Boris Johnson vowed the government will do everything it can to make sure the new European Super League “doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed”, as one ‘Big Six’ board member says there is a “nuclear war” in football.
On Sunday, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham agreed to join a breakaway European Super League. They are to be joined by AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid.
The owners of the six Premier League clubs were said to be fully expecting a backlash from the football, governing bodies and politicians.
Johnson first voiced his displeasure on Sunday evening after it had become public knowledge an announcement was expected from the European Super League. He warned the proposals were “very damaging for football”.
DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport) secretary Oliver Dowden has raised his concerns, DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight believes Sunday constituted a “dark day for football”, while Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has claimed the League concept “risks shutting the door on fans for good”.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also said France would support “all the steps” taken by football’s governing bodies to defend the existing competitions.
Speaking on Monday, Johnson has indicated the government will collaborate with the FA, the Premier League, and other football governing bodies in order to block the proposals.
Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action.
They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. (1/2)
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 18, 2021
The Prime Minister said: “We are going to look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed.
“I don’t think that it’s good news for fans, I don’t think it’s good news for football in this country.
“These clubs are not just great global brands – of course, they’re great global brands – they’re also clubs that have originated historically from their towns, from their cities, from their local communities, they should have a link with those fans, and with the fan base in their community.
“So it is very, very important that that continues to be the case. I don’t like the look of these proposals, and we’ll be consulted about what we can do.”
European Super League – latest developments
- PM Boris Johnson says “we’ll do everything we can to make sure Super League does not go ahead”
- Man Utd, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan leave ECA
- Man Utd executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward leaves UEFA roles
- Juve chairman steps down as ECA chairman
- American investment bank JP Morgan confirms it will finance competition
- Supporters’ groups continue to speak out against plans
- ECA board member tells SSN the 12 clubs have “totally blindsided” the rest of European football
- La Liga condemns elitist breakaway which threatens rest of Spanish sport
- DCMS Committee to hold private session on matter on Tuesday
‘This is not civil war, it’s a nuclear war’
Sky Sports News‘ Kaveh Solhekol has spoken to an unnamed board member from one of the ‘Big Six’ Premier League sides which agreed to join the European Super League on Sunday, who revealed that splits have already emerged within club hierarchies over the proposals.
“To be honest, they are not that worried about PR,” one unnamed club board member told Sky Sports News. “Our primary job is to maximise our revenues and profits. The wider good of the game is a secondary concern.
The owners want less football, not more football. They would be secretly delighted about the prospect of their players being banned from the European Championships and the FIFA World Cup.
Several owners still cannot understand why we have relegation in English football – “they just can’t get their head around the concept,” the board member said.
“They don’t like giving their playing assets away to countries for very little financial reward,” he added.
If the clubs were allowed to stay in the Premier League, they would focus on midweek Super League games and there is a real possibility that they would field weakened teams for domestic games at the weekends.
Companies in the USA and Saudi Arabia have been sounded out about buying the broadcast rights to the new League.
When asked if there was a civil war in football now, he said: “This is not a civil war, it’s a nuclear war.”
Some of the other 14 Premier League clubs want the six breakaway clubs to be sanctioned immediately and they believe the sanctions should include suspension from the current Premier League season.
One club owner has said privately that he would be prepared to leave the Premier League if they had to and the owners of the six sides involved are totally committed to setting up the new ESL.
The breakaway is being driven by Manchester United co-owners Malcolm and Joel Glazer, and United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, with backing from American investment bank JP Morgan.
Several owners still cannot understand why we have relegation in English football – “they just can’t get their head around the concept,” the board member added.
Chelsea and Manchester City had major reservations about joining the Super League. In the end, they decided they could not afford to be left playing in weakened Premier League and Champions League competitions.
ESL seeks legal protection over UEFA, FIFA reactions
The European Super League has already taken steps to protect itself from any attempts from UEFA and FIFA to punish its member clubs and players.
In a letter to UEFA and FIFA, the Super League wrote: “We are concerned that FIFA and UEFA may respond to this invitation letter by seeking to take punitive measures to exclude any participating club or player from their respective competitions.
European Super League – Financial details
- Founding Clubs have signed a 23-year commitment to the new Super League
- Legal advice to clubs is that it would be a breach of EU and UK competition law to deny a new entrant into the market
- Clubs believe signing off at least €10BN in Solidarity Payments demonstrates their commitment to the wider game
- Solidarity figure is higher than current distribution from UEFA and will equate to approximately 8% of their proposed revenue
- Share of €3.5BN for each Founding Club cannot be spent on new signings and must only be used to support infrastructure plans and offset COVID-19 impact
“We hope that is not your response to this letter and that, like us, your organisations will recognise the immediate benefits of the competition established by SLCo.
“We also seek your co-operation and support on how the competition can be brought within the football ecosystem and work with us to achieve that objective.
“Your formal statement does, however, compel us to take protective steps to secure ourselves against such an adverse reaction, which would not only jeopardise the funding commitment under the grant but, significantly, would be unlawful.
“For this reason, SLCo has filed a motion before the relevant courts in order to ensure the seamless establishment and operation of the competition in accordance with applicable laws.”
ECA set for crunch talks on ESL announcement
An ECA board member has told Sky Sports News the 12 ESL breakaway clubs have “totally blindsided” the rest of European football with Sunday’s announcement
The source says the ECA Board met on Friday and agreed on a mandate with UEFA’s Executive Committee to work together on plans to revamp the Champions League from 2024
Juventus’ former ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli ratified the decision and chaired the meeting, at which Man Utd CEO Ed Woodward and Arsenal’s Venai Venkatesham were both present.
The ECA board are meeting on Monday afternoon and are expected to meet daily to establish how to respond to the crisis.
The board member has said the development is: “bizarre – the deceitfulness of the clubs involved is extraordinary, and reputations are no longer intact as a result of this”.
‘ESL does away with sporting merit’
Aston Villa’s Chief Executive Christian Purslow believes the Super League is “a grotesque concept” that “does away with sporting merit”.
In an interview with the BBC, Purslow said the ESL “goes against everything that the sport stands for”, and he expects Manchester United and Liverpool fans to revolt against it.
He said: “Right now in the Premier League, Leicester and West Ham are in 3rd and 4th place in the table and under any normal arrangements, they would have access to the Champions League.
“Under this new proposal, they would be leap-frogged by teams below them in the League.
“Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest have won the European Cup three times – Spurs and Arsenal and Manchester City have not won it at all.
“These proposals do away with sporting merit. It would enable a small number of clubs to be in this competition come what may, and for millions of people in football that goes against everything that the sport stands for.
“The idea is that the uncertainty that comes with sport that makes it so compelling and makes it the sport that we love is actually damaging to the business models of these huge clubs.
“And so this format is designed to take away that uncertainty, to give predictability to their businesses so that if they have a poor year, if they’re badly managed, they’re still in the Premier tournament. Does that sound like sport or football to you? It sounds to me like a grotesque concept.
“There is a pyramid, it’s based on merit. And the pinnacle of that pyramid is the elite European competition. Most importantly, the fans view that competition with great prestige, as the elite, a competition with history.
“Do you think the fans of those clubs would want to win a made-up new tournament that has no legacy? I don’t for one minute think the fans of Liverpool and Manchester United would.”