The news that twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have announced they have agreed to establish a new midweek competition, the European Super League, has been met with anger by football fans across the country.
The proposal involves the clubs forming their own competition to rival the UEFA Champions League and involves the Premier League’s big-six clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – are all involved.
It is anticipated a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which, according to the clubs, “is intended to commence as soon as practicable.”
The clubs say that: “the formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model.
“For a number of years, the Founding Clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.
“The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid.
“In recent months extensive dialogue has taken place with football stakeholders regarding the future format of European competitions.
“The founding clubs believe the solutions proposed following these talks do not solve fundamental issues, including the need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid.”
Sunday’s developments came just 24 hours before UEFA were due to discuss proposed Champions League reforms which were seen as an attempt to reach a compromise with the clubs in favour of a breakaway competition.
The European governing body is expected to approve an increase from 32 to 36 teams from 2024 with the existing structure of eight groups of four replaced by one league. The format, known as the ‘Swiss model’, would see all teams play 10 games in the first stage with opponents determined by a seeding system.
However, The statement from the 12 clubs makes clear they do not believe these proposed changes go far enough.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the news has been met with anger by supporters of clubs across the board, including those teams involved in the proposed Super League and those who are set to miss out.
About 700 supporters gathered outside Leeds United’s Elland Road ground ahead of the club’s Premier League game against Liverpool on Monday night with Leeds players sporting t-shirts expressing their opposition to the idea during their pre-match warmup while protests are planned ahead of Chelsea’s game with Brighton on Tuesday.
“Supporting a team in Aston Villa, who have seen European glory before of my lifetime, this season has proved to be one of the most exciting seasons of my lifetime – with Europa League football balancing on a knife’s edge for large periods of this season, adding genuine weight to every single game,” says Dan Morgan from Heart of the Holte.
“This is only magnified by the struggles of the last 10 years within Villa, from spending three seasons in the Championship, to staying up on the last day of the season last year – to go on and potentially reach European football this season is nothing short of miraculous.
“The issue is the God-given right that the ‘big six’ have of reaching European football each season – it doesn’t matter as much to them.
“The money simply is no longer enough. Thursday night trips to Red Star Belgrade aren’t attractive to these clubs, but to see Villa potentially mixing it with teams like this, after a lifetime of mediocrity – it means more than anyone could ever begin to imagine.
“The greed of the “big six” has been known for a long time, however, if this goes through – then they’ve pushed the self-destruct button on domestic football as we know it.”
John Pearman from Liverpool Fanzine Red ALL Over the Land said: “It’s a further case of greed, but the TV companies and the Premier League have promoted greed for years, so can’t take the moral high ground.
“If it goes ahead you can bet the likes of Sky will be bidding for the rights and Gary Neville would be there as well. However, that doesn’t make it right.”
Fellow Liverpool fan, Mick Deane from Hat Scarf or a Badge, who has been watching the Reds for over 40 years, said: “It’s a terrible idea. Our owners need to pull out of it as soon as possible, the manager and the captain both said they don’t like the idea so put an end to it now.”
Meanwhile, Gavin from Arsenal blog She Wore a Yellow Ribbon claimed: “Ultimately we are now at a stage where the match going fans have been abused by clubs, the television companies and all the football authorities for several decades.
“But for many, the thought of closed competitions run by absent overseas owners will be the final straw. Football without fans in nothing.”
News of the breakaway competition has already provoked a fierce backlash from UEFA and various national leagues and associations with world governing body FIFA also issuing a strong condemnation after the announcement was made and called for further discussions.
The statement read: “In our view, and in accordance with our statutes, any football competition, whether national, regional or global, should always reflect the core principles of solidarity, inclusivity, integrity and equitable financial distribution.
“Moreover, the governing bodies of football should employ all lawful, sporting and diplomatic means to ensure this remains the case.
“Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles.”
A number of Premier League managers have also spoken of their concerns about the proposed breakaway with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola stating: “Sport is not a sport when the relationship between effort and success does not exist.
“It is not a sport if you can’t lose. It’s not fair if a team fights to get to the top and success is only guaranteed for some clubs.”
His comments came a day after Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, expressed his own concerns on Monday evening.
“My feelings didn’t change. My opinion didn’t change,” he said ahead of the Premier League game with Leeds. “I heard for the first time about it yesterday. I was trying to prepare for a difficult game.
“We got some information, not a lot. Most of the things in the newspapers. It’s a tough one. People are not happy with it, I can understand it.
What you need to know about the Super League
Who are the 12 ‘founding members?
Milan, Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham.
Will the 12 clubs leave their domestic leagues?
At the moment they are hoping to remain playing in those competitions but the leagues have all issued strong-worded statements condemning the clubs and the new breakaway league.
When is it due to start?
The clubs said in their statement that they were looking to start the competition in August.
How would it work?
There would be 20 participating clubs, with 15 founding clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season.
What’s the format?
There would be two groups of 10, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth would then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions.
A two-leg knockout format would be used to reach the final at the end of May, which would be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.
“Football is for the community as much as it is for everybody else…”
Sir Kenny Dalglish, FansBet Ambassador
Leave a comment
Follow Matthewjcrist on Twitter