A group of European mega-clubs have agreed in principle to a breakaway "super league" one day before UEFA plans to ratify changes in the Champions League that would prevent it, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
The new league comprised of the continent's top clubs has been rumored for decades and used as a leveraging tool. The Times reported in January that plans were advanced enough that funding was being sought to pay each of the members a fee for their commitment.
The new league could be announced as early as Sunday, the Times reported, and would completely change the structure of European soccer. It would open play in 2024.
Dozen teams committed to Super League
The league's structure would consist of 20 total teams, including 15 permanent members who can't be relegated, ESPN reported. Those members would be from the Premier League (six clubs), La Liga (three), Italy's Serie A (three), Bundesliga (two) and Ligue 1 (France). The five other teams would rotate in and out based on performance.
At least 12 teams are founding members or have expressed interest, including six from England's Premier League, per the Times. They are the so-called "Big Six" of Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.
Spanish clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid have committed or endorsed the idea too, as have Italian titans Juventus, A.C. Milan and Inter Milan.
Those clubs have been in touch with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, but thus far the two German giants have declined, per the Times.
Each of the teams joining the league would be promised $425 million to sign up, per documents released by the Times in January. ESPN reported JP Morgan will underwrite the league with $6 billion given as loans.
The league would play matches in the middle of the week and each club would reportedly earn hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue.
UEFA addresses project of 'self-interest'
UEFA, which is the governing body of European soccer, has to approve the league's formation along with FIFA and the relevant national associations. UEFA released a statement Sunday morning reiterating the stance of itself and the English Football Association, Royal Spanish Football Federation (RSFF), Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, FIFA and the member associations.
The group 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," per the statement.
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.
FIFA, as reference above, has already attempted to put an end to talk of a super league, albeit without much force. The organization stated in January that any player or club to appear in a breakaway league would be banned from competitions hosted by FIFA and its six regional governing bodies.
They would not be allowed to play in the Champions League, World Cup or European Championship.
UEFA seeks to block super league plans
UEFA is set to announce changes to the Champions League structure on Monday. The group stage is expected to be overhauled with more teams and extra spots potentially given to clubs based on historical performance.
The competition is expected to include 36 clubs (up from 32) with each playing 10 group games rather than six. The biggest clubs would receive a larger share of the prize money. It is also expected to go into effect in 2024.
The group's big goal is to "increase broadcast rights for the competition to satisfy cash-hungry leading European clubs," per the AFP. That would in turn squash the threat of a Super League that would bring in extra cash for the most-watched and historically great clubs.
If the more prominent teams exited for the super league, the clubs remaining would face severe financial repercussions. Broadcasters could demand millions in refunds since the prominent teams are what help drive such high TV deals. These leagues would lose their allure with historically great clubs gone.
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