Top European football clubs sign up to breakaway Super League

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Many of Europe’s wealthiest football clubs have agreed to join a breakaway “Super League” competition that would mark the biggest transformation of the game in decades.

Up to 12 clubs have signed up to a plan, backed by $6bn in debt financing from JPMorgan, to launch a new tournament that would supersede the Champions League, currently the continent’s top annual club competition.

According to people with knowledge of the discussions, those ready to join the breakaway contest include Spain’s Real Madrid and FC Barcelona; England’s Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea; and Italy’s Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. These clubs either declined or did not respond to a request for comment.

The new league, according to documents seen by the Financial Times, would involve 20 clubs with 15 being “permanent members”, meaning they could not be relegated and would not need to qualify through strong performances in national league competitions. 

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The founder members would be granted between €100m-€350m each and would continue to play in their national competitions, such as England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga. With expected revenues of €4bn for the competition through media and sponsorship sales, clubs would receive a fixed payment of €264m a year. JPMorgan declined to comment.

The clubs not yet signed up include France’s Paris Saint-Germain and Germany’s Bayern Munich, among the richest in Europe, according to people close to the discussions.

A declaration about the Super League is designed to head off an alternative plan for a radical transformation of the Champions League, which is run by Uefa, European football’s governing body. 

Uefa’s annual conference on Monday is set to approve a radical new format for its competition, which includes 100 more matches each season and more money-spinning ties between top teams.

That move comes after the European Club Association, a body that represents the interests of more than 200 leading teams and led by Andrea Agnelli, Juventus chair, gathered last week to discuss the proposed reforms to the continent’s club tournaments.

The ECA agreed to allow Uefa to proceed with the proposed format changes, but there was widespread discontent with the plan, as leading clubs wanted to be given greater assurances over a new joint venture that would control all media and sponsorship rights for European club competitions. 

Uefa’s attempts to contact Agnelli this weekend to find out whether Juventus had agreed to join the Super League have failed, according to people close to discussions. However, other key power brokers have been informed, such as La Liga’s chief Javier Tebas, who is among the football officials seeking to block the breakaway plan.

Uefa said that it was united with Europe’s top leagues, national governing bodies and Fifa in “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”.

It added that it would consider “all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening”.

The Times newspaper of London was first to report on Sunday that a number of clubs had agreed, in principle, to join the Super League.

Leading clubs, which have faced steep revenue shortfalls in the pandemic, are keen on the new competition, which they believe will guarantee income from European matches every season. It could also include aspects of cost control, such as potential salary caps and spending limits. 

The competition would resemble the structure of “closed” North American sports leagues, where franchise owners enjoy reliable profits and with the valuation of teams steadily rising over time. 

But the plan breaks with the pyramid structure of the European game, where even the smallest teams, through strong performances on the pitch, can win the biggest trophies.

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