Open war in the elite of continental football. While the European Super League of clubs advances and already has 12 big teams committed to take it forward -among them, Real Madrid, Barça and Atlético-, UEFA, federations and state leagues have exploded with anger and yesterday published a harsh joint statement that branded the project as "cynical". After midnight, the 12 founding clubs made official the new foundations of a competition that will shake up the European football landscape
After years of rumours and behind-the-scenes talks and meetings between the presidents of the continent's biggest clubs, UEFA sees its major competition, the Champions League, under real threat, given that the hypothetical European Super League could be launched from the 2022-2023 season in a macro-project which, although it has been shrouded in secrecy in recent times, is already a reality. "[The Super League] is a project based on the interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs more solidarity than ever. We will study all the measures at our disposal, at all levels, both judicial and sporting, to prevent this from happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be otherwise," the UEFA statement said.
The words of European football's governing body are aimed at Europe's 12 biggest clubs, who have committed in writing to the Super League, with Florentino Perez's Real Madrid and Manchester United as its main promoters. In addition, the project has also received support from Barça, Atletico Madrid, five more Premier League teams - Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham - and three from Serie A - Inter, Milan and Juventus. On the other hand, the big clubs in France and Germany - PSG and Bayern Munich - have not been so clear (they have not signed the document that would guarantee their involvement), despite the fact that they are also expected to be part of the competition because they belong to the continent's football elite.
Former Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu was also one of the driving forces behind the project, as he himself recalled in his farewell speech when he resigned: "I can announce that we have already approved the requirements to form part of a European Super League. The decision to play the competition will have to be ratified by the next assembly". During the election campaign, the new president, Joan Laporta, when asked about the issue, said it would have to be looked at but did not oppose it. "We are open to the Super League. We need them to explain the project in detail to make a decision. We welcome the fact it would generate more revenue, but we want to know the project in depth before deciding," he said in January.
Threat to Barça, Madrid and Atlético
Given the support of Madrid, Barça and Atletico to the initiative, the president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, did not take long yesterday to share through UEFA's statement on social media and described the promoters of the project of "gurus drunk with selfishness and lack of solidarity". Nor did he refrain from recalling that "both UEFA and the set of leagues in Europe and La Liga" have been "working at this time" to fight the clubs that opt for the Super League. In other words: Tebas threatened Barça, Madrid and Atlético with throwing them out of La Liga. In this sense, UEFA was blunt in its statement: "As previously announced by FIFA and the six federations, the clubs in question will be banned from playing in any other competition at national, European or world level, and their players could be denied the right to represent their national teams".
The war is on. But what would the European Super League that the big clubs in Europe want so much and that UEFA is so afraid of consist of? In short, the clubs' idea would be to join together in a big continental league that would have 15 founding teams - and five more clubs with the status of guests - which would be played in two rounds (with midweek games) and with a final playoff phase, following a format similar to basketball's Euroleague. Basically, it would be the clubs themselves who would define how to manage and exploit the large economic item of the television rights of a competition designed in a totally global mentality.
The project is shaking both UEFA - it would be the end of the current form of the Champions League - and the state leagues - interest would wane because the big teams would prioritise the Super League. Both the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, expressed their rejection of the Super League.
UEFA statement in full:
UEFA, the English Football Association and the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A have learned that a few English, Spanish and Italian clubs may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League.
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.
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 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.