Each year, Europe’s best soccer clubs face off in the UEFA Champions League to determine who is the best team on the continent, but it’s possible that competition will no longer draw some of the richest clubs. Instead, a report from Tariq Panja of the New York Times states that 12 of the biggest clubs in Europe have agreed in principle to launch a closed super league.
The clubs that the Times reports have agreed to breakaway are six from England (Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham), three from Spain (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid), and three from Italy (Juventus, Inter Milan, and AC Milan). The plan was put in place by Juventus president Andrea Agnelli and has garnered enough support to be on the precipice of becoming a reality. Still, they’ve failed to land some other top clubs like PSG and Bayern Munich, which have rebuffed offers to join.
Further illustrating how real the threat of the richest clubs breaking away is, the top leagues and football associations put out statements condemning the super league and noting that they’ll do everything in their power to stop such a “cynical project” from taking shape.
Now a joint statement from UEFA, English, Spanish and Italian FAs and leagues in those three countries to say they are determined to stop “this cynical project”. pic.twitter.com/Wgay6qMWeK
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) April 18, 2021
The biggest threat they can make is to ban players on those clubs from participating in international competitions, such as the European Championship and, with FIFA on board, the World Cup. It is a fascinating power battle between the richest clubs and the leagues, and the repercussions for all parties involved — and the rest of the clubs in European soccer — could be massive.
The plan is for the Super League to play its matches during the week and allow for its clubs to continue playing in their domestic leagues, banking on those leagues not following through on threats to remove them from their respective leagues. They are looking to land 16 permanent members, starting with those 12 clubs, and then add four clubs each year based on qualifiers, breaking the league into two groups, with the top four teams from each group qualifying for knockout stages. While the domestic leagues, UEFA, and FIFA can threaten to ban teams and players from competing in their competitions if they choose to go into this super league, the reality is, at least for the domestic leagues and national FAs, the ramifications of following through on those threats could be disastrous financially for all involved.
The loss of revenue and demands for refunds from those that hold broadcast rights should, say, the Premier League try to ban the six clubs that have apparently agreed to join would be massive. National FAs that ban players from international competitions would almost certainly lose their best players and have a much harder time fielding the best possible teams to compete with, say, a Germany which wouldn’t face that conundrum provided Bayern Munich continues to rebuff overtures to join the super league.
In all, the idea is fascinating and could create a massive shakeup in European soccer not seen for generations, and one that would be massively controversial among fans. The bottom line, though, is the clubs agreeing to join are being promised 350 million Euros out of the gate, and given the losses seen during the pandemic, they’re looking to capitalize on whatever financial windfalls can be found wherever they can.
UPDATE: The official announcement came down on Sunday evening, with the 12 teams reported making the official announcement amid plenty of tensions with their leagues and UEFA.
There are to be three more “founding members” of the Super League, which remain to be seen, and then what the willingness is from other clubs to join the competition via qualifying.