The Guardian Australia

Real Madrid’s Florentino Pérez claims Super League is here to ‘save football’

- Sid Lowe

Florentino Pérez painted a dramatic, dark portrait of football’s future and presented himself and the 12 breakaway clubs as its saviour as he attempted to justify plans for a Super League over which he will preside. In the first interview with any of the key figures behind the plan, the president of Real Madrid claimed that the purpose of the league, which he hopes will start “as soon as possible”, is to “save football”. He insisted that the 12 clubs could not wait until 2024 for Uefa’s new Champions League format because “by 2024 we’re dead”.

Pérez said football was in “free fall”, that TV viewing figures were dropping and rights declining. “€5,000m has been lost by the clubs; we’re on the edge of ruin,” he insisted. “We don’t want the rich to be richer and the poor poorer. We have to save football. Everything I do is for the good of football, which is in a critical moment.”

In an interview with the TV programme El Chiringuit­o, the Super League’s president said that they had been working on plans for two years but that “the pandemic has told us to do it now”. He also insisted there was no chance that the breakaway clubs could be kicked out of the Champions League and accused Uefa, “a monopoly”, of lacking transparen­cy and not having a “good image”. He gave no details on the financial backing of the breakaway league.

Pérez claimed that this is “not a closed league” but could not explain how the final five places would be filled, although he said it would be based on “sporting merit”. He made the claim that Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain had not been invited. “It wasn’t difficult to convince [Barcelona president Joan] Laporta,” he said. “When you tell them the way it is, there’s no alternativ­e. If there was a better option … This will help Barcelona, who are in a bad situation economical­ly. Laporta is sensible and he understood. This saves everyone, it saves football.”

According to Pérez, football has 4bn fans around the world and yet he claimed that 40% of people between 16 and 24 were no longer interested and that interest was declining. “If we don’t do something, it won’t last long,” he said. “Football has to change and it has to adapt. There are lots of games of little quality; we have to change this sport to make it more attractive at all levels. Real Madrid v Manchester United is more attractive than Manchester [United] against a more modest team. The Champions League is only attractive from the quarter-finals onwards. Before that it’s [with] modest teams that are not attractive.

“With Uefa income was around €120m; we’re talking about €400m, €500m; it would be three or four times more. This is a pyramid – it filters down. The future of football is at stake. Some don’t like it because they are going to lose their privileges and they are irresponsi­ble. We’re doing this to save football. We want to save football for the next 20 years at least so we can survive without worries.”

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