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European Super League: What Is It, How Will It Work, And Which Teams Are Involved?

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European Super League: What Is It, How Will It Work, And Which Teams Are Involved?

Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City are among 12 European teams who have signed up in theory to a breakaway "Super League".

On Sunday night, a joint statement by 12 of Europe's biggest clubs confirmed their plans for a breakaway 'Super League' competition.

The deal would mark the greatest revolution in European football since the 1950s, and could kill the lucrative Champions League, which was on Monday due to announce plans to increase in size.

Image: PA
Image: PA
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The Premier League's 'big six,' along with three sides from Serie A and three from La Liga, were the founding clubs to have signed their name to the new competition, with three more clubs potentially joining.

Instead of replacing the domestic leagues, the new competition is set to be played in midweek and would therefore replace the Champions League, however, it won't be that simple.

In their statement on Sunday, European footballing governing body UEFA confirmed that teams would face bans from domestic competitions, whilst players involved in the Super League would miss international tournaments.

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"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."

And if that didn't serve as much of a deterrent, UEFA have also threatened to sue the clubs involved up to €60bn.

With battle lines now drawn for a sport in civil war, SPORTbible explores the key questions and themes...

What has happened?

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England's so-called "big six" signed up with six other European teams for a plot that would change the game as we know it.

Initially spearheaded by Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, the proposed new competition could generate £3.1bn for the first 15 members.

To put that into context, UEFA currently distributes about £3bn in prize money and television broadcasting deals with clubs participating in all its European competitions each year.

Secret talks have been taking place for years about generating a bigger prize pot for the biggest teams, but a plan has accelerated since last autumn.

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Which clubs are involved?

The Premier League's big-six clubs - Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham - are all involved.

AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as 'Founding Clubs'.

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It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which, according to the clubs, "is intended to commence as soon as practicable".

Why has this come about now?

The proposals appear to be an 11th-hour bid to derail sweeping Champions League reforms due to be rubber-stamped from 2024.

That deal had already been branded by fans as an "indefensible" power grab due to increased matches and revenue for the top clubs but Ed Woodward, executive vice-chairman at United, and Ivan Gazidis, chief executive of Italy's AC Milan, were known to have objections over commercial arrangements.

UEFA had been confident that the current changes to the format of the Champions League from 2024 were enough to see off a breakaway, having drawn up plans to guarantee more fixtures and - most controversially - more certainty that the biggest clubs would be involved in the lucrative competition in the first place.

But, while clubs on Friday gave the governing body the green light to approve the plan on Monday, concerns remained among the giants around media and sponsorship rights.

Under the last offer from UEFA, 51 percent ownership would remain with the governing body, with the rest controlled by the European Club Association.

What has the reaction been?

Almost universal condemnation from everyone but the clubs involved.

Gary Neville, the former Manchester United and England defender, was among those outraged by plans which could cause untold financial damage to smaller clubs - but create billions more for the top clubs.

"I'm a Manchester United fan and I have been for 40 years of my life but I'm absolutely disgusted," he told Sky Sports.

"I'm disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool most. Liverpool, they pretend 'You'll Never Walk Alone', the people's club, the fans' club.

"Manchester United, 100 years borne out of workers round here, and they're breaking away into a league without competition, that they can't be relegated from? It's an absolute disgrace."

What would the format be?

The Super League website reads: "The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and five annual qualifiers.

There will be two groups of 10 clubs each, playing home and away fixtures within the group each year.

"Following the group stage, eight clubs will qualify for a knockout tournament, playing home and away until the single-match Super League championship, in a dramatic four-week end to the season.

"Games will be played midweek, and all clubs will remain in their domestic leagues."

In their statement, the clubs themselves have outlined the format in three stages:

  • 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.
  • Midweek fixtures with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game.
  • An August start with clubs participating in two groups of ten, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.

When will it start?

According to the Super League statement released on Sunday night, the new competition "is intended to commence as soon as practicable."

They are proposing a general August start for when the new Super League season does get underway but there are of course lots of hurdles to overcome, most notably from the likes of Uefa and Fifa, before anything is being close to being rubberstamped.

How would the league be financed?

About $5billion has been committed to this new project by the American bank JP Morgan.

In their own announcement, the breakaways clubs state 'The Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.'

How realistic is it to happen?

This does feel significant, both for the future of English and European football.

We have been here before - namely Project Big Picture - but what feels different this time is the level of planning and what may or may not have been signed.

The furious reaction from the Premier League, UEFA and other European leagues signify just how much this threatens the integrity of domestic and European leagues.

Clubs would need the approval of the associations, who govern the domestic competitions, to join an unsanctioned breakaway league.

"I cannot envisage any scenario where such permission would be granted," said Premier League chief executive Richard Masters in a memo to all 20 Premier League clubs.

What would the ramifications be?

Well, in short, potentially huge.

Under Premier League rule L.9, which all 20 clubs sign up to, clubs must obtain 'prior written approval of the Board' if they wish to enter to anything other than the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, FA Community Shield, Carabao Cup or any other competition sanctioned by the county association.

Any player whose club agrees to join an unsanctioned competition risks not playing in any UEFA or FIFA competition, including the European Championships and World Cup.

In January, FIFA had said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that "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."

Topics: European Super League, UEFA, Premier League, Champions League

Robert Mann
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