Football

Proposals for a European Super League in association football

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proposed European football league

A European Super League consisting of football clubs from across Europe has been discussed since the 1990s. It has been proposed for the 2021–2022 season. FIFA and all six continental confederations, including UEFA, have rejected the formation of a breakaway league.

History

In 1998, Italian company Media Partners seriously investigated the idea. The plan died after UEFA moved to expand the Champions League competition and abolish the Cup Winners’ Cup in order to better accommodate clubs that were considering defecting in order to join the proposed Super League.[1]

In July 2009, Real Madrid‘s Florentino Pérez championed the idea. In August 2009, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger predicted a super league would become reality within 10 years time due to revenue pressure on the continent’s elite teams.[2]

In February 2012, Clarence Seedorf also predicted the inception of the competition, and gave it his backing.[3] In April 2013 Scotland manager Gordon Strachan said that he believes the Old Firm clubs of Celtic and Rangers would join a future new 38-club two-division European Super League.[4]

Florentino Pérez’s 2009 proposal

On 4 July 2009, Florentino Pérez, fed up.with Uefa, criticised the current Champions League, saying “we have to agree a new European Super League which guarantees that the best always play the best – something that does not happen in the Champions League.”[5] Perez stated that he would push for a break-away competition featuring Europe‘s traditional powerhouses if UEFA didn’t do more to ensure these teams played each other annually.[6]

Under Perez’s plan, the continent’s best teams would remain part of their respective national systems, but would be guaranteed the opportunity to play each other at the conclusion of the regular league season.[6]

Stephen M. Ross’s proposal

In 2016, representatives from Premier League clubs Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United, were seen leaving a meeting with Stephen M. Ross‘ representatives that discussed the proposition of a European Super League.[7]

2016 UEFA changes

In 2016, UEFA again discussed the possibility of creating a closed league containing the 16 best teams in European football from the highest ranked national leagues. These 16 teams would have been divided into 2 groups, with 8 teams in each group. After 56 games in each group under the round-robin system, the teams that finished in places 1–4 would qualify for the quarter-finals. That plan was finally rejected and UEFA, in order to avoid the creation of a super league, made changes to the structure of the UEFA Champions League. UEFA announced that, for the trade cycle 2018–21, England, Italy, Spain and Germany would have 4 teams in the UEFA Champions League group stage without having to compete in play-offs. This means that the number of direct places will be increased from 22 to 26. The 6 remaining places will come from the champions’ path (down from 5 teams to 4 teams) and the non-champions’ path (down from 5 teams to 2 teams). If the title holder of this competition qualifies for the Champions League from its domestic league, the champion of the country with the 11th placed UEFA coefficient will go through into the UEFA Champions League group stage; if not, the title holder has the right to defend the trophy. UEFA Europa League defending champions also acquire the right to compete in the UEFA Champions League group stage, without the opportunity of directly securing a play-off berth as in the 2015–18 trade cycle agreements. If the UEFA Europa League champion automatically qualifies for the UEFA Champions League group stage via its domestic league, the third ranked team of the country with the 5th placed UEFA coefficient will replace the UEL winner.[8]

2018 leaks

In November 2018, Football Leaks claimed that there had been undercover talks about the creation of a new continental club competition, the European Super League, which would begin play in 2021.[9]

The Super League

In October 2020, Sky Sports claimed that FIFA was proposing a replacement for the UEFA Champions League called the European Premier League involving up to 18 teams in a round-robin system and post league playoff style knockout tournament with no relegation similar to major league sports competitions in the United States.[10] English Premier League clubs as well as clubs from Spain, Italy, France and Germany were invited. Barcelona accepted the proposal for it to join the Super League the day before its president Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned.[11]

However, on 21 January 2021, FIFA and all six of football’s continental confederations (AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, OFC and UEFA) issued a statement rejecting the formation of any breakaway European Super League. Any club or player involved in such a league would be banned from any competitions organised by FIFA or any of the six confederations.[12] The proposal nevertheless remains under discussion by clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool; the proposal document indicates that such a league would start in the 2022–23 season, with 15 permanent members including six Premier League clubs, and each club would be paid up to £310 million to join followed by up to £213 million per season.[13]

On 18 April 2021, the New York Times reported that 12 clubs in England, Italy, and Spain had agreed in principle to form an European Super League. The New York Times reported that each team would earn over $400 million (£290M) for entering the competition.[14] The reports generated negative reaction from UEFA and the football associations and first-tier football leagues of England, Italy, and Spain, who issued a joint statement stating that they would not allow the Super League to proceed. UEFA also reiterated that any clubs involved in a Super League would be banned from all other domestic, European, and world competitions, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.[15] The French football federation and French professional league would also release a statement opposing the proposed Super League; the German football league followed suit.[16][17] French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also expressed opposition to the plan.[18][19][20] Fans also expressed opposition; Football Supporters Europe called the proposal “illegitimate, irresponsible, and anti-competitive by design”.[21][22]

Later the same day, an official press release announced the formation of the league. Twelve clubs, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan, were named as founding members, with a further three clubs anticipated to join before the inaugural season. A 20-team league was envisioned, which would allow five clubs to qualify annually based on results from the previous season. The league would last from August to May, with play beginning in two groups of ten. The top three clubs in each group would automatically qualify for the quarterfinals; fourth- and fifth-placed clubs would compete in a two-leg playoff for the remaining slots. From there, a two-leg knockout round will lead to two teams in the final, which would be a single game at a neutral venue.[23][24]

Criticism

The idea of a European Super League has been criticised by fans and critics, pointing out its potentially devastating effect on domestic leagues, the UEFA Champions League, and smaller clubs: it is viewed in some quarters as simply a “power grab” by bigger clubs for more money and control over football. Germany and Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos criticised the plans in 2020, saying “the gap between the big clubs and small will expand even more. Everything does not always have to be faster, with more and more money”.[25] Kroos’ long-time team-mate Philipp Lahm wishes to see a “cosmopolitan” line-up to a potential Super League, opining “But just as players from Istanbul, Warsaw and Bratislava get their shot in the Euros, would it not be better to include teams from Bruges, St Petersburg, Athens, Copenhagen and Prague in a European league?”[26] At the Financial Times’ Business of Football summit in February 2021, Simon Green, the head of BT Sport, the UEFA Champions League rights holder in the UK, cautioned that a Super League “wouldn’t be worth as much as the existing leagues and Champions League are at the moment”.[27]

In reaction to the reports of the New York Times reports of the agreement in principle, Gary Neville, former Manchester United defender and current co-owner of Salford City, heavily criticised the Super League proposals, stating that he felt disgusted by the proposals and called for the English FA to heavily penalise the teams involved.[28] British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the plans for a European Super League would be ‘very damaging’ for the sport of football and called for recent clubs supporting the move to answer to their fans for their actions.[29][30] French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed criticism and welcomed the position of French clubs for refusing to participate in a proposed European Super League.[31] The president of UEFA, Aleksander Čeferin described the proposals for the European Super League as a “spit in the face of all football lovers”.[32]

Former Liverpool and England defender, Jamie Carragher, called for fans, TV pundits, managers, and players to start “marches on stadiums” to show their opposition. Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, added that his hope is “Super League will never happen” noting that while it makes financial sense it wouldn’t appeal to the fans in the long run.[33] On 19 April 2021, at the first Premier League game after the announcement of the breakaway league, fans protested outside the ground against the new league. At Elland Road before a game between Leeds United and Liverpool, fans chanted “six greedy bastards” in reference to the six breakaway clubs, and burnt a Liverpool replica shirt.[34]

See also

References

  1. ^ “Football: Uefa winning ‘super league’ war”. The Independent. London. 24 October 1998.
  2. ^ Hytner, David (17 August 2009). “European super league will be here in 10 years, says Arsène Wenger”. The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ “BBC – Chris Bevan: Seedorf predicts the shape of football’s future”. bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  4. ^ Ziegler, Martyn; Esplin, Ronnie (10 April 2013). “Celtic and Rangers will join European super league, says Scotland manager Gordon Strachan”. The Daily Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  5. ^ “Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez reveals ‘European Super League’ ambition”. The Daily Telegraph. London. 5 July 2009.
  6. ^ a b “Real president calls for European super league”. The Times. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  7. ^ “Could Stephen Ross Pave The Way For a European Super League?”. thebiglead.com. 3 March 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  8. ^ uefa.com (26 August 2016). “Media releases – Media – UEFA.org”. uefa.com. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  9. ^ “Football Leaks claims Euro Super League talks held by clubs”. BBC Sport. 2 November 2018. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  10. ^ Kleinman, Mark (20 October 2020). “European Premier League: Liverpool and Manchester United in talks for FIFA-backed tournament”. Sky Sports. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  11. ^ “Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu resigns”. BBC. 27 October 2020.
  12. ^ Conn, David (21 January 2021). “Players and clubs threatened with ban if they join European Super League”. The Guardian. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ Ziegler, Martyn (21 January 2021). “European Super League would have six Premier League – each paid £310m to join”. The Times.
  14. ^ Panja, Tariq (18 April 2021). “Top European Soccer Teams Agree to Join Breakaway League”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  15. ^ UEFA.com (18 April 2021). “Statement by UEFA, the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A | Inside UEFA”. UEFA.com. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  16. ^ “Communiqué de la FFF et de la LFP”. LFP (in French). Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  17. ^ Christian Seifert [@DFL_Official] (18 April 2021). “DFL CEO Christian Seifert on rumoured Super League concept” (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  18. ^ “European super league plans would be ‘very damaging’ for football, says Boris Johnson”. Sky News. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  19. ^ “Boris Johnson says breakaway European Super League plans ‘very damaging’ for football”. The Independent. 18 April 2021. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  20. ^ “Macron slams breakaway European football ‘super league’ plan”. POLITICO. 18 April 2021. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  21. ^ “Soccer Fans React To The New ‘Super League’ News”. The Spun. 18 April 2021. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  22. ^ “Fanseurope – FSE CONDEMNS EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE PLANS”. www.fanseurope.org. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  23. ^ “COMUNICADO OFICIAL: LOS PRINCIPALES CLUBES EUROPEOS DE FÚTBOL ANUNCIAN LA NUEVA SUPERLIGA”. realmadrid.com (in Spanish). 18 April 2021. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  24. ^ Tariq Panja [@tariqpanja] (18 April 2021). “And here we go. Confirmation of The New York Times reporting today: 12 clubs to form Super League, expect three more to join” (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  25. ^ “Toni Kroos opposes European Super League”. Marca. Unidad Editorial. 11 November 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  26. ^ Lahm, Philipp (8 April 2021). “A bigger, more diverse European super league can help enrich football”. The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  27. ^ Evans, Simon (17 February 2021). “European Super League less valuable to broadcasters than current model, BT Sport chief insists”. The Independent. Independent Digital News & Media. Reuters. Retrieved 20 February 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  28. ^ “Gary Neville ‘disgusted’ by Premier League clubs involved in breakaway European Super League plans”. Sky Sports. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  29. ^ “European super league plans would be ‘very damaging’ for football, says Boris Johnson”. Sky News. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  30. ^ Boris Johnson [@BorisJohnson] (18 April 2021). “Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action. 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” (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  31. ^ “Uefa and PL condemn breakaway plan”. BBC Sport. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  32. ^ A spit in the face of football lovers – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  33. ^ “Jurgen Klopp says opinion hasn’t changed on European Super League after previous opposition”. Sky Sports. 19 April 2021. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021.
  34. ^ Squires, Theo (19 April 2021). “Liverpool shirt burnt outside Elland Road in protest against Super League”. Liverpool Echo.


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