The new European Super League Company has revealed it has already launched legal action to try to prevent retaliatory moves amid widespread condemnation of the plans.
The bombshell announcement came on Sunday that Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and six other European clubs have agreed to create a rival competition to the Champions League.
It is anticipated three more clubs will join the breakaway group as founding members, with the new competition, which will begin “as soon as practicable”, to eventually feature 20 teams.
The PA news agency understands that Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward has stepped down from his UEFA role, where he was on the Professional Football Strategy Council, while the club have also quit the European Club Association.
After the plans emerged on Sunday afternoon, the backlash was instantaneous throughout the game and beyond, before the clubs released statements just before midnight stating their intentions.
In announcing the news, United co-chairman Joel Glazer, who is also 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.”
Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan are the other six clubs, with Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain missing from the list.
Leading European football clubs announce new Super League competition.— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 18, 2021
In a letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino and UEFA’s Aleksander Ceferin seen by PA, the Super League Company calls for cooperation but also reveals it has already taken legal action to try to head off the threat of clubs and players being banned from other competitions, as has previously been suggested.
The letter reads: “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.
“We hope that is not your response to this letter and that, like us, your organisations will recognise the immediate benefits of the competition established by SLCo.
“We also seek your cooperation and support on how the competition can be brought within the football ecosystem and work with us to achieve that objective.
“Your formal statement does, however, compel us to take protective steps to secure ourselves against such an adverse reaction, which would not only jeopardise the funding commitment under the grant but, significantly, would be unlawful.
“For this reason, SLCo 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.”
The letter also said the company had secured a commitment to underwrite funding for the competition in the range of four billion euros (approximately £3.5billion), and JP Morgan confirmed to PA that it is financing the deal.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the European Super League was not “good news for fans” and he would work with the football authorities “to make sure this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed”.
Former Football Association chairman Greg Dyke does not expect the project to get off the ground because of the widespread opposition to it.
He told BBC Radio Four: “I don’t think it will happen. I think it’s a game that’s going on. But I don’t think it’s good for football in any way at all. Without the approval of UEFA, but particularly without the approval of FIFA, I think this is very difficult to make this happen.
“I think it’s a big mistake. And I think the opposition to it – which has come from almost everywhere, I haven’t heard anybody in favour yet – will probably stop it.”
Another former FA chairman, David Bernstein, said he was “really ashamed” of the English clubs, including Manchester City, where he was also chairman.
Bernstein cannot see the plan working, saying: “A closed league, as they’re proposing, without promotion and relegation, without recognition of the rest of the game, is potentially a dead league.
“It won’t have the life of football as we understand it. I think the arrogance of these half a dozen English clubs is something to behold.”
Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow branded the Super League a “grotesque concept”.
He added: “These proposals do away with sporting merit. It would enable a small number of clubs to be in this competition come what may and, for millions of people in football, that goes against everything the sport means and stands for.”
Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, now FIFA’s chief of global football development, told talkSPORT: “I believe as well there’s a more dangerous idea behind (it) that is a big threat for the Premier League.
“When I was still in charge, there was a lot going on from other countries to try to diminish the dominance of the Premier League and a project like that would certainly accelerate that.
“We have to fight to keep football simple, understandable and based on merits, and (so) everyone has the same chance and dream to be successful.”
The clubs involved have so far addressed the plans through a joint statement but Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel will both face the media later.
The timing of the announcement was incendiary coming ahead of an anticipated announcement from UEFA confirming changes to the Champions League format later on Monday.
The European governing body is expected to approve an increase from 32 to 36 teams from 2024 with the existing structure of eight groups of four replaced by one league. The format, known as the ‘Swiss model’, would see all teams play 10 games in the first stage with opponents determined by a seeding system.
But the statement from the 12 breakaway clubs late on Sunday made clear they do not believe these proposed changes go far enough.
Football is nothing without its fans. We’ve seen that clearly over the last 12 months. If fans stand as one against this anti-football pyramid scheme, it can be stopped in its tracks.— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) April 19, 2021
Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez, who will chair the Super League, said: “We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world. 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.”
It is proposed the new competition will be played in midweek with the eventual 15 founding members being joined by five qualifiers. It will be played initially in two groups of 10 with an eight-team knockout stage.
The organisers claim it will generate more money than the Champions League and that will result in a greater distribution of revenue throughout the game.
The statement added: “The new annual tournament will provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues.
“These solidarity payments will be substantially higher than those generated by the current European competition and are expected to be in excess of €10billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the clubs.”
News of the breakaway competition leaked out before it was officially announced and had already provoked a fierce backlash from UEFA and various national leagues and associations.
World governing body FIFA expressed “its disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures” and called for “all parties involved in heated discussions to engage in calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game”.
UEFA, along with the Football Associations of England, Spain and Italy, plus the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A, said they would use all available means to stop the “cynical project”.
LaLiga added in a statement on Monday: “The newly proposed top European competition is nothing more than a selfish, egotistical proposal designed to further enrich the already super rich.
“It will undermine the appeal of the whole game and have a deeply damaging impact on the immediate and future of LaLiga, its member clubs, and all the entire footballing ecosystem.”