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  • Shauna Rush

European Premier League

Plans for a lucrative breakaway European Premier League involving top English clubs that would supersede the Champions League have been revived, with the banking giant JP Morgan being asked to seek financing for a new competition.

Liverpool and Manchester United have been approached to join the league, which would comprise 18 teams – including three more English sides and teams from Spain, Italy, Germany and France – and have no promotion and relegation, according to proposals reported first by the Spanish outlet Vozpopuli and by Sky News.

Real Madrid, advised by the investment company Key Capital, are said to be behind a plan for a European Super League, first reported by Der Spiegel in 2018.

Fifa was dismissive and Uefa said it strongly opposed a format that would “inevitably become boring”. In private, officials believe the plans are an attempt to put pressure on Uefa in advance of the regular negotiations over a revamp. But the revelations, a week after it emerged Liverpool and Manchester United were behind a blueprint to change the English game, Project Big Picture, offer a further threat of restructuring to accommodate the financial wishes of the clubs at the very top of the game. The bank is seeking financing of £4.6bn, Sky reported.

Kevin Miles, the chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Association, said: “The latest reports of plots, allegedly involving Manchester United and Liverpool, to create a European Super League, expose the myth that billionaire owners care about the English football pyramid, or indeed anything other than their own greed. This has to be the last nail in the coffin of the idea that football can be relied upon to regulate itself: these billionaire owners are out of control.

“Decisive action is now needed to protect the game we love. We have already been promised by government a fan-led review of the governance and regulation of football: that process needs to start as a matter of urgency before the super-rich custodians of the biggest clubs can do any more damage.”

Uefa and the European Club Association are discussing a reshaping of the Champions League when the agreed global and European calendar is concluded in 2024, with the expectation this will result in an expanded format providing more lucrative matches and a bigger TV deal, mostly for the top clubs. A draft plan last year, which was reported and opposed by European leagues, was for a top division of 32 clubs, in a structure that envisaged 64 clubs in an expanded Europa League, and promotion and relegation between the two.

A Uefa statement said: “The Uefa president has made it clear on many occasions that Uefa strongly opposes a Super League. The principles of solidarity, of promotion, relegation and open leagues are non-negotiable. It is what makes European football work and the Champions League the best sports competition in the world. Uefa and the clubs are committed to build on such strength not to destroy it to create a Super League of 10, 12, even 24 clubs, which would inevitably become boring.”

At the same time, Fifa and its president, Gianni Infantino, are working on a revamped Club World Cup, currently played every season between the champions of Fifa’s six continental confederations and the host country’s champions, to a tournament expanded to 24 and involving the world’s biggest clubs. The first enlarged tournament is scheduled to be played in China in June and July next year, then played every four years. Infantino said in December, before the Covid-19 crisis hit and disrupted so much of football’s scheduling, that Fifa had nine offers to take on and sell the new tournament’s commercial rights.

That JP Morgan has been asked to support a different tournament suggests it is a commercial breakaway proposal, outside of the discussions continuing between the clubs, Uefa and Fifa.

The latter gave an indication that the negotiations are ongoing within the organisations, saying: “Fifa does not wish to comment and participate in any speculation about topics which come up every now and then and, for which, institutional structures and regulatory frameworks are well in place at national, European and global level.”

Javier Tebas, the La Liga president, dismissed the plans. “The authors of that idea – if they really exist, because there is nobody actually defending it – not only show a total ignorance of the organisation and customs of European and world football, but also a serious ignorance of the audiovisual rights markets,” he said.

“A project of this type will mean serious economic damage to the organisers themselves and to those entities that finance it, if they exist, because the’re never official. These ‘underground’ projects only look good when drafted at a bar at five in the morning.”


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