The big six of English football have signed letters of intent to join a new European Super League, which will be announced at 9.30pm on Sunday night.
Manchester City were the last to agree, on Saturday, joining Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham in the breakaway, which will spell the end of competition in domestic and European football as we know it.
UEFA were strong in response, revealing in a statement that they will take legal action if the ‘cynical project’ for a Super League goes ahead.
The new league represents the American takeover of elite European football, which will become a closed shop run by its founder members. It is bankrolled by US banking giant JP Morgan and is the brainchild of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and the American owners of three leading English clubs.
Manchester United and Chelsea are among a group of six Premier League teams to announce on Sunday night their intent to join a breakaway European Super League
UEFA’s Champions League is under serious threat of a breakaway league of the top teams
It is believed Perez will hold the chairman’s role in the new league’s structure, with Liverpool’s John W. Henry, Joel Glazer of Manchester United and Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke as vice-chairmen.
Andrea Agnelli, chairman of Juventus, and believed until now to be an ally of UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin will occupy the fourth vice-chairman role.
Ceferin is understood to be furious at Agnelli’s betrayal, the news of which comes less than 24 hours before UEFA’s own proposals for a revamped Champions League.
The plan is for the Super League to evolve to roughly 15-18 teams, but the initial 12 signatories to the deal are the six English clubs, plus Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid from Spain, and Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan from Italy. This leaves room for other major clubs, such as Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, to be picked off with UEFA’s own competitions hopelessly devalued.
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.
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
The Premier League are aware of the agreement and have spent the weekend formulating their response.
In a statement on Sunday, the Premier League condemned proposals that they feel ‘attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit’.
‘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,’ the statement continued. ‘We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.’
Former Manchester United full-back Gary Neville, speaking in commentary during their game against Burnley, called the news an ‘absolute scandal’.
‘I’m not against the modernisation of football competition, but I think to bring forward proposals in the midst of Covid is an absolute scandal,’ Neville said.
‘United and the rest of the big six clubs that have signed up to it should be ashamed of themselves. I can’t concentrate. Deduct points off them all, for doing it mid-season. It’s an absolute joke.’
The six clubs are not intending to resign from domestic football, but need Premier League permission to join any new competitions. This could be the first sticking point because the Premier League board is unlikely to grant any request that weakens its own competitive value.
It does not need to be put to a vote of the 20 clubs, but goes before the Premier League board comprising Gary Hoffman (chair), Richard Masters (chief executive) and Kevin Beeston (non-executive director).
If they say no to the European Super League, as expected, the clubs will have to be break away from the Premier League entirely in order to join, putting in jeopardy their players’ participation in UEFA and FIFA competitions, such as the World Cup and European Championships.
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.
Manchester City were the last of the six English teams to declare intent for the breakaway
Yet the Premier League no longer believe this to be more brinkmanship in the battle for control of Champions League monies and make-up.
JP Morgan are believed to be debt financing the new league to the tune of £4.6billion, which is set against future broadcast revenue.
A letter sent to clubs by Premier League chief executive Masters has warned those involved to ‘walk away…before irreparable damage is done’.
It added that clubs would need Premier League permission to enter a new competition – and Masters wrote ‘I cannot envisage any scenario where such permission would be granted.’
‘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 letter read.
News of English football’s Big Six planning to breakaway will be highly damaging for UEFA and their president Aleksander Ceferin (pictured)
‘Such a European Super League would be deeply damaging to the European pyramid, and 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 do not and cannot support such a concept. Premier League rules contain a commitment amongst clubs to remain within the football pyramid and forbid and 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 the prospects of the League as a whole, and we will have no choice but to do everything we can to protect and maintain both.
‘As previously evidenced, we would expect complete condemnation from all parts of the game, fans 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.’
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’
Fan groups were quick to come out and join the condemnation of the news that the Big Six are keen to join.
The Football Supporters’ Association described the European Super League as a project motivated ‘by nothing but cynical greed’.
‘This competition is being created behind our backs by billionaire club owners who have zero regard for the game’s traditions and continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom,’ the FSA statement read.
‘The FSA, and no doubt supporters across the continent, will continue to fight against its creation.’
FansEurope added in their own statement that the Super League ‘is illegitimate, irresponsible, and anti-competitive by design.’
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