A group of the world’s richest soccer clubs, including Manchester United and Real Madrid, announced plans for a European breakaway league starting in August, a project that could herald the sport’s biggest shakeup in decades and make elite teams even wealthier.
The marquee names — six from England, three from Italy and three from Spain have signed up so far — would play each other midweek as an alternative to the prestigious UEFA Champions League, according to a statement early Monday. In addition to what will be 15 permanent teams, another five will qualify each year for the so-called Super League.
Establishing a new elite tournament in Europe would effectively end the Champions League’s decades-long reign as the world’s premier club contest, and revolutionize the sport’s structure.
It would also funnel billions of dollars into the game’s upper echelons, following a year in which revenue has dropped as matches take place in largely empty stadiums. The 15 founding teams would share an upfront payment of 3.5 billion euros ($4.2 billion), according to a planning document.
Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez will be chairman of the group with four vice chairs — Juve’s Andrea Agnelli, Liverpool’s John Henry, Manchester United’s Joel Glazer and Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke.
“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” Perez said in the statement. “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.
Backing the new European league, Andrea Agnelli, Chairman of Juventus and Vice-Chairman of the Super League said: “Our 12 Founder Clubs represent billions of fans across the globe and 99 European trophies.
Joel Glazer, Co-Chairman of Manchester United and 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 worldclass competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid.
“The agreement comes on the eve of plans to introduce a new format for the Champions League. UEFA has put forward changes to increase the number of competing teams in Europe’s top club knockout competition from 32 to 36.
Earlier on Sunday, UEFA released a joint statement, personally sanctioned by the governing body’s president Aleksander Ceferin, with the FA, Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A, as well as the Spanish and Italian football federations, which blasted the plans.
UEFA stressed that Europe’s top national football governing bodies and leagues will remain united in opposing the “cynical” initiative, and will use all methods available to them, including legal action, to prevent the scheme from being put into practice.
In January, FIFA said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that “any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation” – meaning players would be banned from the World Cup.