• Approves new Champions League format
• May ban players from World Cup, Euro Championships, others
• Clubs may head to court to assert rights
European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, held a crisis meeting yesterday, hours after 12 of the continent’s leading clubs shocked the football world by announcing the formation of a breakaway Super League, reports theglobeandmail.com.
The U.S. investment bank, JP Morgan, confirmed to Reuters that it is financing the new league, which includes clubs such as Real Madrid and Manchester United and is a rival to UEFA’s established Champions League competition.
JP Morgan is providing a 3.5 billion euro ($4.21-billion) grant to the founding clubs to spend on infrastructure and recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bitter battle for control of the game and its multi-billion dollar revenues entered a new phase with a letter sent by the 12 clubs to UEFA yesterday in which they said they would take legal steps in unnamed courts to protect their interests as they set up the league.
Twelve of Europe’s top football clubs announced the formation of a breakaway Super League on Sunday, launching what is certain to be a bitter battle for control of the game and its lucrative revenue.
The breakaway has been heavily criticised by soccer authorities, fan organisations and politicians across Europe, who say it entrenches the wealth and power of a small elite of clubs.
The breakaway clubs will be guaranteed annual places in the competition – in contrast to the current UEFA Champions League, which requires teams to qualify via their domestic leagues.
While having guaranteed spots in the league goes against long-standing tradition in European football, the clubs argue the Super League will create a more sustainable financial model.
“The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model,” the clubs said in their founding statement.
The last accounts of Barcelona, one of the 12 founding clubs, showed a gross debt of more than €1.4-billion with a net debt of 488 million. The club agreed a temporary player pay-cut last year and had to delay payments to players in December.
UEFA is ready to fight the breakaway, and said on Sunday that it will “consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening.”
UEFA also said 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.”
Bans or other sanctions could open the way for complicated legal battles.
The Super League letter, seen by Reuters, says that UEFA’s stance “compel(s) us to take protective steps to secure ourselves against such an adverse reaction, which would not only jeopardize the funding commitment under the (JP Morgan financial) Grant but, significantly, would be unlawful.
“For this reason, SLCo (Super League Company) has filed a motion before the relevant courts in order to ensure the seamless establishment and operation of the Competition in accordance with applicable laws.”
The Super League letter also urged FIFA and UEFA to agree to talks and said they wanted the breakaway league to exist alongside current European club competitions.
In the past, breakaway threats have led to compromises between UEFA and the big clubs in the Champions League, Europe’s elite club competition, over the format and revenue distribution.
But this is the first time the wealthiest clubs have gone beyond threats and taken the step of creating a new league that they own, and announcing concrete plans to set up a rival competition.
As well as Manchester United, owned by the American Glazer family, U.S-owned Premier League clubs Liverpool and Arsenal, Abu-Dhabi backed Manchester City, Russian-owned Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur, who sacked their manager Jose Mourinho yesterday, have signed up to the plans.
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid join Real Madrid from Spain. AC Milan and Inter Milan make up the trio from Italy, along with Juventus.
Qatari-owned Paris St Germain and European champions Bayern Munich, which is majority-owned by the fans, have not signed up to the plans, meaning that France and Germany are not represented in the Super League as things stand.
The Super League said they aimed to have 15 founding members and a 20-team league with five other clubs qualifying each season and would start playing as “soon as is practicable.”
The 15 clubs will also own the league through a private company. They did not refer to any arrangements for the broadcasting of Super League matches.
French President Emmanuel Macron and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson have condemned the plans, as have the major European domestic leagues and football federations.
“We are going to look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed,” Johnson said in a pooled interview.
“I don’t think that it’s good news for fans, I don’t think it’s good news for football in this country.”Soccer’s world governing body FIFA had warned in January that any breakaway league would not be recognized by them and that players who took part in it would be banned from featuring in the World Cup.
However, FIFA took a softer tone on Sunday with a statement noting only its “disapproval” of a “closed European breakaway league” and with no mention of sanctions.
UEFA’s ruling executive committee meeting in Switzerland yesterday was originally scheduled to rubber stamp its plans to reform and expand the Champions League.
Those plans were to expand from 32 to 36 teams and create more group stage games before the knockout rounds.
The European football’s governing body has been planning a revamped format for the Champions League, their premier club competition, for months now. However, after Sunday’s shocking European Super League announcement—a breakaway league founded by 12 charter members from various European leagues—the redesigned Champions League now suddenly seems more important than ever, reports chiesaditotti.com.
The new Champions League format, which will begin during the 2024-2025 season, will see 36 teams involved, up from the current 32 clubs, and will alter the structure of the competition itself. Per the official UEFA release: Taking the total number of teams from 32 to 36 in the UEFA Champions League, the biggest change will see a transformation from the traditional group stage to a single league stage including all participating teams. Every club will now be guaranteed a minimum of 10 league stage games against 10 different opponents (five home games, five away) rather than the previous six matches against three teams, played on a home and away basis.
The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the knockout stage, while the teams finishing in ninth to 24th place will compete in a two-legged play-off to secure their path to the last 16 of the competition.
Qualification for the UEFA Champions League will continue to be open and earned through a team’s performance in domestic competitions.
One of the additional places will go to the club ranked third in the championship of the association in fifth position in the UEFA national association ranking. Another will be awarded to a domestic champion by extending from four to five the number of clubs qualifying via the so-called “Champions Path”.
The final two places will go to the clubs with the highest club coefficient over the last five years that have not qualified for the Champions League group stage but have qualified either for the Champions League qualification phase, the Europa League or the Europa Conference League.
The changes will also trickle down to the Europa League where clubs will play eight “league-stage” matches and the new Europa Conference League (the lowest point of the UEFA club competition pyramid) where clubs will contest six “league-stage” fixtures.