European Super League: Everything you need to know

Everything you need to know about the European Super League proposals

A host of major football clubs have agreed to join a new breakaway European Super League, it has been announced.

Last night it was confirmed that a host of clubs including English sides Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham intended to join a rebel competition.

Who will be taking part in the European Super League?

The so-called English “Big Six” clubs have all agreed in principle to support proposals backed by clubs such as Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan of Italy. Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have also offered support. 

It is anticipated three more clubs will join the breakaway group as founding members with the new competition, which will begin “as soon as practicable” to eventually feature 20 teams.

We are one of 12 Founding Clubs of the European Super League— Arsenal (@Arsenal) April 18, 2021

What have the European Super League said?

A joint statement read: “Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new midweek competition, the Super League, governed by its founding clubs.

“AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as founding clubs.

Liverpool and Real Madrid are ‘founding members’

“It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable.”

How does the European Super League work?

In a statement, the 12 founding members have reached an agreement on how the league would work.

The 12, plus three who they expect to join – will be joined by five other teams who qualify each season.

The 20 clubs will then play games in midweek, starting in August, with teams playing home and away fixtures in two groups of ten. The top three in each group will automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals.

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.

This will be held in a neutral venue. 

Why has the announcement been made now?

The timing of the announcement has coincided with the anticipated announcement from UEFA confirming changes to the Champions League format on Monday.

The European governing body is expected to approve an increase from 32 to 36 teams from 2024 with the existing structure of eight groups of four replaced by one league. The format, known as the ‘Swiss model’, would see all teams play 10 games in the first stage with opponents determined by a seeding system.

The statement from the 12 clubs makes clear they do not believe these proposed changes go far enough saying: “The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model.

“Further, for a number of years, the founding clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.

“The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid.

“In recent months extensive dialogue has taken place with football stakeholders regarding the future format of European competitions.

“The founding clubs believe the solutions proposed following these talks do not solve fundamental issues, including the need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid.”

What are the proposed Champions League changes?

They principally concern the group stage and the qualification process. The group stage is to be expanded from 32 teams to 36 from 2024, with all teams competing in one league rather than the current format of eight groups. All teams would play 10 fixtures (an increase on the present six) with opponents determined by a seeding system based on what is known as the ‘Swiss model’. The top eight teams would qualify automatically for the knockout stages, with those ranked ninth to 24th playing off for the final eight spots.

The four extra places would be awarded as follows – one extra spot to the country ranked fifth in the UEFA co-efficient, currently France, the domestic champions with the best historical team co-efficient who do not qualify automatically for the group phase, and most controversially the two teams with the best historical co-efficient who have not qualified for the Champions League via domestic performance, but have done enough to qualify for the Europa League or the new Europa Conference League.

Matchdays would be spread across Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings to maximise broadcast income. The proposals were approved by UEFA’s club competitions committee on Friday and expected to be rubber-stamped by the executive committee on Monday.

Will ESL clubs be banned from other competitions?

Any club that joins the European Super League will be banned from the Premier League, the FA Cup, Serie A, La Liga and UEFA competitions.

This comes despite the clubs also saying that they wish to implement the Super League project in agreement with FIFA and UEFA.

“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.”

What has FIFA said?

FIFA released a statement after the announcement: “In view of several media requests and as already stated several times, FIFA wishes to clarify that it stands firm in favour 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 harmonised way forward in the overall interests of football.”

Will a Women’s European Super League be formed?

The founding members said that a women’s league will also be launched “as soon as practicable” after the start of the men’s competition, but provided no further details.

Premier League reaction to European Super League

A Premier League statement read: “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.

“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.”

Political reaction

It is unclear how the proposals will be judged overall across the board, but Boris Johnson has already came out and criticised the move.

The Prime Minister tweeted: “Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden also 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.”

Gary Neville claimed clubs should be relegated, Jamie Carragher called Liverpool an “embarrassment”

The French Football Federation has released a statement, stating their opposition while Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are also not supporting the formation of the league. 

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville also made headlines after he called on clubs involved to be relegated while Jamie Carragher called former club Liverpool an “embarrassment”.

Neville said he was appalled by the developments, which he feels are motivated by greed.

“I am a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years but I am disgusted, absolutely disgusted,” the former England and United defender told Sky Sports.

“It is an absolute disgrace. Honestly, we have to wrestle back power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league, and that includes my club.

“The motivation is greed. Deduct them all points tomorrow, put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously, you have got to stamp on this.

“It is criminal. It is a criminal act against football fans in this country. Deduct points, deduct money and punish them.

“Enough is enough. There isn’t a football fan in this country that won’t be seething listening to this conversation and these announcements. This is disowning-your-own-club stuff, this.

“Let them break away but punish them straight away. If they announce a letter of intent has been signed, those six clubs, they should be punished heavily. Massive fines, points deductions, take the titles off them.

“Give the title to Burnley, let Fulham stay up. Relegate Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal. Those three clubs, with their history in this country, are the ones that should suffer the most.

“The history and traditions that run through those three clubs is absolutely enormous and I value it, but they leave a lot to be desired at this moment in time.”

Chairman reaction to ESL

Joel Glazer, Manchester United co-chairman and also vice-chairman of the Super League, said: “By bringing together the world’s greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, 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.”

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

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