madrid injunction means UEFA and domestic leagues cannot act to sanction the clubs involved under competition law in the meantime.
Super League sources are confident of getting the desired outcome at the ECJ, and believe the impact will be as seismic as the 1995 Bosman ruling was to the transfer market and lead to new cross-border competitions springing up all over Europe.
The statement issued on Friday said: “FC Barcelona, Juventus, and Real Madrid CF welcome today’s court’s decision enforcing, with immediate effect, UEFA’s obligation to unwind the actions taken against all European Super League founding clubs, including terminating the disciplinary proceedings against the undersigning three clubs and removing the penalties and restrictions imposed on the remaining nine founding clubs for them to avoid UEFA’s disciplinary action.
“The court backs the request made by the promoters of the European Super League, dismisses UEFA’s appeal, and confirms its warning to UEFA that failure to comply with its ruling shall result in fines and potential criminal liability.
“The case will be assessed by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which shall review UEFA’s monopolistic position over European football.
“We have the duty to address the very serious issues facing football: UEFA has established itself as the sole regulator, exclusive operator, and unique owner of rights of European football competitions.
“This monopolistic position, in conflict of interest, is damaging football and its competitive balance. As shown by ample evidence, financial controls are inadequate, and they have been improperly enforced. Clubs participating in European competitions have the right to govern their own competitions.
“We are pleased that going forward we will no longer be subject to ongoing UEFA’s threats. Our aim is to keep developing the Super League project in a constructive and cooperative manner, always counting on all football stakeholders: fans, players, coaches, clubs, leagues, and national and international associations.”
The Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ agreed last month to make a combined goodwill payment of just over £22million to support grassroots and community projects, and that if any one of those clubs attempted such a move again they would be docked 30 points and fined £25million.
In May, nine of the 12 founder clubs agreed a deal with UEFA, under which they agreed to contribute 15 million euro (around £13million) to children and grassroots football in Europe, and the withholding of five per cent of UEFA competition revenue due to them for one season.
The fan-led review commissioned by the Government and chaired by Tracey Crouch MP issued interim proposals last week, including a licensing system which would be designed to guard against any future breakaway attempts, and giving fans a ‘golden share’ veto should their club seek to change competition.
The final proposals are due in the autumn.