The world of football is reeling after the confirmation that 12 of the biggest clubs, spearheaded by the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’, have signed up for a new European Super League. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham have joined a host of European giants and in doing so have sparked a civil war with and among the Premier League itself. Here are all the key questions answered on the move that is threatening to tear football apart.
So, what exactly is the European Super League?
Well, let’s start with the simple opening paragraph of the statement that confirmed the news on Sunday night and sent shockwaves through the sport and well beyond.
‘Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new mid-week competition, the Super League, governed by its Founding Clubs.’
Those ‘Founding Clubs’ are, as mentioned above, led by the biggest six clubs in English football: Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.
Add to that arguably the two biggest clubs in the world, Real Madrid and Barcelona, and a third from Spain – Atletico Madrid. Then there’s Italy’s three giants: Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.
But what about the rest of Europe’s big clubs?
Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are understood to have rejected the idea, although the plan is to expand the league to 15 founding members, with a further five annual qualifiers – but no relegation for the big founding clubs, even if they finished bottom of the table.
It is a rapidly changing situation, however, and nothing is certain yet.
Borussia Dortmund confirmed this morning that they have no plans to enter the breakaway league, saying they ‘want to implement the planned reform of the UEFA Champions League’. Chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke insisted that Bayern were standing with them, adding: ‘It was the clear opinion that the plans to found a Super League were rejected.’
But if other giant continental clubs want to be involved then they’d better sign up quick, because one thing’s for sure: if your name’s not down you’re not coming in.
Sounds a bit like a snooty nightclub…
Yes, and the burly bouncer guarding the guest list is Real Madrid president Florentino Perez. The European Super League is his brainchild.
But the new league also represents an American takeover of elite European football, with Manchester United (the Glazer family), Liverpool (Fenway Sports Group, led by John W Henry) and Arsenal (Stan Kroenke) all controlled by US billionaires and venture capitalists.
One source described it as ‘a US-led operation’, adding: ‘This is down mostly to the Americans at Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal who have believed for a long time that they should be making a lot more money.
Then you have Tottenham, who have just built a big new stadium and who would no doubt benefit from infrastructure payments. Chelsea and Man City, who have been reluctant, do not really need the money but there is the obvious fear of missing out.’
What’s the reason for starting a new Super League when all these clubs already play in well-established competitions?
Quite simply: greed. Or, as our Chief Sports Writer Martin Samuel puts it: ‘A sickening, self-serving attempted justification of what is at heart nothing but an attempted coup.’
Perez has long been jealous of the broadcasting revenue generated by the Premier League, by far the world’s most-watched and richest competition, and he wants more money than the Spanish League – LaLiga – can offer.
Major US bank JP Morgan, a former employer of Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, are debt financing the new league which will see founding clubs receive £3.03billion, which is set against future broadcast revenue.
The breakaway, plotted by Real Madrid chairman Florentino Perez, has received big backlash from angry fans
Juventus and Barcelona are two of the other founder clubs. Pictured are Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi
But if the Premier League is so successful, why do the English clubs want in?
Quite simply: greed (sound familiar?) Not content with the enormous revenue they already generate, these clubs want to have their cake and eat it: to rake it in from the Premier League while also milking even more money from a midweek European competition.
They have also guaranteed no relegation for any of the founder members, ensuring that even if they perform abysmally they will still enjoy lavish rewards while simultaneously blocking the route into elite competition for other ambitious clubs with superior teams and better results, such as Leicester, Everton and West Ham, who are shaking up the Big Six in the Premier League this season. The absurdly entitled elite do not like pesky things such as football results getting in the way of wallowing in their piles of cash.
But there’s already a midweek European competition – the Champions League. What will happen to that?
Stripped of its biggest clubs, club football’s current elite competition would wither and die.
UEFA, who were due to announce their own proposals for a revamped Champions League on Monday, reacted with fury to the news which had broken earlier on Sunday.
UEFA’s Champions League, won last year by Bayern Munich, is under serious threat of a breakaway league of the top teams
A statement, issued jointly with the three governing bodies and leagues involved, said: ‘If this were to happen, we will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever. We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening.
‘FIFA and the six Federations announced that the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.’
Does that mean that these clubs could be banned from playing in the Premier League if this goes ahead?
Yes. The Premier League – along with all the other big domestic leagues in Europe, plus the game’s governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA – will fight tooth and nail to stop their biggest clubs so shamelessly deserting the rest.
And there was a warning in UEFA’s statement to players of these clubs too: if you play in the European Super League then you will not be allowed to play in the World Cup or European Championship.
What have the Premier League said?
A letter sent by Premier League chief executive Richard Masters to all 20 member clubs, was also strong and laced with warning to the Big Six.
‘We do not and cannot support such a concept,’ he wrote. ‘Premier League Rules contain a commitment amongst clubs to remain within the football pyramid and forbid any clubs from entering competitions beyond those listed in Rule L9, without Premier League Board permission. I cannot envisage any scenario where such permission would be granted.’
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters wrote a letter to clubs warning them to walk away from Super League plans
Do these clubs need permission from the Premier League to play in the European Super League?
Yes. The Premier League was founded in 1992 on the basis that all clubs have an equal vote on the governance of the league, and a right to equal share of the basic broadcasting revenues. The Big Six do not, to say the least, like this one bit. They feel that they are responsible for generating the vast proportion of global interest – and revenues – in the Premier League so deserve a way to generate even more cash.
Sounds like these big clubs can forget joining a European Super League then?
They will be lobbying hard to get their way, have no doubt about that. Somehow they are brazenly trying to convince the rest of the Premier League and English football that the European Super League would benefit everyone.
In a rare public comment, United co-chairman Joel Glazer claimed that the closed shop would provide ‘increased financial support for the wider football pyramid’.
Just like with Project Big Picture – their failed attempt at bribing the Football League with cash to bail them out during the crippling coronavirus pandemic in return for letting the Big Six take almost complete control of English football – this new competition is motivated solely by selfishness and greed.
Manchester United’s American owners Joel and Avram Glazer (left and right) have backed the plans
Liverpool owner John W Henry (left) and Stan Kroenke (right), the owner of Arsenal, will be vice-chairmen on the project
PREMIER LEAGUE STATEMENT
The Premier League condemns any proposal that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid.
Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best. We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.
The Premier League is proud to run a competitive and compelling football competition that has made it the most widely watched league in the world. Our success has enabled us to make an unrivalled financial contribution to the domestic football pyramid.
A European Super League will undermine the appeal of the whole game, and have a deeply damaging impact on the immediate and future prospects of the Premier League and its member clubs, and all those in football who rely on our funding and solidarity to prosper.
We will work with fans, The FA, EFL, PFA and LMA, as well as other stakeholders, at home and abroad, to defend the integrity and future prospects of English football in the best interests of the game.
Is that what the experts think too?
Just listen to Gary Neville, a Manchester United club legend and lifelong fan of the club.
‘It’s been damned, and rightly so,’ said Neville on Sky Sports. ‘I’m a Manchester United fan and I have been for 40 years of my life but I’m absolutely disgusted. I’m disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool most.
‘Deduct them all points tomorrow, put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously, you have got to stamp on this. It’s criminal. It’s a criminal act against the football fans in this country, make no mistake.
‘There isn’t a football fan in this country that won’t be and shouldn’t be seething listening to this conversation and these announcements.’
Wow, that’s strong stuff. But is Neville alone?
Not at all. Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest manager in Manchester United and English football history – and still an executive at United – said that a European Super League would be a move away from 70 years of football history and insisted that the Champion League should stay as it is.
‘Talk of a Super League is a move away from 70 years of European club football,’ he told Reuters.
‘Everton are spending £500million to build a new stadium with the ambition to play in Champions League. Fans all over love the competition as it is.
‘In my time at United, we played in four Champions League finals and they were always the most special of nights.’
Pointedly, he added: ‘I am not part of the decision making process.’
Arsenal legend Ian Wright has slammed their decision to join, branding the club’s formal announcement as ‘absolutely shameful.’ Accompanying the tweet was a GIF of Wright himself saying ‘Remember who you are, what you are and why you represent. That’s what Arsenal’s about.’
Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher said in his column for the Telegraph: ‘As a former Liverpool player, it sickens me that my club’s reputation is being damaged by the arrogance of an ownership group that wants to… create a culture where we no longer need to fight to earn our success. That is the antithesis of everything I understand football – especially in my city – to stand for.
‘To be tainted by association with the European Super League is bad enough, but Liverpool’s apparent leading role in threatening football’s competitive ideals – the very ideals which allowed the club to emerge from England’s second division to become six-time European champions – is a betrayal of a heritage they are seeking to cash in on.’
Manchester United legend Gary Neville (left) described the plans as an ‘absolute disgrace’, while Sir Alex Ferguson said the proposals would be a move away from ’70 years of history’
Who else has spoken out?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night condemned the six English clubs.
‘Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action,’ said Mr Johnson on Twitter.
‘They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country.
‘The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps.’
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said any major decisions about a European league ‘should have the fans’ backing’.
‘With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game,’ he said.
‘Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football.’
PM Boris Johnson last night condemned six Premier League clubs who announced plans to join a European Super League
And what are the fans saying?
Piers Morgan wrote on Twitter: ‘Shocked & stunned by this new Super League of the ‘biggest & best’ teams in Europe. How the hell have Arsenal managed to blag our way in?’
He later continued: ‘If you proceed with this arrogant elitist shameful Super League nonsense – then you can stick my 4 season tickets up your Arsenal.’
Labour leader and Arsenal fan Sir Keir Starmer said the clubs reportedly involved ‘should rethink immediately’ and added that a non-domestic league ‘ignores’ supporters.
‘This proposal risks shutting the door on fans for good, reducing them to mere spectators and consumers,’ he said on Twitter.
Fans’ groups, including those linked to Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea, have voiced their opposition to the clubs joining a super league.
Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust (THST) put out a statement calling for club owners Enic to ‘distance themselves from any rebel group’.
What has been the reaction on social media?
The condemnation has been visceral and near universal – no mean feat on platforms that manage to divide society on nearly every issue.
‘Football supporters don’t agree on everything, but I think we can all agree that this idea of a European Super League can absolutely f**k off,’ @AnfieldRd96 wrote on Twitter.
@txmejackala added: ‘The European Super League literally epitomises what is wrong with this sport. We are seeing a vast amount of billionaires come into the sport and they want nothing, but power and control.
‘They do not care about the fans, they see them as customers and they take them for mugs.’
The readers’ comments on Sportsmail’s story revealing the plans for the European Super League were also full of anger
‘As a season ticket holder for 40 years at Man city, if they join the misnamed “super” league, I will consider my days of paying to attend days as done,’ one reader said.
Another wrote: ‘I am a Liverpool season ticket holder. I cannot speak for anyone else but his is NOT what I want. I do NOT want to watch the same teams every week. We will be barred form European competition. We will be barred from the FA and League Cup. If this goes wrong we will NOT be welcomed back. We will be a football club without a league to play in. NO! NO! NO!’
Many, however, simply scoffed at the suggestion that Tottenham were one of the biggest 12 clubs in Europe. Football fans, eh?
The world seems united in opposition to the European Super League… so is there any way the Big Six could get their way?
The nuclear option at their disposal would be to quit the Premier League entirely. But given the billions that the league generates, that would make no sense to club owners only interested in money.
There are, however, already moves afoot for these clubs to break away from football’s existing power structures and form their own new alliances. Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have reportedly all quit the European Club Association. Arsenal chief Vinai Venkatesham has also stood down from his role on the organisation’s board.
This follows the snake-like move by Juventus chief Andrea Agnelli, who had been working with his old ally Aleksandr Ceferin on UEFA’s Champions League reformatting only to go quiet at the last minute and join forces with the Super League rebels. He was the ECA president but has now resigned that role, withdrawing Juve from the ECA in the process. United chief executive Ed Woodward has left his role on UEFA’s Professional Football Strategy Council too.
And the 12 plotters are already planning legal action to oppose moves by UEFA to stop them, according to a letter obtained by Associated Press. ‘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,’ the Super League clubs wrote to FIFA president Gianni Infantino and his UEFA counterpart Aleksander Ceferin.
‘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.’
For this reason, it is not only 12 giant European football clubs that would get filthy rich from a European Super League – it’s a whole nest of lawyers too.
What are they saying elsewhere in Europe?
This story impacts every country in European football, to the benefit of a miniscule minority, and the reaction around the Continent is unsurprisingly explosive.
One of the most striking headlines comes in Italy, where Gazzetta dello Sport writes: ‘The project of 12 European clubs including Juve, Inter and Milan. Super League? Super NO.’
Fellow Italian publication Tuttosport says: ‘But you are crazy! Super League kills football’ while Correire dello Sport writes: ‘UEFA and the Super League go to war.’
‘The War of the Rich’ writes French publication L’Equipe.
L’Equipe’s front page on Monday described Super League plans as ‘the war of the rich’; Italian publication Tuttosport responded by saying that a Super League would ‘kill football’
If these rebel clubs somehow pulled off the Super League, when would it all start?
The ‘founder members’ announced on Sunday night their intention to start ‘as soon as practicable’. They are targeting a start as early as the 2022/23 season.
But given the inevitable multiple legal challenges that the proposed league would face – from UEFA, the Premier League, TV broadcasters who have shelled out billions to show existing competitions – this seems the stuff of pure fantasy.
That hasn’t stopped the plotters releasing a first trailer for the competition on YouTube, talking up a ‘new frontier of football’ with the ‘world’s greatest players’.
The trailer, which lasts for 79 seconds, gives little away other than a creative display of the crests for the teams that have signed up.
Plans for a new European Super League have been unveiled – and have caused a seismic shock in football; the ‘Founder Member’ clubs are (right, top row from left) AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Arsenal (middle row from left) Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United (bottom row from left) Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid
That sounds a bit presumptuous given the entire world seems to hate the idea…
Well, this lot are rather used to getting their own way.
Intriguingly, an expert in sports competition law has told Sportsmail he thinks the rebels would succeed if the row goes to court, based on competition law and precedents set in previous cases.
‘I am of the opinion they have a strong case,’ said Mark Orth, of MEOlaw based in Munich, who has advised football clubs on this area of law. ‘The court is the right way to go. They have a good chance of winning. There are good prospects for the start of the Super League and the clubs that take part.’
UEFA is expected to make two challenges to the nascent Super League. Firstly, to ban its formation and secondly, if that fails, to impose the sanctions it has already threatened. Orth thinks neither can succeed.
‘If a monopolist is allowed to prohibit the generation of competition, then you do not need competition law at all,’ he said. ‘If that is allowed it touches on the fundamentals of competition law. There should be an opportunity to open the market.’
Is there anything else to add?
Let’s leave the final word to Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, who played for Barcelona and Tottenham.
He predicts the Super League will ‘die on its preposterous and avaricious arse’.
SUPER LEAGUE FULL STATEMENT AND COMPETITION FORMAT
Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have today [Sunday] come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new mid-week competition, the Super League, governed by its Founding Clubs.
AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as Founding Clubs.
It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable. Going forward, the Founding Clubs look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole.
The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model. Further, for a number of years, the Founding Clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.
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.
In recent months extensive dialogue has taken place with football stakeholders regarding the future format of European competitions. The Founding Clubs believe the solutions proposed following these talks do not solve fundamental issues, including the need to provide higher quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid.
• 20 participating clubs with 15 Founding Clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season.
• Midweek fixtures with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game.
• An August start with clubs participating in two groups of ten, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter finals.
Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.
As soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a corresponding women’s league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women’s game.
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 €10 billion (£8.7bn) during the course of the initial commitment period of the Clubs.
In addition, the competition will be built on a sustainable financial foundation with all Founding Clubs signing up to a spending framework. In exchange for their commitment, Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion (£3bn) solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic. Florentino Pérez, President of Real Madrid and the first Chairman of 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.’
Backing the new European league, Andrea Agnelli, Chairman of Juventus and Vice-Chairman of the Super League said: ‘Our 12 Founder clubs represent billions of fans across the globe and 99 European trophies. We have 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, substantially increasing solidarity, and giving fans and amateur players a regular flow of headline fixtures that will feed their passion for the game while providing them with engaging role models.’
Joel Glazer, Co-Chairman of Manchester United and 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.’