The Big Six of English football have joined a new European Super League — scheduled to start ‘as soon as practicable’ — in a seismic move that has triggered war across the sport.
The decision threatens to split English football, with the Premier League on Sunday night indicating in a letter to clubs that it would not sanction any such competition — leaving Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham no choice but to back down or break away.
The group have all agreed to be part of a predominantly closed-shop league also featuring Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. 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 in what is a rapidly changing situation.
Manchester United and Chelsea were among a group of six Premier League teams announced on Sunday night to join a breakaway European Super League
UEFA’s Champions League is under serious threat of a breakaway league of the top teams
Fans, politicians, governing bodies and some of football’s most famous names joined in condemning the staggering development, which was the brainchild of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and was officially announced in a statement late on Sunday night.
A simple opening paragraph which shook the world of football declared: ‘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.’
The bombshell press release added that the founding clubs ‘look forward’ to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA.
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.
SUPER LEAGUE FULL STATEMENT AND COMPETETION 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.’
The statement added that the move would ‘improve the quality and intensity of existing European competitions’.
In a rare public comment, United co-chairman Joel Glazer brazenly claimed that the closed shop would provide ‘increased financial support for the wider football pyramid’.
A format was also released which said there would be 20 teams and matches would take place in midweek and not affect domestic calendars, with an August start.
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.
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.
Liverpool and Tottenham are among six English teams to have agreed to the new project
Liverpool owner John W Henry will act as one of the European Super League’s vice-chairman
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.’
Meanwhile, a letter sent by Premier League chief executive Richard Masters (below) to all 20 member clubs, took a similarly strong stance. ‘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.’
Manchester United legend Gary Neville described the plans as an ‘absolute disgrace’
FIFA STATEMENT IN FULL
In view of several media requests and as already stated several times, FIFA wishes to clarify that it stands firm in favour of solidarity in football as a sport, particularly at global level, since the development of the global football is the primary mission of FIFA.
In our view, and in accordance with our statutes, any football competition, whether national, regional or global, should always reflect the core principles of solidarity, inclusivity, integrity and equitable financial redistribution. Moreover, the governing bodies of football should employ all lawful, sporting and diplomatic means to ensure this remains the case. Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles.
FIFA always stands for unity in world football and calls on all parties involved in heated discussions to engage in calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game and in the spirit of solidarity and fair play. FIFA will, of course, do whatever is necessary to contribute to a harmonised way forward in the overall interests of football.
UEFA president Aleksandser Ceferin is said to be furious as he had expected to publish a joint statement with Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli at the weekend condemning plans for the Super League. But alarm bells started ringing on Saturday when Ceferin could not contact his old friend to finalise the wording.
Agnelli has resigned from his seat on the European Club Association and from his role on UEFA’s executive committee. Unconfirmed reports late on Sunday night claimed all of the founding clubs had also stepped away from the ECA.
The new league represents an American takeover of elite European football, which will become a closed shop run by its founder members.
Sir Alex Ferguson said the proposals would be a move away from ’70 years of football history
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.’
Perez is the first chief of the new league, with the likes of Glazer and Agnelli in vice-chairmen’s roles. Chelsea and Manchester City are thought to have been presented with the proposals as late as Friday, with Manchester City the last to sign on Saturday.
England’s six clubs are not intending to resign from domestic football but would need Premier League permission to join any new competitions.
UEFA STATEMENT IN FULL
UEFA, the English Football Association and the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A have learned that a few English, Spanish and Italian clubs may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League.
If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we – UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations – 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. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.
As previously announced by FIFA and the six Federations, 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.
We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced.
This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long.
Enough is enough.
Manchester City were the last of the six English teams to declare intent for the breakaway
Perez 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.’
Agnelli added: ‘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.’
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘Football supporters are the heartbeat of our national sport and any major decisions made should have their backing.
‘With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game. Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football.
‘We have a football pyramid where funds from the globally successful Premier League flow down the leagues and into local communities. I would be bitterly disappointed to see any action that destroys that.’
News of English football’s Big Six planning to breakaway will be highly damaging for UEFA and their president Aleksander Ceferin (pictured)
The PFA has substantial concerns regarding the wide-ranging implications of the proposed European Super League concept.
Football should strive to preserve the sanctity of a competitive domestic league above all else. Aspiration and sporting merits are an essential part of any sport and a vital component of the game we love.
This proposed move would detract from the strength and joy of domestic football and diminish the game for the vast majority of fans across the continent.
Clubs across all domestic competitions are not equal, each having differing financial starting points. However, success is never guaranteed, often cyclical and always earned. We have seen countless examples around Europe of teams outperforming their resources. In recent years, at home in the Premier League, this has resulted in unrivalled global entertainment and sporting drama.
A system that rewards all clubs for success is paramount. In England, we are privileged to enjoy the most professional teams, the most professional players and in normal times, the highest aggregate attendances across the world. This success is achieved by working together and in solidarity.
The PFA will work with players, The FA, Premier League, EFL, LMA and through FIFPRO, with other players’ associations, to represent the game’s best interests and protect the integrity of football.
Condemnations from many sources was swift and strong. ‘It’s been damned, and rightly so,’ said Gary 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.’
Daily Mail columnist Micah Richards added: ‘What happens to the memories the fans have had over the years? Are they just forgotten about for the sake of money? That’s the way football has become now and it’s an absolute disgrace.’
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters wrote a letter to clubs warning them to walk away from European Super League plans before ‘irreparable damage is done’
RICHARD MASTERS’ LETTER
Dear Chairman/Chief Executive,
I am writing to inform you of what we believe to be an imminent announcement of a European Super League concept, potentially involving a number of Premier League Clubs alongside others from Spain and Italy.
Based on our understanding of the proposed European Super League concept it would sit outside the auspices of UEFA and the current European sporting pyramid, offering 15 founding members permanent access from as early as season 2022/23, rather than via the historic access principles of annual sporting merit.
The Premier League Board met this morning and I wanted to make clear its position based on the information we have at our disposal. Such a European Super League would be deeply damaging to the European pyramid, 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 believe such a concept would be hugely unpopular with football fans across the continent, in particular here in England, where progress via sporting merit is central to the history and traditions of the national game and the rightful aspirations of all Clubs and their fans. We do not and cannot support such a concept.
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. It is the duty of the Premier League Board to defend the integrity and future prospects of the League as a whole, and we will have no choice but to do everything we can to protect and maintain both.
The consequences of attempting to proceed with a European Super League would be the immediate destabilisation of the Premier League and the English game as a whole, at a time when it needs precisely the opposite.
This is a time when English football should be coming together as we emerge from the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic. As previously evidenced, we would expect complete condemnation from all parts of the game, fan groups and the UK Government.
This venture cannot be launched without English Clubs and we call upon any Club contemplating associating themselves or joining this venture to walk away immediately before irreparable damage is done.
A media statement will be issued on behalf of the Premier League and, should the announcement go ahead, we will call a meeting of Clubs to discuss the immediate implications and the Board’s recommended response.
Both Gary and I are available to talk you through what we reliably know at this stage.
Richard Masters, Chief Executive