Hindustan Times (East UP)
Backlash grows against Super League clubs
MANCHESTER/LONDON: Fifa president Gianni Infantino said on Tuesday that breakaway Super League clubs cannot be “half in, half out” of the established football system, while Real Madrid supremo Florentino Perez insisted he is trying to “save football” with the move.
European football’s governing body Uefa has threatened to ban the 12 clubs, which include Manchester United and Real Madrid, from domestic and international competition, with Infantino adding his voice to the backlash.
“We strongly disapprove... if some go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choice, either you are in, or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out.” Infantino told Uefa’s congress in Montreux, Switzerland.
Uefa chief Aleksander Ceferin has not held back on his views of the renegade clubs, who will be guaranteed places in the new competition in contrast to the Champions League which requires teams to qualify via their domestic leagues.
Premier League clubs were meeting on Tuesday without the ‘Big Six’ who have joined the breakaway Super League. The meeting was expected to decide on a strategy to be taken by the remaining 14 clubs to protect the league and their interests.
Everton, currently eighth in the Premier League and in with a chance of securing Champions League football for next season, slammed the move of “preposterous arrogance” which was tarnishing the reputation of England’s top-flight.
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is keen to speak to everyone involved over the breakaway European Super League, including other countries, to try to end the plans in their current form, his spokesperson said on Tuesday.
NEW DELHI: Twelve elite European clubs on Monday announced that they would form a new tournament, named the Super League, to be administered by founding members in a move that would see them break away from the UEFA-run Champions League, which announced a new format from 2024.
UEFA said the new format for the Champions League will increase the number of clubs in the group stage from 32 to 36. The new format —which will see all 36 clubs brought together into one pool instead of the current four-team groups—was approved at an executive committee meeting.
The Super League move, however, prompted furious reactions from UEFA, national football associations, fans and politicians.
The founding clubs said the inaugural edition of the Super League will take place “as soon as practicable” and that a women’s version of the competition will follow. The move is expected to trigger a bitter legal battle between the clubs and football authorities.
Twelve heavyweights from England, Spain and Italy have agreed to establish a new competition, the Super League, governed by its founding clubs. This challenges the supremacy of Europe’s top club competition, the UEFA-run Champions League. The clubs involved are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. Three more teams are expected to join as founding clubs.
What’s the format?
The founding clubs are guaranteed participation each year, with another five qualifying annually, making it a 20-team competition. Games will be midweek, ruling teams out of the Champions League but leaving them free for domestic fixtures. It will feature two groups of 10 playing home and away, and the top three qualifying for the quarter-finals.
The fourth and fifth-placed teams will play off for the remaining quarter-final spots. The quarter and semi-finals will be played over two legs and the final is a single game at a neutral venue. There are also plans for a women’s version.
What’s behind all this?
Money. Europe’s top clubs have long agitated for the income that is guaranteed, annual competition against their fellow powers would bring. The Super League will bring them far more than the Champions League.
The founding clubs are expected to receive more than 10 billion euros in uncapped “solidarity payments” during their initial commitment period. They will also receive 3.5 billion euros for infrastructure investment and to offset their losses from the pandemic. By comparison, UEFA competitions generated 3.2 billion euros in TV earnings in the pre-pandemic 2018-2019 season.
How have the authorities reacted?
The condemnation was widespread and swift. European football’s governing body UEFA and English, Spanish and Italian football authorities issued a joint statement threatening to ban participating clubs from “any other competition at domestic, European or world level”.
Players could even be barred from their national teams, they said. World body FIFA said it “can only express its disapproval” about a competition “outside of the international football structures”. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the plans “would strike at the heart of the domestic game”.
French President Emmanuel Macron praised French clubs for not taking part.
Will it actually happen?
Given the staunch opposition from UEFA and the domestic leagues, the Super League faces some big hurdles. Signs are the clubs will not get much support from their own fans and probably none from the wider football community.
FIFA’s immediate reaction was less severe, although it issued a statement in January warning that it would not recognise the Super League. Pre-empting this opposition, the 12 founding members have written to UEFA and FIFA saying they have filed a motion “before the relevant courts” to “ensure the seamless establishment and operation” of the competition.
Why announce the move now?
The timing of the announcement is worth noting. UEFA were due to announce a major overhaul for the Champions League on Monday, expanding it to 36 teams with a new format and a sharp rise in the number of games. It’s possible that the Super League is a negotiating tactic, designed to win greater concessions and a bigger say for the major clubs. However a source told The Guardian: “Usually the threat of a super league is a bargain chip, and about leverage. But this is the furthest it’s ever gone by considerable distance.”
Which elite clubs aren’t involved?
Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Borussia Dortmund are among the most notable clubs absent from the new competition. Dortmund said on Monday that they are in favour of reforming the existing Champions League. Germany’s rules on fan ownership, known as 50%+1 for the voting stake which members must have, pose a problem for the Super League. PSG’s Qatari owners could be wary of disrupting next year’s World Cup—which will be played in Qatar — and a lucrative UEFA broadcast deal if there’s a civil war in European football.
How have players reacted?
While most players have kept mum, PSG midfielder Ander Herrera became the first from a prominent Champions League team to voice his opposition. “I believe in an improved Champions League but not in the rich stealing what the people created,” he said as part of a statement on Monday. Meanwhile, the global footballers’ union FIFPRO has said it would “vigorously defend” players of clubs launching the planned Super League if they are threatened with bans from international competitions. “Players continue to be used as assets and leverage in these negotiations. This is unacceptable for FIFPRO, our 64 national player associations and the 60,000 players we represent,” FIFPRO said.
What could it mean for the Premier League?
English football may now be left to count the cost of the end game from decades of embracing foreign investment. Of the six breakaway clubs currently playing in the Premier League, only Tottenham, whose billionaire owner Joe Lewis resides in the Bahamas, are British-owned. A ban from domestic leagues for the breakaway clubs would significantly weaken the Premier League.
Supporters’ groups from Liverpool, United, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea have all voiced their anger and opposition to the plans. “Our football club is ours not theirs,” said Liverpool fans’ group Spirit of Shankly. The Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham supporters’ trusts called it a “betrayal” and the Arsenal Supporters Trust said it was the “death of Arsenal as a sporting institution”.