European league could trigger bans
‘Secret’ plan puts players at risk of international exile Ministers prepared to thwart clubs’ proposal
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United could be warned their players face bans from international tournaments if they join the breakaway European Super League.
Uefa and Fifa have the option of warning all players involved that they could become ineligible for World Cups and European Championships if Europe’s biggest teams press ahead with alleged secret plans to form their own league by 2021.
Bombshell claims that breakaway talks have reached an advanced stage place the clubs on a collision course with governments, as well as domestic and international governing bodies.
The UK Government is understood to “fully oppose” any Premier League team proposals to join forces with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Bayern Munich. Whitehall and the Premier League have been caught off guard by the series of leaked legal documents published by Der Spiegel and Reuters.
One senior Whitehall source said: “The Government hasn’t been told about any of this, which suggests the Premier League has also been kept in the dark. We would absolutely oppose this on the basis that it would threaten the culture of sport in England.”
Der Spiegel has reported that the breakaway league would see clubs leave their national leagues and football associations. Brand bosses said the discussions have been fuelled by teams wanting an even bigger slice of TV money. The five English clubs could make tens of millions of pounds extra each in new TV rights deals.
Carsten Thode, chief strategy officer at marketing agency Synergy, said he had been aware of the talks, but said an English breakaway is “deeply unlikely”.
“These talks stretch back a decade and are simply about negotiating leverage as far as the English teams are concerned,” he said. “Last time we saw more clubs in the Champions League as a result of this. Uefa, in particular, will figure out how to get these clubs more money, and this whole thing is likely to go away. The English market is just way too important to the clubs.”
According to the leaks, Bayern Munich have explored the legal complexities of the breakaway proposal and one of the documents Der Spiegel says it has seen is a “binding term sheet” in which 16 clubs would sign to form the Super League.
The new competition, it is claimed, would involve 11 of Europe’s biggest clubs, known as the “founders”, along with five “initial guests”. Der Spiegel reports that the five “initial guests,” according to the document, would be Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Marseille and Roma. The so-called founders would not face relegation and would be guaranteed membership for 20 years.
A Bayern Munich statement said they were “unaware of recent plans for a so-called Super League” and had not “taken part in negotiations relating to such plans”. Der Spiegel says the source of the documents they have obtained is a whistleblower who founded the website Football Leaks. Up to 70million documents have been provided by Football Leaks.
Football Leaks also allege that Manchester City and Paris St-Germain may have avoided financial fair play sanctions with the intervention of Fifa president Gianni Infantino.
Premier League champions City said they would not comment “on out-of-context materials purportedly hacked or stolen”.
Asked about the possibility of a Super League, Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, said: “I have no real opinion. I am completely fine with the league how it is at the moment.”
The English clubs involved have been contacted for comment.
There was only 50 Danish kroner – about £6 – on the meter of their Copenhagen taxi when Nicklas Bendtner and his girlfriend, Philine Roepstorff, decided to get out in the small hours of Sunday, Sept 9, one small decision in a lifetime of bad decisions for the man who once predicted he would be one of the world’s finest strikers.
The consequences of that early morning, when Bendtner, 30, and Roepstorff, 24, came to a head on Friday when the former was sentenced to serve 50 days in jail by a city court in Copenhagen. The bare facts of the case were that a disagreement had ensued and Bendtner had hit the taxi driver, he said in self-defence, and whom Danish law has forbidden the media from naming, resulting in a conviction that will have consequences for the player himself, including, most likely, ruling out a Major League Soccer swansong.
If it sounded on the face of it like peak Bendtner then nobody, not even the player himself, should be surprised. This is the man on whom Danish football, and to a lesser degree Arsenal, pinned considerable hope for some time. During that time he picked up a drink-driving conviction, stumbled out of a nightclub with his trousers at half-mast and then, at Euro 2012, continued the undercrackers theme with a goal celebration in which he exposed his betting company endorsed pants.
There were other incidents, too. None of it was on the level of a GBH conviction but demonstrated pretty consistent mistake-making, followed by the same old apologies, followed by the same old mistakes.
As for his performances on the pitch, they never reached the level that might offset the low-level obnoxiousness of his misjudgments.
He became a cult figure for some, although the Lord Bendtner moniker was funny for about five minutes.
His failure to fulfil expectations was harder for Danish football, which had him pegged as some kind of saviour for a while. He went from Arsenal to Wolfsburg via loans at Sunderland, Juventus, Birmingham City and then on to Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest and Rosenborg, where he did manage to finish top scorer in Norway’s Eliteserien last season.
All in all, it is the kind of footballing CV that suggested word got around pretty quick.
But back to the morning of Sept 9, when Bendtner and Roepstorff stayed late at a club and then, the court heard, the two had a disagreement.
Bendtner, injured at the time, wanted to go home while Roepstorff was reluctant.
They were still arguing when they got into the cab and, for reasons that seem unclear, the taxi driver got involved, insulting both of them.
There was a disagreement over the route. All in all, they were in the taxi for a very short time, as demonstrated by the £6 fare which, as anyone who has ever taken a cab in Copenhagen will know, might just get you to the first set of lights.
They got out by Denmark’s National Bank and camera footage showed the driver turning round and pursuing them. He threw something at them – a can or a bottle, it was never established which – and that was when Bendtner hit the driver, breaking his jaw. It was not found to have been the case by the three judges presiding that, as alleged, Bendtner kicked the man on the ground. He denied that and the footage in question was inconclusive. The taxi driver’s injuries were not consistent with a kick to the head. The taxi driver was himself charged with intention to cause harm by throwing whatever he did and was cleared.
It seems likely that he will be stripped of his licence to drive a taxi and one could argue that proportionately his moment of madness will have a much greater cost than a rich footballer’s fine and jail sentence.
Bendtner, who is appealing, has maintained throughout that he was acting in selfdefence, that he assumed Roepstorff was in danger and, being injured, and therefore less mobile, he took the most effective measure. The judges did not seem to buy the scenario, created by Bendtner’s lawyer, of a man in a fight-or-flight moment trying to protect his younger girlfriend. They preferred the version of the wronged taxi driver pursuing his wealthy passenger for his fare and getting his jaw broken for his trouble.
Under Danish law, there are stiffer punishments for assaulting publicfacing workers such as police officers, teachers, bus drivers and taxi drivers.
For Bendtner, the story is more complicated, and the details certainly paint a more nuanced situation. It is the kind of horrible chain of events that might befall more than one person with an argument simmering and a few drinks inside them.
Bendtner, however, has consistently put himself in a position over his career where these things might happen. His record in recent years has been better, the most notable cock-up being appearing late for training at Wolfsburg and then posting pictures of himself with a Mercedes when the Volkswagen club’s contracts stipulate otherwise.
All minor misdemeanours that pale in comparison with GBH, and while the story is more complex than it might seem at first glance, there is probably a Danish proverb somewhere that says if you keep on making the small mistakes, the big one comes along eventually.
He has been cleared to carry on playing for the national team, albeit at a time when they realistically no longer need him, having made the second round of the summer’s World Cup finals while he was out injured.
Rosenborg have stood by him, too, and Danish prisons are nothing like those he might face in the United Kingdom or other parts of Europe. The progressive ethos is heavily on reform rather than punishment, with all inmates bar a few kept in relatively open environments – a grown-up strategy for a grown-up civil society. It might be just what Bendtner needs, although it will be too late for his football career.
His conviction will have consequences, probably ruling out an MLS swansong
Misguided: Nicklas Bendtner made bad choices at Arsenal, but none as bad as the one that landed him in court (below) on an assault charge