The creation of a European Super League would ‘destroy domestic football’, be the death of lower league clubs and is opposed by football fans across Europe, say supporters and MPs.
While the recurrent powerplays among Europe’s top clubs may seem remote, the latest plan could change football in this country forever – and for the worse – according to the Football Supporters’ Association.
And FIFA, along with football’s regional governing bodies, took the extraordinary step of threatening to ban players from World Cup and international competitions, if they participated in any super league.
The proposed European Super League would include creating a competition of 20 clubs, with 15 founder members having guaranteed participation.
These privileged teams would be awarded up to £310m to join the competition and as much as £213m from competing in the partially closed league.
The whole £4.6 billion competition would be bank rolled by private finance and driven by the prospect of huge TV revenues and sponsorship, which would be distributed among participating teams with the founder members receiving the lion’s share.
FIFA and UEFA have threatened clubs and players who participate in any European Super League with a ban from their competitions, but lawyers are sceptical about that claim
Football Supporters’ Association’s Kevin Miles fears super league may destroy domestic game
‘It destroys domestic football,’ said Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Association.
‘The proposals are the latest incarnation of the greed of European clubs and their complete disregard in their pursuit of money over all principles and traditions of football.
‘They want to siphon off more and more resources to a handful of elite clubs with a guarantee of participation. It’s a bad idea.
‘It would ultimately be the death of many of the already struggling clubs in the English football pyramid.’
The FSA fears a super league would increase the revenue for the Big Six in English football, while cutting the income for other top-tier teams, since broadcasters would be unlikely to pay as much for the Premier League.
Impact of the European Super League could be felt down to the National League and beyond
The even greater disparity between the top clubs and the rest would undermine domestic competition in the top tiers of English football, says the FSA.
Furthermore, the Premier League currently makes significant contributions to clubs in the lower leagues and grassroots football and the FSA anticipates these would be reduced with no indication of similar payments from a European league to domestic football.
The FSA is concerned that threatening the financial lifeline from the top to the bottom of the game will see some clubs fold.
The FSA’s views are shared by fans across Europe. At the European Football Fans’ Congress in Lisbon last year, supporters’ groups from all over the continent agreed the principles on which they would like football to be based.
Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has reservations about a European Super League
They included, competitive leagues, promotion and relegation and no closed leagues or franchise football.
And on Thursday, Bayern Munich chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted that he has serious reservations about the project of creating a European Super League
‘If the system changed, it could make it more difficult for many people to identify with football,’ Rummenigge said in an interview with TZ and Merkur.
‘It could cause serious damage to the national leagues, that is why I have my reservations. If I had to decide today for Bayern, I would decline.’
The current plan is more threatening than anything that has been proposed before in the eyes of football’s governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA
Liverpool as one the Big Six clubs in English football would be included in super league plans
Super League Plans
Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan are the driving forces behind the plans for a European Super League, to replace UEFA’s Champions League, according to The Times.
An 18-page proposal includes details of the proposed league, which includes plans for the format, membership, prize money and even financial fair play rules.
The current proposal is for the league to have 15 permanent founder members, who would receive greater financial reward and five annual qualifiers.
The league would be divided into two groups of 10. The top four in each group would compete in quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final, which would be held at a weekend.
Participating teams would play between 18 and 23 matches a season, as well as competing in their domestic leagues.
It is believed the plan would be for six clubs to be included as founder members from England — this could be the Big Six of Liverpool, the two Manchester City and United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur — plus three from Spain, three from Italy, from Germany and one from France.
The venture is believed to have the support of investment bank JP Morgan Chase
The document highlights the benefits of the super league, including huge revenues for participating clubs as well as the ability to offset losses associated with Covid.
The privileged teams with ‘founder member’ status would be awarded up to £310m to join the competition and as much as £213m from competing in the partially closed league.
FIFA and the six regional governing bodies, including UEFA, issued a joint statement threatening to ban any player or club who joins the breakaway group from their own competitions including the World Cup and other international tournaments.
‘Any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation,’ said the statement, which was signed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and his counterparts at the six governing bodies.
UEFA’s position was quickly backed by the European Commission, whose vice-president Margaritis Schinas said: ‘There is no scope for the few to distort the universal and diverse nature of European football. The European way of life is not compatible with European football being reserved for the rich and the powerful.’
However, FIFA, UEFA and the vice-president’s comments do not create a bulwark against the creation of a super league, according to sports competition lawyer, Mark Orth, of MEOlaw based in Munich, since such a ban may well be in breach of European and national competition law.
The European Commission has previously ruled that the International Skating Union cannot prevent speed skaters from participating in new money-spinning events. That decision was supported in a judgement in Europe’s second highest court, the General Court in Luxembourg, last month.
‘That is a crucial case,’ said Orth. ‘No one cares because it is skating but the interesting thing is that the European Commission has not been keen in the past to take on sports cases and that is the first precedent where the Commission and the court gave a clear decision.
‘It is directly relevant. ‘[The case] talked about one event but the Commission did not differentiate between one event and the whole league.’
Orth does not believe UEFA or FIFA position would stand up to scrutiny and furthermore, the European Commission’s competition office, under the leadership of Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is now prepared to act, where it was not before, he says.
Orth says that preventing athletes from competing would be, in his view, an abuse of FIFA and UEFA’s ‘dominant position’ in European competition law.
Meanwhile, fans of many English clubs watch on with concern.
‘It smacks of complete and utter greed,’ said MP Ian Mearns, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters.
Real Madrid are one of the clubs pushing hard for a European Super League
Bayern Munich chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted he has reservations about the project
‘If this is allowed to go ahead, it could smash the fabric of grassroots football across the board. Any idea of money trickling down through the leagues is evaporated.’
Mearns said he feared the future of lower league clubs would be threatened, but in addition, the proposals raised the prospect of the biggest clubs using feeder teams in domestic leagues, undermining competition even further.
He added: ‘I am sure none of these things have been considered by the Big Six because they only see their own self-interest through their money goggles.’
Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez is spearheading a campaign to create the £4.6bn tournament
That is not how Real Madrid’s President Florentino Perez sees it.
He urged football to embrace change amid the coronavirus pandemic earlier this month in his most recent pitch for the Super League to be created.
‘Nothing will be like it was before. The pandemic obliges us to make football more competitive. We must innovate and look for formulas to ensure football remains attractive,’ Perez said at Real’s annual general assembly.
‘Real Madrid played a part in the foundation of FIFA and the European Cup and the current model needs a reboot, as the impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated. Football needs new momentum and Real Madrid will be right there at the heart of it.’
Any European Super League would be in direct competition with the UEFA Champions League.
UEFA is considering its own plans to expand the continental competitionfrom 32 or 36 clubs in 2024. Meanwhile, FIFA is planning it’s own competition – a 24-team Club World Cup.
FIFA statement in full
In light of recent media speculation about the creation of a closed European ‘Super League’ by some European clubs, FIFA and the six confederations (AFC, CAF, Concacaf, CONMEBOL, OFC and UEFA) once again would like to reiterate and strongly emphasise that such a competition would not be recognised by either FIFA or the respective confederation.
Any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation.
As per the FIFA and confederations statutes, all competitions should be organised or recognised by the relevant body at their respective level, by FIFA at the global level and by the confederations at the continental level.
In this respect, the confederations recognise the FIFA Club World Cup, in its current and new format, as the only worldwide club competition while FIFA recognises the club competitions organised by the confederations as the only club continental competitions.
The universal principles of sporting merit, solidarity, promotion and relegation, and subsidiarity are the foundation of the football pyramid that ensures football’s global success and are, as such, enshrined in the FIFA and confederation statutes.
Football has a long and successful history thanks to these principles. Participation in global and continental competitions should always be won on the pitch.