National Post (Latest Edition)

UEFA threatens to blackball clubs forming renegade Super League

- Simon Evans

MANCHESTER • European soccer’s governing body UEFA led a backlash against plans for a breakaway Super League on Monday, saying associated players and clubs could be banned from its competitio­ns — including three of this season’s Champions League semifinali­sts.

Addressing an emergency meeting the day after 12 of Europe’s top clubs announced the new league, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin described the Super League plan as a “spit in the face” of all soccer lovers.

“As soon as possible they (the clubs) and the players have to be banned from all our competitio­ns,” he added.

Three of the 12 clubs in the new league — Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea — could be withdrawn from this season’s Champions League semifinals, UEFA executive committee member Jesper Moller told Danish broadcaste­r DR.

“The clubs must go, I expect that to happen on Friday.

Then we have to find out how to finish (this season’s) Champions League tournament,” said Moller, who is the head of the Danish FA.

The renegade clubs — six from the English Premier League plus three each from Spain and Italy — will be guaranteed places in the new competitio­n in contrast to the Champions League, which requires teams to qualify via their domestic leagues.

U.S. investment bank JP Morgan is financing the new league, providing a €3.5-billion ($5.3-billion) grant to the founding clubs to spend on infrastruc­ture and recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Britain will do everything possible to block the league and is examining options to penalize the six English teams that have signed up, Sports Minister Oliver Dowden said on Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quick to object to the plans on Sunday, and Dowden said the government would seek to block the project if soccer authoritie­s could not.

“If they can’t act, we will,” he told parliament. “We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening.”

UEFA chief Ceferin said the Super League went against the core of the European soccer pyramid, in which all clubs can dream of playing in the Champions League.

“We stand united against the disgracefu­l and self-serving proposal for a select few clubs in Europe motivated by greed. We are all united against this nonsense of a project,” he added. “As previously announced by (soccer’s world governing body) FIFA and the six (continenta­l) federation­s, the players ... in teams that might play in the closed league will be banned from playing in the World Cup and Euros.”

FIFA had previously warned in January that any breakaway league would not be recognized by them, and that players taking part could be banned from the World Cup.

Bans or other sanctions could open the way for complicate­d legal battles. The Super League letter urged FIFA and UEFA to agree to talks and said they wanted the breakaway league to exist alongside current European club competitio­ns.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

The UEFA meeting was originally scheduled to confirm plans to expand the Champions League from 32 to 36 teams and create more group stage games before the knockout rounds, a move designed to appease the top clubs.

Ceferin said the new format would start from the 2024-25 season, but it has been overshadow­ed by the Super League announceme­nt.

He also stressed that UEFA distribute­s close to 90 per cent of its revenues back to all levels of the game.

“Super League is only about money, money of the dozen, I don’t want to call them dirty dozen, but UEFA is about developing football.”

FOUNDING MEMBERS

As well as Manchester United, owned by the American Glazer family, U.s.-owned Premier League clubs Liverpool and Arsenal, Abu-dhabi backed Manchester City, Russian-owned Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur, who sacked their manager Jose Mourinho on Monday, have signed up to the plans.

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid join Real Madrid from Spain, while AC Milan and Inter Milan make up a trio from Italy along with Juventus.

 ??  ?? Aleksander Ceferin
Aleksander Ceferin

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