It’s the nightmare scenario that the elite of club football on the continent had been dreading.
And yet, rumours of a breakaway league in Europe have been circling for years – finally, it seems, they could be realised.
In April it was confirmed that 12 teams – including England’s ‘big six’ of Manchester United and City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal – had signed an agreement to join the European Super League (ESL).
This will be a midweek competition that essentially replaces the Champions League, although it’s important to note that UEFA has had nothing to do with the formation of the ESL.
Each club could make as much as £300 million per season from the competition, which will be financed by private equity firms, financial institutions and a variety of commercial partners. Those involved intend to stay involved in their domestic leagues….however, they may find some obstruction to that given the obvious financial advantages that they will gain.
Be under no illusions, this isn’t some flash in the pan or an attempt to negotiate a better Champions League pay deal – the dozen clubs involved are deadly serious in making the ESL happen.
The concept has been met with widespread condemnation by most, and even the prime minister Boris Johnson has waded in, stating that:
“I don’t think that it [the ESL] is good news for fans”
And claiming that his government was:
“….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.”
What is the European Super League?
Designed to effectively replace the Champions League and generate more income for those involved, the European Super League could be the continent’s new premier midweek competition.
As things stand, 12 ‘founding members’ have signed on the dotted line – England’s ‘big six’ plus Barcelona, Atletico and Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter and AC Milan.
European Super League Founding Members
In the inaugural season, they would be joined by three other teams – although as yet there’s no word on who that might be. It’s also not been confirmed as to whether the likes of PSG, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have declined to be involved.
Unlike the Champions League, most of the teams wouldn’t have to qualify – the founding members would have their places in the competition ringfenced year after year.
What is the Format of the European Super League?
After the first season of the ESL, there will be 20 teams involved annually – the 12 named founding members and three more expected to sign up soon, plus five other spots that would require qualification for.
The European Super League would run from August each year, with gameweeks on Tuesday or Wednesday, with two groups of ten teams playing each other home and away.
The top three sides in each group would progress automatically for the knockout phase, with those finishing in four and fifth taking each other on in a two-legged play-off to see who makes up the quarter-final berths.
The semi-finals would also be two-legged affairs, before a single-leg final in May at a neutral ground.
When Will the European Super League Start?
The organisers behind the European Super League are incredibly bullish about it, and they have said that their new competition would start ‘as soon as practicable.’
That’s pretty vague, of course, and it is believed that there will be significant legal battles for the ESL to overcome against domestic football associations and UEFA themselves.
We’re talking years, rather than months, then.
Will There Be a Women’s European Super League?
The big cheeses behind the European Super League have already mentioned a women’s version of the event.
Indeed, they hope that the Women’s ESL would start ‘as soon as possible’ after the men’s format was launched.
Who is Behind the European Super League?
While a number of anonymous financiers are believed to be pumping money into the project, the American banking firm JP Morgan have stuck their head above the parapet and admitted they are committing around $5 billion to the European Super League.
Marshalling on-field activities will be the Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who has been installed as ESL chairman, and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, who was thought to be behind radical changes proposed for the Champions League.
There will be plenty of English involvement too, with Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer, Liverpool director John W. Henry and Stan Kroenke, the Arsenal chairman, are also on the committee.
Why is the European Super League Happening?
There have been rumours of a breakaway league for a long time – reading between the lines, Europe’s elite clubs feel they can make more money running their own show away from UEFA involvement.
The health crisis hasn’t helped either, with clubs losing stacks of money without fans in the stands, and a statement from the ESL read:
“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.
“Further, for a number of years, the Founding Clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.”
Will European Super League Clubs Be Punished by FIFA?
Incredibly, FIFA have already confirmed that they wouldn’t ‘recognise’ the European Super League, and that any players involved might be banned from playing in the World Cup.
UEFA have struck a similar tone, criticising the project and even hinting that players involved in the ESL would be banned from all domestic and continental competitions under their remit.
Will the European Super League Actually Happen?
Normally when such rumours start, they very quickly get put to bed.
However, the European Super League is now an official entity, with an appointed committee and 12 teams – at least – who are very much ready to cut their ties with the Champions League.
There have been lots of ideas for breakaway leagues both in the UK and in Europe before, but this is the first time that such a notion has been formally announced.
However, and this is the salient point, any clubs wishing to join the European Super League would need the express approval of their domestic football association – good luck with that.
It will be interesting to see how the ESL model develops from here….