Twelve leading European football clubs including co-operatively owned Real Madrid and Barcelona have announced plans to start a breakaway European Super League, with the competition due to begin in August.
AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur have also joined as founding members.
“It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable,” the clubs said in a statement.
They added: “Going forward, the founding clubs look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole.
“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. Further, 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 new league will have 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.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez will preside over the new league. He said: “We’re going to help football at all levels and position it in its rightful place in the world. Football is the only global sport in the world with over 4 billion followers and, as big clubs, our duty is to satisfy the fans’ demands.”
The clubs say they will preserve “the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game” and continue to compete in their respective national leagues.
However, the formation of the superleague has been criticised by FIFA, the world game’s governing body, as well as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A.
They said in a statement: “We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.
“As previously announced by FIFA and the six Confederations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.
“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”
Supporters Direct Europe, a European apex that represents grassroots and national supporters organisations, criticised the breakaway move, and backed the statement issued by UEFA and other affected governing bodies.
“Football in Europe is more than just a business whose sole aim is to maximise profits. The European Model of Sport – which is based on sporting merit, promotion and relegation, qualification for UEFA competitions through domestic success, and fair revenue distribution – is at stake and with it football as we know it. It must be protected and strengthened, not torn apart by the reckless ambitions of a few rapacious clubs.
“Football is about competition but also about co-operation. We do not achieve better competitive balance by concentrating ever more wealth in the hands of the richest clubs. We do so by redistributing income in such a way that as many clubs as possible have a chance of glory. By closing the gap between the rich and not so rich clubs. And by closing the gap between the ‘Big Five Leagues’ and the rest.”
It added: “We can save football by making it fairer, more democratic, more financially, ecologically and socially sustainable, and more reflective of the clubs that make it the spectacle we all know and love.”
Supporters Direct called on the football governing bodies to resist the plans to form the European Super League with all the means at their disposal.
“We will support you in this. But we also call upon you to enter into a meaningful discussion with all the football stakeholders, including supporters, and especially the smaller and medium-sized clubs, about how we can make the European and domestic football competitions more sustainable. We need reforms that guarantee more competitive balance through a fairer redistribution of income, not less,” it added.
The Football Supporters Association (FSA), which represents supporters in England and Wales, said it was “totally opposed” to the proposals to create a breakaway European Superleague.
“The motivation behind this so-called superleague is not furthering sporting merit or nurturing the world’s game – it is motivated by nothing but cynical greed,” it said.
“This competition is being created behind our backs by billionaire club owners who have zero regard for the game’s traditions and continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom.
“The FSA, and no doubt supporters across the continent, will continue to fight against its creation.”