European football close to implosion: twelve big clubs launched Monday their “Super League”, a private competition doomed to supplant the Champions League. It is an unprecedented earthquake in nearly 70 years of European competitions: after decades of shaking the specter of a schism, the leaders of the continent have finally taken the plunge led by Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Liverpool or Manchester United, all multiple Champions League winners 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. The rebel clubs claim, it seems, to establish a controversial near-closed league system comparable to the North American basketball (NBA) or American football (NFL) championships, a prospect “disapproved” on Monday by Fifa.
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“Twelve of the most important European clubs announce that they have reached an agreement for the creation of a new competition, ‘The Super League’, governed by its founding clubs. 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 ”, read a statement sent to Agence France Presse (AFP) and also disseminated by the websites of several clubs concerned. “The inaugural season (…) will start as soon as possible”, continues the text, without setting a precise timetable.
According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, Bayern Munich and Paris SG have been approached. But the two finalists of the last C1 did not follow up, which led UEFA to publicly thank “the German and French clubs” for their loyalty.
3.5 billion euros for the founding clubs
The new competition, explain its promoters, is doomed 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”, continue the organizers, who also promise a female “Super League”.
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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.
In direct competition with the Champions League
According to its promoters, the “Super League” would operate in the form of a regular season between 20 clubs, fifteen of them (“the founding clubs”, the 12 cited and three additional ones yet to be determined) being automatically qualified each. year and the other five chosen “through a system based on their performance from the previous season”.
At the end of this first phase starting in August, play-offs would be organized until May to award the trophy.
Matches would in principle be held midweek, competing directly with the boxes reserved for the Champions League, but not with the national championships traditionally held on weekends.
Fifa “can only disapprove of a closed and dissident European League,” reacted the international federation on Monday, inviting all parties to “a calm, constructive and balanced dialogue” on the subject.
UEFA, in a press release co-signed by several national championships, 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 at the World Cup. We will have to see if this threat complies with European competition law, which suggests a possible legal battle.
The launch of this “Super League” comes in any case when the UEFA meets Monday its executive committee (9 hours in Switzerland) to ratify an overhaul of its Champions League by 2024. Initially, the Executive Committee of the he governing body of European football should have ratified this reform without too much trouble, while finalizing the mapping of the host cities of the Euro this summer. But the sling of the big clubs scrambles the cards.
In the meantime, anti-“Super League” positions have multiplied on Sunday, among supporters’ representatives but also among political leaders, from the Elysee Palace in France to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom.