A group of the world’s biggest football clubs has agreed in principle on a plan to create a breakaway European club competition.
If the plan succeeds, many say it would destroy the structures and economics that have underpinned global football for nearly a century.
After months of secret talks, the breakaway teams — which include Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain; Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea in England; and Juventus and A.C. Milan in Italy — are expected to make an announcement on Sunday night, according to multiple reports.
At least 12 teams have either signed up as founding members or expressed interest in joining the breakaway group, including six from England’s Premier League, three from Spain’s top division and three from Italy’s, reports say.
UEFA officials moved quickly to try to block the plan. The Premier League condemned the concept in a statement and sent a letter to its 20 member clubs warning them not to take part, and it and the leagues in Spain and Italy held emergency board meetings on Sunday.
Officials at European football’s governing body, UEFA, labelled the proposal for a closed super league a “cynical project” in a strongly worded statement that was co-signed by the Premier League, La Liga in Spain and Italy’s Serie A, as well as the football associations of each country.
“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening,” the UEFA statement said. “Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.”
The teams committed to the super league plan are, for the moment, limited to a dozen clubs from Spain, Italy and England. A cohort of six teams from the Premier League — United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham — represents the biggest grouping from a single country. Atlético Madrid is the other team from Spain that is said to have endorsed the project, while the Milan rivals Internazionale and A.C. Milan would join Juventus as Italy’s representatives.
But the leaders of the breakaway group have been trying to get other top teams, like Germany’s Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund and the French champion Paris St.-Germain, to commit.
But to date those clubs — and others — have declined to walk away from the domestic structures and Continental competitions that have underpinned European football for generations.
“This venture cannot be launched without English clubs and we call upon any club contemplating associating themselves or joining this venture to walk away immediately before irreparable damage is done,” the Premier League said in a letter to the teams.
The timing of Sunday’s news appeared designed to overshadow UEFA’s plan to ratify a newly designed Champions League on Monday. That competition would be decimated by the departure of its biggest teams.
It has been agreed the new-look Champions League will involve an initial phase where every club plays 10 matches each rather than the current group phase.
In addition there would be play-offs, followed by a knockout phase.
The most controversial aspect of the proposals surround the allocation of the four additional places, with two being reserved for the clubs ranked highest in UEFA’s co-efficient table who fail to qualify for the Champions League through their domestic competition, but do secure some kind of European football.
UEFA found a powerful ally in opposition to the plans in FIFA, football’s global governing body. FIFA warned that any player who took part in such an unsanctioned league would be banned from appearing in the World Cup. The statement came after UEFAs president, Aleksander Ceferin, demanded support from his FIFA counterpart, Gianni Infantino, amid mounting speculation that the breakaway would have FIFA’s backing.