There’s been a massive backlash against plans by some of the world’s biggest football clubs to start a new European Super League (ESL).
The clubs involved say the ESL will benefit football as a whole, but critics say it’s driven by greed.
Which teams want the Super League?
Twelve clubs have signed up – six of them from the English Premier League.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham, have joined AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid.The clubs want to carry on playing in their respective national leagues, but would also play each other in a new midweek competition.
The new league would rival the existing Champions League, one of the biggest club tournaments in football.The plan is for the ESL to have 20 teams. Of these, the 12 founding members – plus three yet to join – would be permanent and never face relegation.
Five other sides would qualify from across Europe each year.
Why is the plan so unpopular?
The move has been condemned by fans, pundits and by most football bodies not involved.
With 15 teams in the ESL not facing qualification or relegation, one of the main criticisms is that it would be unfair and uncompetitive.For instance, Arsenal, which has not qualified for the Champions League since the 2016-17 season, would be guaranteed a place, regardless of how they perform in the domestic league.
However, a future winner of the Premier League would not necessarily qualify for the ESL if it were not one of the permanent members.If this were the case, that team would miss out on the millions of pounds in revenue which the Champions League currently generates in ticket sales and TV rights.
Why do the teams want a Super League?
One of the main movers behind the ESL, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, claims that it will “save football” at a time when young people are “no longer interested” because of “a lot of poor quality games”.
The founding clubs have been promised a share of a €3.5bn (£3bn) grant provided by the investment bank JP Morgan.
Most of them are in considerable debt, made worse by the Covid pandemic, with disrupted fixtures and a lack of spectators.
Big clubs also have superstar players with multi-million pound salaries to be paid.
If they can guarantee they’re going to be taking part in a major European football competition every year, they will automatically become more valuable and stable businesses.However, critics say that removing the element of competition for places devalues the game itself.
How would the Super League work?
Under the proposals, the ESL would start in August each year, with plans to launch “as soon as practicable”.
The 20-team league would be split into two groups of 10, playing each other home and away.
The top three in each group would qualify for the quarter-finals, with the fourth and fifth-placed teams competing in a two-legged play-off for the two remaining spots.
From then on, it would have the same two-leg knockout format used in the Champions League, with a final in May at a neutral venue.
What have football’s ruling bodies said?
The president of Uefa (the Union of European Football Associations), says he wants the 12 clubs banned from European competition at the earliest possible opportunity, and their players prevented from appearing at major tournaments.
Aleksander Ceferin did not rule out this happening in Champions League or Europa League games this season.
Meanwhile the head of Fifa, football’s world governing body, said he “strongly disapproves” of the ESL’s plans, saying it was “a lot to throw away for maybe a short-term financial gain for some”.
Could the UK government stop English teams from taking part?
The government has made it clear that it opposes the Super League.
Writing in The Sun, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “horrified” at the plans, adding: “I’m going to do everything I can to give this ludicrous plan a straight red.””We will do whatever it takes to protect our national game” – Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden
It’s not yet clear what the government could do to prevent English clubs taking part although there have been suggestions that work visas could be restricted for footballers who play in the proposed ESL.
Other options being talked about include a windfall tax on clubs, and reforms to give fans much greater power on football club boards.
The prime minister is due to meet officials from football governing bodies the FA and the Premier League, as well as fans’ representatives, to discuss the proposals.
What happens next?
Much could depend on which other teams sign up.
Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris St Germain – the biggest clubs in Germany and France – are not supporting the breakaway league.
Meanwhile, the ESL is trying to block any sanctions Uefa or Fifa may try to enforce over the formation of the league