European Super League: Latest breakaway announcement news; FIFA, UEFA, Premier League reaction; who’s in, out

European soccer was rocked by the biggest story in a generation Sunday when 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs announced plans to break away from the established soccer order and form a Super League. The story has the potential to remake the European landscape dramatically and there is still much that isn’t known about how the story will develop. Here’s what we do know so far.

What’s the latest news?

A group of 12 clubs from across Europe’s biggest leagues announced plans to form a new competition called the Super League. The league, should it be established, would offer permanent spots to some of the worlds biggest clubs and would plan to play matches midweek, while allowing the involved clubs to remain in their domestic competitions. This plan is currently opposed by FIFA and UEFA, the governing body for international and European soccer, respectively. 

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What is the Super League?

The Super League is a long talked about idea for a closed competition which would feature Europe’s biggest clubs. Over the years there have been many different theoretical proposals for what that league would look like. On Sunday, 12 clubs made it official, and announced their plans to break away from Europe’s governing body, UEFA and form their own league. They plan to add three more permanent members and leave five spots open in the 20-team format that European clubs could qualify for from across Europe’s domestic competitions. 

Which teams are involved?

The 12 teams who are currently founding members are:

  • Arsenal (currently 9th in EPL)
  • Chelsea (currently 5th in EPL)
  • Liverpool (currently 6th in EPL)
  • Manchester City (currently 1st in EPL)
  • Manchester United (currently 2nd in EPL) 
  • Tottenham Hotspur (currently 7th in EPL)
  • Atletico Madrid (currently 1st in La Liga)
  • Barcelona (currently 3rd in La Liga)
  • Real Madrid (currently 2nd in La Liga)
  • AC Milan (currently 2nd in Serie A)
  • Inter Milan (currently 1st in Serie A)
  • Juventus (currently 4th in Serie A)

In addition to these 12 teams, the founders say they expect to add three more permanent teams and additionally allow five teams per season from the rest of Europe.

Which notable teams are not included?

So far several of Europe’s biggest teams have not officially signed onto the project. According to CBS Sports insider Fabrizio Romano, both Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig are in talks with the Super League to join as permanent members and will decide on whether to make the leap in the coming days. 

It’s worth noting that the 50+1 clause was written into the German league back in 1998, which forces members of the club (by extension, the fans) to control the majority of the voting rights to prevent a ownership takeovers similar to what we have seen in other teams in top leagues that are now forcing their way into a breakaway league. 

Notably among Europe’s elite clubs, current UEFA Champions League semifinals Paris Saint-Germain are not among the teams making up the Super League. It’s worth noting that Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the head of Qatar Sports Investments, which owns and operates PSG, also holds a seat in the UEFA executive committee. He was elected to his UEFA position back in 2019.

Who is in charge of the Super League?

The first head of Super League chairman is Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and he’s supported by vice chairman Andrea Agnelli, chairman of Juventus and Joel Glazer, co-chairman of Manchester United. Here’s the full list:

  • Chairman: Florentino Perez (Real Madrid)
  • Vice chairman: Stan Kroenke (Arsenal)
  • Vice chairman: Andrea Agnelli (Juventus)
  • Vice chairman: John W. Henry (Liverpool)
  • Vice chairman: Joel Glazer (Manchester United)

But what about the financial backing?

The estimated earnings for would-be fixtures signing up to the proposed super league are at least $425 million. Each of the would-be permanent members of the proposed super league are being promised €350 million, or $425 million, to sign up, per documents obtained by the New York Times

JP Morgan Chase & Co. were reportedly approached to raise financing for the project that has seen FIFA back UEFA by threatening to ban any players involved in such a league from future World Cup competition.

Here’s what the Super League had to say in their announcement:

The new annual tournament will provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues. These solidarity payments will be substantially higher than those generated by the current European competition and are expected to be in excess of €10 billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the Clubs. In addition, the competition will be built on a sustainable financial foundation with all Founding Clubs signing up to a spending framework. In exchange for their commitment, Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.  

Weren’t the European Club Association and UEFA drawing up plans to reformat the Champions League?

UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) reportedly had plans to release an updated format to the Champions League this season, switching the tournament to a “Swiss Model.” 

Gone would be the days of six group stage games. Instead, UEFA plans to expand from 32 to 36 participants and have each play 10 group stage games, five home and five away. This would in theory produce over 100 new matches. We would see six six-team groups in this format before we get to the knockout stage. The winner of the competition would have played at least 17 matches as opposed to 13 under the current format.

This was all before Sunday’s undercut announcement by the Super League. Agnelli, who was the ECA chairman, has now resigned from his seat to join the Super League. The ECA held an emergency meeting before issuing the following statement:

In light of today’s reports on the subject of a so-called breakaway league, ECA as the body representing 246 leading clubs across Europe, reiterates its stated commitment to working on developing the UEFA Club Competitions (UCCs) model with UEFA for the cycle beginning 2024 and that a ‘closed super league model’ to which media articles refer would be strongly opposed by ECA.

ECA would refer to the position adopted by its Executive Board at its meeting last Friday 16th April, namely that it supports a commitment to work with UEFA on a renewed structure for European Club Football as a whole post 2024, including proposed changes to the UEFA Club Competitions post 2024. With ECA’s support, UEFA’s Executive Committee is being asked to endorse these commitments at its meeting on 19th April along with pursuing efforts to reach an agreement on the future relationship between ECA and UEFA.

The ECA Executive Board will be convening over the coming days to take appropriate decisions in light of any further developments.  

Has UEFA responded?

UEFA has taken a hardline stance against the proposed Super League. According to Romano in response to the proposed announcement, UEFA reiterated, “Every club and player participating in the Super League could be banned from all UEFA and FIFA competitions, European or International level.”

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we — UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, La Liga, 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.

“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 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.”

Has FIFA responded?

Back in January, FIFA announced it would ban clubs and players from participating in domestic and international competitions if they were to join a breakaway league. On Sunday, in response to the Super League announcement, FIFA reaffirmed their stance with the following statement:

In view of several media requests and as already stated several times, FIFA wishes to clarify that it stands firm in favor of solidarity in football and an equitable redistribution model which can help develop football as a sport, particularly at global level, since the development of global football is the primary mission of FIFA.

In our view, and in accordance with our statutes, any football competition, whether national, regional or global, should always reflect the core principles of solidarity, inclusivity, integrity and equitable financial redistribution. Moreover, the governing bodies of football should employ all lawful, sporting and diplomatic means to ensure this remains the case. Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a “closed European breakaway league” outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles.

FIFA always stands for unity in world football and calls on all parties involved in heated discussions to engage in calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game and in the spirit of solidarity and fair play. FIFA will, of course, do whatever is necessary to contribute to a harmonized way forward in the overall interests of football.  

What about the major domestic leagues, have they responded too?

In addition to the joint statement sent out by the major federations in Europe, the Premier League also issued a statement condemning plans from their big six on Sunday:

“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,” said the statement. “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.”

Here’s what the FA said:

“The FA has been made aware of certain English clubs planning to form a closed European Super League with other European Clubs. It is clear that this would be damaging to English and European football at all levels and will attack the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are fundamental to competitive sport.

“For new competitions to be formed involving clubs from different associations, approval would be required from the relevant National Associations, confederation and/or FIFA. We would not provide permission to any competition that would be damaging to English football, and will take any legal and/or regulatory action necessary to protect the broader interests of the game.

“We note FIFA confirmed earlier this year that they and the six confederations would not recognize any such competition and, as such, any player or club involved may not be permitted to participate in any official competition which falls within the auspices of FIFA or their respective confederation. 

“The FA will continue to work with UEFA, FIFA and the Premier League to seek to ensure that nothing is approved that has the potential to damage English football. We will work with fans, The Premier League, 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.” 

What would the Super League format look like?

The Super League would be a 20 team league made up of 15 permanent members with the remaining five members of the league comprised of teams which qualified through domestic European League competition. The 20 teams would compete in two groups of 10 teams each, with a balanced schedule of home and away matches against every team in the group. 

The top three finishers in each group would qualify for the quarterfinals, while the fourth and fifth place finisher would play in a two-legged play-in round to qualify for the knockout stages. Then a two-legged knockout format would be used to play down to the finals, which would be a single match to crown a champion.  

From the Super League announcement:

• 20 participating clubs with 15 Founding Clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season.

• Midweek fixtures with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game.

• An August start with clubs participating in two groups of 10, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarterfinals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarterfinal positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.

What would this mean for women’s soccer in Europe?

On Sunday, Paris Saint-Germain turned in a come-from-behind effort to slay five-time winner Lyon in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. PSG join Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Chelsea in the semifinal round. If a breakaway league were to be formed, at least two of those clubs would be involved in what could be a new competition, but it doesn’t appear that it would begin play the same time as the men’s breakaway league.

“As soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a corresponding women’s league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women’s game,” according to the announcement from the Super League.

What are former players, coaches and execs saying about this?

Gary Neville, Manchester United ex-captain, described it “an absolute disgrace” and called club owners “bottle merchants” motivated by “pure greed.”

“I’m not against the modernization of football competitions, with have the Premier League, we have the Champions League,” Neville said during Sky Sports’ broadcast of the Premier League.

“But to bring forward proposals in the midst of COVID, in the midst of the economic crisis that exists for all clubs is an absolute scandal.

“United and the rest of the big six clubs that have signed up to it against the rest of the Premier League should be ashamed of themselves.

“Are Arsenal in that? They have just drawn with Fulham, Manchester United are drawing with Burnley. I cannot concentrate on the game. To sign up to the Super League during a season is a joke, they should deduct points off all six of them.”

Sir Alex Ferguson, legendary Manchester United manager, told Reuters it would end 70 years of football history.

“Talk of a Super League is a move away from 70 years of European club football,” Ferguson said. “Both as a player for a provincial team Dunfermline in the 60s and as a manager at Aberdeen winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup, for a small provincial club in Scotland it was like climbing Mount Everest.

“Everton are spending £500 million to build a new stadium with the ambition to play in Champions League. Fans all over love the competition as it is.

“In my time at United, we played in four Champions League finals and they were always the most special of nights.

“I’m not sure Manchester United are involved in this, as I am not part of the decision making process.

“With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game.”

Aside from the Royal Spanish Football Federation chiming in with UEFA and the top European domestic leagues, La Liga president Javier Tebas lashed out at the breakaway plans, which involve three Spanish clubs: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid

“At last, the ‘gurus’ of the ‘powerpoint’ super league, drunk with selfishness and lack of solidarity, are going to leave the ‘5 o’clock bar,’ from the ‘underground,'” Tebas tweeted. “UEFA, the European leagues and La Liga have been working at this for a long time and they will get their due answer.”  

What about the prime ministers in Europe?

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, issued the following statement of disapproval:

“Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action. They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country.   

“The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps.”

Johnson, along with Keir Starmer, Labour Party leader, are drawing up potential government enforced consequences for clubs if they go ahead with the Super League, Alex Wickham of Politico reports.

French president Emmanuel Macron is also condemning a breakaway league.

“The President of the Republic welcomes the position of French clubs to refuse to participate in a European football Super League project threatening the principle of solidarity and sporting merit. The French State will support all steps taken by the LFP, FFF, UEFA and FIFA to protect the integrity of federal competitions, whether national or European.”

What’s next?

The executive committee for UEFA will meet on Monday to discuss its further plans before announcing its next move. Here is what initially was on the agenda before Sunday’s announcement:

  • UEFA club competitions — format post-2024
  • UEFA EURO 2020 update
  • UEFA Women’s Champions League — new regulations and financial distribution for the 2021-25 cycle
  • UEFA men’s club competitions — financial distribution for the 2021-24 cycle