New developments have emerged that have the potential to completely upend European football as we know it. As of this morning, multiple outlets including the New York Times and ESPN are reporting that a group of English, Spanish, and Italian clubs have agreed in principle to the creation of a new “European Super League,” a league competition that would see the clubs involved break away from domestic leagues and the UEFA Champions League.
There are currently 12 clubs that have agreed to join the project: the Premier League’s “big six” of Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, and Liverpool, the three Spanish giants Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid, and Italy’s AC Milan, Internazionale, and Juventus. No clubs from France or Germany have agreed to join yet, with Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, and Borussia Dortmund abstaining thus far.
According to the Times’ reporting, the clubs involved have held discussions since at least the Summer of last year, in an effort to ensure financial stability in the wake of the COVID pandemic. The clubs are reportedly working with the American investment bank JPMorgan Chase to finance the project. Each member has been promised at least €350 million euros. While the large clubs may profit from the venture, it will surely do serious damage to the hundreds of smaller clubs as well as the football associations that make money off of the bigger clubs.
UEFA will not take this sitting down. Its parent organization FIFA has already threatened to bar any players in the European Super League from playing in the World Cup. Just today, UEFA released a statement strongly condemning the project (read it in full here). The language they used leaves no doubt:
If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we – UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations - will remain united in our 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.
They also stressed that the clubs involved would be banned from participating in any other domestic or international competitions.
If this were to happen, it would completely upend football as we know it. It would continue the already worrying trend of wealth stratification between Europe’s richest clubs and all the other diverse, historic clubs around Europe. It would stifle clubs like Leicester City that are on the rise. It would take the big matchups between huge clubs that feel like special occasions and make them weekly occurrences.
As of now, nothing is set in stone. Club members of the Spanish clubs will need to vote to join, and many of the other teams that have already joined in will likely face backlash from significant portions of their fans. If the German clubs and PSG refuse to join, the project may never get off the ground. But if it does go, it could irrevocably destroy much of what we love about the beautiful game.
According to recent reports by the German broadcasting network ZDF, both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were invited to join the European Super League, but both German giants declined.