MANCHESTER — European soccer’s governing body UEFA lead 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 semi-finalists.
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 football 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Three of the 12 clubs in the new league – Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea – could be withdrawn from this season’s Champions League semi-finals, UEFA executive committee member Jesper Moller told Danish broadcaster DR.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.
UEFA chief Ceferin said the Super League went against the core of the European football 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.
“We’re still assessing with our legal team but we will take all the sanctions that we can.”
FIFA had 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.
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% 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.”
While guaranteed spots in the Super League go against long-standing tradition in European football, the founding clubs argue it will create a more sustainable financial model.
“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,” the clubs said.
In the past, breakaway threats have led to compromises between UEFA and the big clubs in the Champions League, over the format and revenue distribution.
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.
Qatari-owned Paris St-Germain and European champions Bayern Munich, which is majority-owned by its fans, have not signed up, meaning France and Germany are not represented.
The Super League said they aimed to have 15 founding members and a 20-team league with five other clubs qualifying each season and would start playing as “soon as is practicable.”
Fans of clubs involved have united in condemnation as have major European domestic leagues and football federations. French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have also voiced concerns.
British broadcaster BT Sport, which pays hundreds of millions of pounds a year to show the Champions League, said the game needed to be protected.
“BT believes the formation of a European Super League could have a damaging effect to the long term health of football in this country,” it said.
Following are the Super League’s statement and some reactions to the news:
THE SUPER LEAGUE
“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.”
PRINCE WILLIAM, ENGLISH FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT
“Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community – from the top level to the grassroots – and the values of competition and fairness at its core.
“I share the concerns of fans about the proposed Super League and the damage it risks causing to the game we love.”
BAYERN MUNICH CEO KARL-HEINZ RUMMENIGGE
“I do not believe the Super League will solve the financial problems of European clubs that have arisen as result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Rather, all clubs in Europe should work in solidarity to ensure that the cost structure, especially players’ salaries and agents’ fees, are brought in line with revenues, to make all of European football more rational.”
PORTO PRESIDENT JORGE NUNO PINTO DA COSTA
“There were informal contacts from some clubs, but we didn’t pay much attention … The European Union does not allow a closed circuit of events like in the NBA, for example.
“As the Portuguese Football Federation is against this, and as part of UEFA, we cannot participate in anything that is against the principles and rules of the European Union and UEFA.”
ENGLISH FOOTBALL LEAGUE
“A strong pyramid based on promotion, relegation and ultimately European qualification, is fundamental to our game’s continued success.
“The EFL opposes any reform that doesn’t support competition integrity or offer clubs the prospect of one day competing at the highest end of the game.”
UEFA PRESIDENT ALEKSANDER CEFERIN
“UEFA and the football world stand united against disgraceful and self-serving proposal we have seen in the last 24 hours for a select few clubs in Europe motivated by greed. We are all united against this nonsense of a project.”
GLOBAL FOOTBALLERS’ UNION FIFPRO
“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.
“We will vigorously oppose measures by either side that would impede the rights of players, such as exclusion from their national teams.”
ENGLISH LEAGUE MANAGERS’ ASSOCIATION
“Closing off the top of the pyramid of European club football would immediately extinguish many of the ambitions and dreams that drive managers, coaches, players and fans.”
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PRESIDENT DAVID SASSOLI
“We need to defend the European model of sport. I stand against football becoming the preserve of a wealthy few, sport must be for everyone.”
WORLD SOCCER’S GOVERNING BODY FIFA
“FIFA always stands for unity in world football and calls on all parties involved in heated discussions to engage in calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game and in the spirit of solidarity and fair play.
“We will, of course, do whatever is necessary to contribute to a harmonised way forward in the overall interests of football.”
EUROPEAN SOCCER’S GOVERNING BODY UEFA IN A JOINT STATEMENT WITH SPANISH, ENGLISH AND ITALIAN LEAGUES AND FEDERATIONS
“UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, La Liga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.
“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening.”
ENGLAND’S FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
“It is clear that this would be damaging to English and European football at all levels and will attack the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are fundamental to competitive sport.”
ENGLAND’S PREMIER LEAGUE
“Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best. We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.”
UK PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON
“Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football. They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. The clubs involved must answer to their fans.”
JULIAN KNIGHT, CHAIRMAN OF THE DIGITAL, CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT COMMITTEE OF BRITAIN’S HOUSE OF COMMONS
“Football needs a reset, but this is not the way to do it. The interests of community clubs must be put at the heart of any future plans.”
LABOUR PARTY’S ANDY BURNHAM, THE MAYOR OF GREATER MANCHESTER
“That phrase ‘the game’s gone’ always used to annoy me. But with VAR and now this, nothing else better sums up where we are. It’s the phrase of the day. #TheGamesGone.”
GABRIELE GRAVINA, PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN FOOTBALL FEDERATION (FIGC)
“We have been always against a Super League. The only viable project is the Champions League reform promoted by UEFA.”
GERMAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION (DFB)
“The German Football Association (DFB) is against the concept of a European Super League. It is the performance that determines promotion and relegation. Economic interests of a few clubs should not end the practiced solidarity in football.”
SPAIN’S LA LIGA
“The newly proposed top European competition is nothing more than a selfish, egotistical proposal designed to further enrich the already super rich.
“It will undermine the appeal of the whole game and have a deeply damaging impact on the immediate and future of LaLiga, its member clubs, and all the entire footballing ecosystem.”
FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON
“The president of the Republic welcomes the position of French clubs to refuse to participate to a European football Super League project that threatens the principle of solidarity and sporting merit.”
EU COMMISSION VICE-PRESIDENT MARGARITIS SCHINAS
“We must defend a values-driven European model of sport based on diversity and inclusion.
“There is no scope for reserving it for the few rich and powerful clubs who want to sever links with everything associations stand for – national leagues, promotion and relegation and support to grassroots amateur football.”
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SPORTS GROUP
“The proposed closed competition of super rich clubs would form a privileged caste outside the structures of European club football, with no other purpose than making profit.”
BORUSSIA DORTMUND CEO HANS JOACHIM WATZKE
“The board members of the European Club Association (ECA) came together for a virtual meeting on Sunday evening, where it was agreed that the board’s decision from last Friday still stands.
“This decision dictates that all clubs wish to implement the proposed reforms to the UEFA Champions League. The ECA board members took a clear stance in rejecting plans for the establishment of a Super League.”
ASTON VILLA CHIEF EXECUTIVE CHRISTIAN PURSLOW
“Does that sound like sport or football to you? To me it sounds a grotesque concept.”
PRESTON NORTH END, ENGLISH CHAMPIONSHIP (SECOND-TIER) CLUB
“We are looking to Government, FIFA, UEFA, The FA, The Premier League and the EFL to ensure that this proposal is stopped in its tracks and the future of the English game as a whole is secured.”
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR SUPPORTERS’ TRUST
“Along with fan groups at Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea, we wholeheartedly oppose the move to create a closed shop for Europe’s elite.”
THE ARSENAL SUPPORTERS’ TRUST
“The death of Arsenal as a sporting institution.”
LIVERPOOL SUPPORTERS GROUP SPION KOP 1906
“We, along with other groups involved in flags, will be removing our flags from The Kop. We feel we can no longer give our support to a club which puts financial greed above integrity of the game.”
FORMER MANCHESTER UNITED CAPTAIN GARY NEVILLE
“I’m disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool the most. They’re breaking away to a competition they can’t be relegated from? It’s an absolute disgrace.
“The owners of Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City have nothing to do with football in this country.”
FORMER MANCHESTER UNITED MANAGER ALEX FERGUSON
“Talk of a Super League is a move away from 70 years of European club football. In my time at United, we played in four Champions League finals and they were always the most special of nights.”
PARIS ST GERMAIN MIDFIELDER ANDER HERRERA
“I love football and I cannot remain silent about this. I believe in an improved Champions League, but not in the rich stealing what the people created, which is nothing other than the most beautiful sport on the planet.”
FENERBAHCE AND FORMER ARSENAL AND REAL MADRID MIDFIELDER MESUT OZIL
“Kids grow up dreaming to win the World Cup and the Champions League – not any Super League.
“The enjoyment of big games is that they only happen once or twice a year, not every week. Really hard to understand for all football fans out there.”
FORMER ARSENAL STRIKER LUKAS PODOLSKI
“This project is disgusting, not fair and I’m disappointed to see clubs I represented involved. Fight against this!”
TENNIS WORLD NUMBER ONE NOVAK DJOKOVIC
“I’m totally against the concept and when it comes to tennis I advocate exactly the opposite.
“But when you look at the trajectory of football in the last 20 or 30 years, it is hardly surprising. The wealthiest clubs have been able to buy the players they wanted and that has narrowed down the competition.”
($1 = 0.7219 pounds)
(Compiled by Hardik Vyas, Simon Evans, Peter Hall, Shrivathsa Sridhar and Rohith Nair; Editing by Pritha Sarkar/Peter Rutherford/Ken Ferris)