'Breakaway' football clubs launch 'cynical' European Super League amid widespread condemnation

19 Apr 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

The launch of a breakaway European Super League (ESL), featuring 12 founding football clubs - including six Premier League sides - has prompted rebukes from football’s governing bodies, fan groups, and political leaders.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham are the six Premier League sides who have agreed to join the new ESL, where they would be joined by AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid who make up the 12 clubs who have so far declared their intention to join.

The 12 clubs say they will create a new midweek footballing competition, which would run alongside the existing national leagues, ‘preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game,’ according to statements released by a number of the ESL’s founding clubs.

It said the inaugural season was "intended to commence as soon as practicable" and "anticipated that a further three clubs" would join the breakaway.

The ESL said it also planned to launch a women's competition 'as soon as possible' after the men's tournament starts.

According to a report in the Financial Times, initial capital will be provided by JPMorgan Chase, which will commit to a €3.25 billion (£2.8 billion) ‘infrastructure grant’, which would be shared among the clubs as a ‘welcome bonus’. Meanwhile, the outlet also reports that the investment bank will provide a debt refinancing deal ‘amortised over 23 years and secured against future broadcasting rights’, with discussions from broadcasters having already commenced.

Meanwhile, multiple reports suggest Juventus Chairman Andrea Agnelli will leave his roles in the UEFA Executive Committee and the European Clubs Association (ECA) in the wake of the announcement, while founding ESL clubs may resign from the ECA too. Meanwhile, Manchester United Executive Vice Chairman, Ed Woodward, has reportedly stepped down from his role on the UEFA Professional Football Strategy Council.

“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world," said Florentino Pérez, President Real Madrid and the first Chairman of the Super League.

"Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”

The Premier League said it ‘condemns’ the move, and ‘any proposal that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid.’

In a joint statement, UEFA, the FA and Premier League, along with the Spanish football federation (RFEF), the Italian football federation (FIGC), and their respective leagues LaLiga and Lega Serie A, said they ‘remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project.’

The statement went on to say: “As previously announced by FIFA and the six Confederations, 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.”

In response to the ESL proposals, announced late on Sunday night, UEFA's Executive Committee has voted through reforms to the Champions League, which would see teams play 10 group games instead of six, before moving on to a knockout stage featuring 16 teams.

UEFA President Aleksandr Ceferin called the proposals a 'spit in the face of all football lovers,' and called for a ban on the teams and their players from UEFA-sanctioned competitions.

"We're still assessing with our legal team but we will take all the sanctions that we can and we will inform you as soon we can," he said.

"My opinion is that as soon as possible they have to be banned from all our competitions and the players from all our competitions."

World football’s governing body, meanwhile, FIFA, said it ‘stands firm in favour of solidarity in football’, in a statement in which it expressed its ‘disapproval’ to the proposals.

Its statement read: “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.”

Fan Groups have also voiced their opposition to the proposals. A number of groups representing the fan bases of individual football clubs have released statements, while the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) said in a statement: “The FSA is totally opposed to the proposals which seek to create a breakaway ‘European Super League’.

“The motivation behind this so-called Super League is not furthering sporting merit or nurturing the world’s game – it is motivated by nothing but cynical greed.

“This competition is being created behind our backs by billionaire club owners who have zero regard for the game’s traditions and continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom.

“The FSA, and no doubt supporters across the continent, will continue to fight against its creation.”

Meanwhile, politicians have also signalled their opposition to the proposals, with UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden set to make a statement to the House of Commons later today, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating that the government would ‘look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed’. 

He told reporters on a visit to Gloucestershire: “These clubs are not just great global brands – of course they’re great global brands – they’re also clubs that have originated historically from their towns, from their cities, from their local communities, they should have a link with those fans, and with the fanbase in their community. So it is very, very important that that continues to be the case.”