Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Premier League and UEFA have all condemned proposals for a new European Super League after reports on Sunday circulated that six Premier League clubs had signed up to the seismic shake-up of football.
The threat of a European Super League has been looming for some time with reports as far back as October suggesting talks were happening with top clubs.
In January, plans were reported for a breakaway European league, citing a document which outlined a 20-team league, outside of UEFA’s control.
It would be made up of 15 permanent members and five who would qualify for the competition annually.
The Times claim Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City have all signed up to the breakaway plans. The report says that the 15 founder clubs would share a £3.1billion founder grant.
Matches would be played midweek while clubs would still compete in their domestic leagues.
Multiple reports claimed that alongside the English clubs signed up, there will be three Spanish clubs and three Italian teams.
There will be no French or German teams while UEFA are said to be holding crisis talks. The news comes on the eve of UEFA’s announcement of a new Champions League format.
The European Club Association (ECA) has been discussing plans for an expanded 36-team Champions League, which could start in 2024.
This will see changes made to the group stage with all teams playing ten matches against opponents of varying strengths.
The Premier League has issued a robust statement condemning plans for a new European Super League.
The statement said: “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.
“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.
“The Premier League is proud to run a competitive and compelling football competition that has made it the most widely watched league in the world. Our success has enabled us to make an unrivalled financial contribution to the domestic football pyramid.
“A European Super League will undermine the appeal of the whole game, and have a deeply damaging impact on the immediate and future prospects of the Premier League and its member clubs, and all those in football who rely on our funding and solidarity to prosper.
“We will work with fans, The FA, 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.”
UEFA called it a ‘cynical project’ in a strong statement on Sunday afternoon ahead of a reported announcement later in the day.
Their statement read: “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 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 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.”
The Prime Minister also spoke out against the plans and warned they could be hugely damaging for the game.
“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.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden was one of a number of people to comment on the plans and said any decisions should involve supporters.
In a statement he said: “Football supporters are the heartbeat of our national sport and any major decisions made should have their backing.
“With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game. Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football.
“We have a football pyramid where funds from the globally successful Premier League flow down the leagues and into local communities. I would be bitterly disappointed to see any action that destroys that.”
European Super League plans
Teams reportedly signed up: Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan
Notable absentees: Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich
How will the clubs benefit?
Principally by being guaranteed entry – and the revenue that goes with it – each year.
Even with the proposed changes to the Champions League, there remains a possibility teams could fail to qualify. This would eliminate that risk.
Reports suggest the Super League would comprise 20 clubs, comprised of 15 permanent founding members and five additional sides determined through a qualification process.
In a solo statement, the Football Association said: “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 recognise 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.”