twelve major European clubs launch their “Super League” to compete in the Champions League

Twelve major European clubs launched on Monday April 19 their “Super League”, a private competition destined to supplant the Champions League, a declaration of war to which the European Football Union (UEFA) has promised to respond by excluding the teams dissenters and their players.

It is an unprecedented earthquake in nearly seventy years of European competitions: after decades of shaking the specter of a schism, the leaders of the continent have finally taken the plunge with Real Madrid, FC at their head. Barcelona, ​​Liverpool or Manchester United, all multiple winners of the Champions League, and global brands.

Shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic, the king of sport in Europe sees its future dotted, as does the current pyramid system of redistribution of television resources between the Champions League, a flagship competition, and the national championships. Rebel clubs apparently claim to institute a controversial near-closed league system comparable to the North American basketball (NBA) or American football (NFL) championships.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Champions League: “Supporters want to see more matches with big clubs”

A much higher source of income

“AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, ​​Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham have united as founding clubs”, can we read in a press release disseminated in particular by the websites of several clubs concerned. “The inaugural season (…) will start as soon as possible”, continues the text, without setting a precise timetable.

Read also Football: groups of supporters consider the project of a European Super League “illegitimate” and “dangerous”

According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, Bayern Munich and Paris SG have been approached. But the two finalists of the last Champions League did not follow up, leading UEFA to publicly thank “German and French clubs” for their loyalty.

The new competition, explain its promoters, is dedicated to “Generate additional resources for the whole football pyramid”. “In return for their commitment, the founding clubs will receive a one-off payment of around 3.5 billion euros intended solely for infrastructure investments and to offset the impact of the Covid-19 crisis”, the statement continued.

If this figure is confirmed, it assumes much higher revenues than those obtained by UEFA for all of its club competitions (Champions League, Europa League and European Supercup), which had generated 3.2 billion dollars. euros in TV revenue in 2018-2019, before a pandemic that severely affected the European sports rights market.

According to its promoters, the “Super League” would operate in the form of a regular season between twenty clubs, of which fifteen of them (the twelve founders and three additional ones to be determined) would be automatically qualified each year, and five others benefiting from invitations “Through a system based on their performance from the previous season”. At the end of this first phase starting in August, end of season playoffs would be organized until May to award the trophy.

Matches would in principle be held in the middle of the week, competing directly with the boxes reserved for the Champions League, but not with the national championships traditionally held on weekends.

Threat of exclusion

The International Football Federation (FIFA) “Can only disapprove of a closed and dissident European League”, she reacted on Monday. “FIFA wants to clarify that it is firmly positioned in favor of solidarity in football and a fair redistribution model”, wrote in a press release the instance based in Zurich, inviting all parties to “A calm, constructive and balanced dialogue” on the subject.

UEFA, in a statement co-signed by several national championships denouncing a “cynical project”, warned on Sunday that any dissident club would be excluded from national and international competitions, and that their players could no longer play for the national team, for example at the Euro or the World Cup. We will have to see if this threat complies with European competition law, which suggests a possible legal battle.

Read also Football: UEFA threatens to exclude clubs tempted by the “Superleague”

The European Association of Clubs (ECA), to which all the top names in European football belong, said on Sunday evening to also be “Strongly opposed to a closed Super League model” in a press release posted on his Twitter account. Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has announced his resignation from the head of the ECA following the announcement of this “Super League”, a competition that his club will join.

UEFA meets as an executive committee

The launch of this event comes as UEFA convened its executive committee on Monday at 9 a.m. to approve an overhaul of its Champions League by 2024. Initially, the Executive Committee of the governing body of European football Should have validated without too much clashes the most profound overhaul of the Champions League in twenty years. Difficult, now, to know what will happen to this reform, built in connection with the ECA, and supposed to offer more meetings, therefore income, to satisfy the leaders.

The main ingredients of the proposed reform have been known for several months: passage from 32 to 36 clubs, disappearance of the eight pools in favor of a mini-championship borrowed from chess tournaments. In this scenario, France, 5e in the UEFA coefficient of the championships, is supposed to win one of the four additional tickets, rising to at least three qualified each year against at least two previously.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Reform of the Champions League: advantages and disadvantages of the “incomplete championship”

“The founding clubs of the Super League believe that the solutions proposed by the institutions do not make it possible to resolve fundamental issues such as the need to offer better quality matches”, say the promoters of the new project, also promising a female “Super League”.

“Absolute shame”

In the meantime, the positions taken against this “Super League” have multiplied Sunday, among the representatives of supporters but also among political leaders. France’s refusal to participate was welcomed by the Elysée. The presidency thus castigated a project “Threatening the principle of solidarity and sporting merit” and the Minister for Sports Roxana Maracineanu denounced a “VIP club of a powerful few”.

In the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson spoke, in a tweet a project that “Would be very damaging for football”. For the Premier League which organizes the very profitable and follow-up English Championship, “Fans from any English club and across Europe can currently dream that their team can climb to the top and play against the best clubs”. “We believe that the concept of Super League would destroy this dream”, she estimated.

Former Manchester United player and ex-England international Gary Neville did not mince words when he learned of the existence of this project: “I’m disgusted, it’s an absolute shame, we must take back the power that these clubs have taken, and this also concerns my club”, he hoped.

The organization of Euro-2020 still to be specified

On Monday, UEFA will also have to decide an equally pressing question: finally specify the organization of Euro-2020, already postponed for a year and scheduled from June 11 to July 11. With less than two months of the tournament, nobody knows if it will be held well in twelve cities of twelve different countries, as imagined by Michel Platini when he was in charge of UEFA.

This logistical challenge, even before the health crisis, has turned into a puzzle since UEFA requires that each stadium welcome the public despite the Covid-19 pandemic, threatening to relocate certain meetings.

The authority granted a final delay to Dublin, Bilbao and Munich, the only cities not to have committed to receiving spectators, promising “A final decision” this Monday on the matches which were planned there.

Conversely, Budapest is aiming for full grandstands, Saint Petersburg and Baku for stadiums 50% full, and Amsterdam, Bucharest, Glasgow and Copenhagen for “25 to 33%”. Rome, a time threatened, guaranteed a full stadium to “At least 25%” and will welcome the Italy-Turkey opener on 11 June. London, particularly awaited since it hosts seven meetings, plans “At least 25%” audience for the three group matches, hoping for a “Higher capacity” for the semi-finals and the final.

Le Monde with AFP and Reuters