JPMorgan Chase apologized on Friday for its role in arranging billions of dollars in financing for a breakaway European soccer league, admitting in a statement that it had “misjudged” how the project would be viewed by fans.
JPMorgan Chase had pledged about $4 billion to underwrite the new league, but the American bank did not end up issuing it or losing any money: The league collapsed only 48 hours after it was announced, after more than half of its 12 founding clubs announced they would not take part.
Like the 12 clubs involved in the breakaway group — which included European giants like Real Madrid and Barcelona, Manchester United and Liverpool, Juventus and A.C. Milan — JPMorgan had come under intense criticism from fans and others merely for participating in the plan. Designed as a 20-team league with 15 permanent members, it would have severely cut in to the revenues of dozens of national leagues, imperiled the finances and values of the hundreds of European clubs who were left out, and upended the structures that have underpinned European soccer for a century — all while funneling billions to a few elite teams.
In a corporate statement rare for its contrition and self-criticism, JPMorgan admitted it had been a mistake to finance the proposal without considering its effects on others.
“We clearly misjudged how this deal would be viewed by the wider football community and how it might impact them in the future,” a company spokesman said. “We will learn from this.”
But in an interview with Bloomberg TV, the bank’s co-president, Daniel E. Pinto, also sought to distance the bank from the blowback that the clubs continue to face.
“We arranged a loan for a client,” Pinto said. “It’s not our place to decide what is the optimal way for football to operate in Europe and the U.K.”
“We were expecting this to be emotional, we were expecting people to have different opinions, and that is what is happening,” Pinto said.
And the Super League is not, in fact, officially dead. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus are still signed up, and continue to strategize.
One reason they may not have walked away could be financial. The contracts signed by the 12 founding members included penalty clauses worth millions of dollars. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus, whose mounting debts and fears of rising costs led them into the project in the first place, could be positioned — by staying in — to extract tens of millions of dollars in punishments out of their former partners for walking away from it.