Twelve top European football clubs have agreed to found a Super League as soon as possible, the clubs announced in a joint statement.
The founding clubs of the mid-week league were listed as Premier League clubs Manchester United and Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Chelsea; Italy’s Juventus and Milan clubs AC and Inter, and the Spanish trio of Barcelona, [and] Real, and Atlético Madrid.
“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 12 clubs said in a joint statement.
Reported to be financially very lucrative, the project does not have the support of football’s governing bodies.
Ahead of the announcement, UEFA and football leagues and federations from England, Italy, and Spain spoke of “a 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.”
In a later statement, FIFA said it could “only express its disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures and not respecting the ... principles [of solidarity, inclusivity, integrity, and equitable financial redistribution].”
Fifteen of the 20 participating clubs are to be permanent members, and the remaining five will “qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season”, the Super League statement said.
According to The New York Times, the new league would generate “hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue” for the participating teams, already the richest clubs in football.
“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” said Real Madrid President Florentino Perez, named as the first chairman of the Super League.
“Our 12 Founder clubs represent billions of fans across the globe and 99 European trophies,” Juventus Chairman Andrea Agnelli, named vice-chairman of the league, said.
“We have come together at this critical moment, enabling European competition to be transformed, putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future, substantially increasing solidarity, and giving fans and amateur players a regular flow of headline fixtures that will feed their passion for the game while providing them with engaging role models.”
According to Italian news agency ANSA, Agnelli resigned as European Club Association (ECA) chairman and was stepping down from the UEFA executive committee.
Champions League title holders Bayern Munich and runners-up Paris Saint-Germain are said not to be among the clubs that have signed up or expressed interest.
In a statement released before the announcement, the UEFA and football leagues and federations from England, Italy, and Spain criticised the project.
“As previously announced by FIFA and the six Federations, 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.”
Before the announcement the Premier League said it “condemns any proposal that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid”.
The FA also condemned the plans, and German Football League chief Christian Seifert said his body “rejects any kind of European Super League concept” that would “irreparably damage the national leagues as the basis of European professional football”.
The latest development comes on the eve of a UEFA executive committee meeting, which apart from finalising the host cities for the summer’s Euro tournament is also to approve a Champions League reform from 2024 onwards.
The powerful ECA and UEFA’s club competitions committee were reportedly in agreement Friday about the reform under which the elite event is to be increased from 32 to 36 teams and each team plays ten instead of six group games in what is known as “the Swiss model”.
Two of the additional four clubs are to controversially come via historic results not through qualification via domestic action.
The large number of additional matches is a threat to domestic competitions, and fan groups have also voiced their dissent, with an even bigger outcry expected if a Super League becomes reality.
The reports said that European officials were discussing counter measures, which could include banning Super League clubs from next season’s Champions League.
“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,” the UEFA statement said.
“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.”
(Reporting by Jan Mies, Stefan Tabeling, and John Bagratuni in Berlin. Editing by: Chiara Palazzo, email@example.com.)