Twelve of the biggest soccer clubs in Europe, including Manchester United, Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid, are planning to form a new league called the European Super League.
It’s a move that could potentially wreak havoc on the traditional structures of European football, which is made up of domestic leagues like the expressed outrage at the move., Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A, from which teams qualify to play in continental competitions such as the Champions League. Fans, players and organizing bodies like UEFA have
This is a seismic shift that could change soccer as we know it.
Real Madrid President Florentino Perez is the inaugural chairman of the European Super League. He said this will help the sport, not harm it.
“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” Perez said in a statement Sunday. “Football is the only global sport in the world with more than 4 billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”
UEFA, which runs the existing Champions League competition, has stated that any club participating will be banned from domestic leagues and more.
“I cannot stress more strongly how everyone is united against these disgraceful, self-serving proposals, fuelled by greed above all else,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said at a press conference Monday, as reported by the BBC. “Players who will play in the teams that might play in the closed league will be banned from the World Cup and Euros.”
“This idea is a spit in the face of all football lovers. We will not allow them to take it away from us.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the European Super League.
Which teams are taking part?
Six teams from the English Premier League, three from La Liga and three clubs from Serie A have signed up, making for 12 clubs.
The list of the founding clubs is as follows…
- Manchester United
- Manchester City
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Real Madrid
- Atlético Madrid
- AC Milan
- Inter Milan
Where are teams from the French and German leagues? Teams like Bayern Munich from Germany and Paris Saint-Germain from France are undoubtedly among the biggest and best teams in Europe. Bayern and its German rival Borussia Dortmund announced Monday they are committed to the existing Champions League, which unveiled reforms Monday for the 2024 season. PSG is owned by the royal family of Qatar, which is holding the next World Cup and therefore unlikely to go against the football establishment.
How would the European Super League work?
According to current plans, the new competition will feature 20 clubs made up of 15 founding clubs, three of which have yet to be announced, with an option for five further clubs to qualify based on previous seasons’ achievements. (The details are currently murky on what those “achievements” actually mean.)
According to the founding clubs, each team will continue to take part in their domestic leagues. This league will take place in additional midweek matches. Two groups of 10 will take part in home and away matches, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for a knockout stage. Teams who place fourth and fifth in each league will compete in a two-leg match to see who qualifies for the knockouts.
Then, those remaining eight teams will take part in two-leg knockout format to reach a single final, which will take place at a neutral stadium. A women’s version of this league is also apparently in the works.
At least, that’s how the founding teams hope things will work. Both UEFA and FIFA have come out against the league. FIFA has backed UEFA, which means participating players could potentially be banned from representing their countries at this summer’s European Championships and next year’s World Cup, competitions run by those international bodies.
“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,” UEFA said in a 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.”
When will it start?
The teams involved are aiming for an August 2021 start.
Given the controversy and the reaction of FIFA, UEFA and — perhaps most importantly — the fans, it remains to be seen if those plans will be followed through.
What’s the reaction?
Reaction to the announcement of the European Super League has been almost universally negative. The hashtag #RIPfootball is beginning to trend on Twitter as is the phrase #disgusting and #embarrassing. People are angry about this.
Some want to organize protests.
Former players such as England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand were quick to condemn the clubs involved, including ones they played for.
Even high-profile current players are speaking out, such as PSG’s Ander Herrera.
Liverpool’s James Milner also spoke out against the league after a recent match with Leeds United.
“I don’t like it and I hope it doesn’t happen,” he said.
Jurgen Klopp, the current manager of Liverpool had previously spoken out on opposition to a European Super League when it was first being talked about. “My opinion didn’t change,” he said, in a post-match interview with Sky Sports.
Why are people so upset?
The European Super League illustrates the money issues that many believe continue to threaten soccer as a sport. Unlike sports leagues like the NBA, which operate with salary caps, clubs at the top of leagues like the EPL or La Liga have been allowed to spend with impunity. This means they can solidify a position at the top of the game and rule over smaller clubs with an iron fist. Clubs at the lower end of big leagues can’t compete.
Neither can top clubs in smaller European leagues in Holland, Scotland, Switzerland or Portugal challenge for continental trophies. The evolution of football over the last 20 years has made it difficult for former giants of the sport like Ajax of Amsterdam or Celtic of Glasgow to compete.
For perspective, each founding member of this club is expected to take home $400 million for taking part in this league. That’s roughly four times what a team would receive for winning the Champions League, currently the most prestigious tournament in world club soccer.
For many, including former player and current broadcaster Gary Neville, the whole thing feels anti-competitive. Unlike most other soccer leagues, the founding clubs of the European Super League will not face the threat of relegation if they sit at the bottom of the table.
There’s also the issue of team choice. Teams appear to have been chosen based on fan base and income, as opposed to performance. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, currently in seventh and ninth place respectively in the English Premier League, are two of the teams selected, despite the fact smaller clubs like Leicester City and West Ham have outperformed them this year.
UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden reportedly said the British government will do “whatever it takes” to stop the English teams from taking part in the European Super League Monday. Dowden also reportedly accused the six clubs of deciding to “put money before fans.”
Considering the longer game, many are worried about the potential impact on grassroots football. The current format of soccer, which favors teams in leagues with huge TV deals like the EPL and La Liga, have seen many teams decline. The European Super League would exacerbate that process. For fans of the sport, this feels like the culmination of soccer as a rich get richer, poor get poorer proposition.
“I do not believe the Super League will solve the financial problems of European clubs that have arisen as [a] result of the coronavirus pandemic,” Bayern München CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said Monday, instead pushing solidarity from European football and the “reliable foundation” of the Champions League.
In the wake of the announcement, Jose Mourinho, the high-profile manager of Tottenham Hotspur, has been sacked alongside all of his coaching staff.
Mourinho has yet to release a statement on the reasons for his dismissal, and it’s possible the two decisions are unconnected, but he has spoken negatively on the idea of a “super league” in the past.
CNET’s Corinne Reichert also contributed to this report.