In Depth

European Super League explained: the clubs, reactions and how it would work

Premier League’s ‘big six’ sign up as founder members of breakaway tournament

Six English Premier League clubs have been confirmed among the initial 12 founder members of “The Super League” - European football’s new breakaway competition.

The proposed midweek tournament would see 20 clubs compete on an annual basis. At launch there would be 15 founder members and five annual qualifiers. 

The Premier League’s “big six” - Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur - are listed among the initial 12 founders and “it is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season”, The Super League said in a statement. 

Described by BBC Sport as a “seismic move for European football”, the tournament would replace the Uefa Champions League but not affect domestic leagues or other domestic competitions. The announcement came a day before Uefa were planning to confirm a restructuring of the current Champions League format.

“Usually the threat of a super league is a bargain chip, and about leverage,” a source with direct knowledge of the talks told The Guardian. “But this is the furthest its ever gone by considerable distance.”

American investment bank JP Morgan has confirmed it is financing the new European Super League, Sky Sports reports. And The Times says there would be an incentive of up to €350m (£303.3m) for each club to join and more money from television rights.

Who are the 12 founder members?  

The six Premier League giants are joined by three Italian and three Spanish clubs as founder members of the Super League. French champions Paris Saint-Germain and German giants Bayern Munich, the winners of last year’s Champions League, “are not backing the new European Super League proposal”, The Athletic reports.

The 12 founder members clubs are: 

  • AC Milan
  • Arsenal FC
  • Atlético de Madrid
  • Chelsea FC
  • FC Barcelona
  • FC Internazionale Milano
  • Juventus FC
  • Liverpool FC
  • Manchester City
  • Manchester United
  • Real Madrid CF
  • Tottenham Hotspur 

Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez has been confirmed as the first chairman of the Super League. Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli will be vice-chairman of the new competition. 

How would the format work? 

Twenty participating clubs - the 15 founder members and five qualifiers based on achievements in the prior season - would play in the annual Super League. 

Proposed to have an August start, there would be two groups of ten, with each team playing home and away fixtures. The top three in each group automatically qualify for the quarter finals and teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final 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.

Would there be relegation?

Under current proposals, there would be no relegation from the league for the founder members, says The Independent. The five clubs which qualify for their domestic league performance would have “no guarantee that they would be able to take part the following season”.

When would it launch? 

According to the Super League news release the new competition “is intended to commence as soon as practicable”. It is also planned for a women’s league to be launched to help “advance and develop the women’s game”.

What was the initial reaction?

Backing the new European league, Juventus chief Agnelli said the 12 founder clubs have “come together at this critical moment, enabling European competition to be transformed, putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future”. Man Utd’s Glazer added that the Super League will “open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid”.

While Agnelli and Glazer were talking up the closed league, the plans were widely condemned by football associations, the media and fans. 

In a joint statement, Uefa, the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A, said “this persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long - enough is enough”.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville was one of the most vocal opponents to the Super League and has called for sanctions against the English clubs. “It’s an absolute disgrace,” said the former Man Utd and England defender. “It’s pure greed. They’re imposters. I’m a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years of my life but I’m disgusted, absolutely disgusted.”

Would clubs and players be punished for their involvement?

Talk of a potential European Super League is not anything new. In 2018, as part of the “Football Leaks” series, documents and emails published by German magazine Der Spiegel showed that 16 clubs were claimed to be planning the launch of a breakaway league. 

In response to the reports in 2018, Fifa president Gianni Infantino warned the world’s best footballers that they will be banned from playing in the World Cup if their clubs join a European Super League. He said at the time: “Either you are in or you are out. This includes everything.”

Reiterating previous announcements by Fifa and the six global confederations, Uefa said that 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”.

According to a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the clubs behind the Super League have told the leaders of Fifa and Uefa that “legal action is already being pursued to stop them from action intended to thwart the launch of the breakaway competition”.

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