England’s ‘Big 6’ football teams announced in a statement that they intend to join the European Super League, a new club competition set to commence “as soon as possible.”
Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea join Spanish sides Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and Italian teams A.C. Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan as the founders of the competition. It’s set to rival the Champions League – run by the European football governing body UEFA – which is itself due for an overhaul to be discussed by UEFA imminently.
The move, which has received widespread condemnation from fans as well as football’s governing bodies, will see these twelve clubs join three further founding members as permanent participants of the new tournament. Five additional places will be available for other clubs to qualify based on their performances in previous seasons.
The statement, released late on Sunday evening, said: “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.”
Fans took to social media to voice their disapproval at the decision
“Furthermore, 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.”
Fans took to social media to voice their disapproval at the decision. Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher tweeted that his club was “an embarrassment,” and Youtuber Spencer Owen said that the governance of football was “broken from the top down.”
News that founding clubs were to receive a starting payment of €3.5 billion further angered supporters – including those from Arsenal, who announced 55 redundancies last season whilst negotiations for the new competition were ongoing.
In a joint response, UEFA and the national football associations of involved clubs warned that they will “consider all measures available to [them], at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening.”
They further insisted that “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.”
Such a threat, which UEFA claims has FIFA’s backing, could considerably decrease the incentive for players to participate in the league. The Champions League has long been considered the most prestigious club competition in Europe, and arguably the world.
If, as expected, the teams participating in the Super League are banned from UEFA competitions, teams in England could qualify for the Champions League from as low as 10th place. It is also unknown if players would want to potentially damage their national team prospects by participating in the league.
The league is planned to be divided into two groups of 10 teams, with the top three sides automatically qualifying for the eight-team knockout round with a play-off between the teams ranked 4th and 5th to determine the final two.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the plans would “strike at the heart of the domestic game and will concern fans across the country”
The decision to allow all 15 founding members as permanent teams, with no threat of relegation, has been heavily criticised as stifling competition and removing incentive. Fans also argue it will devalue the status of domestic leagues, with top teams not as concerned with winning their own league as they would be with winning the Super League and what will likely be a huge financial payout.
Politicians have also been sceptical. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the plans would “strike at the heart of the domestic game and will concern fans across the country.” Labour Party’s Kier Starmer added that the proposal “risks shutting the door on fans for good, reducing them to mere spectators and consumers.”
Regardless of whether the plans for the Super League come to fruition or not, supporters believe that the damage has been done, and the clubs involved have initiated a coup at the highest levels of football governance to protect themselves.
Whilst the fallout from the announcement is likely to lead to many claims, the court of public opinion has decisively rejected the idea, and football fans hope that the integrity of the beautiful game can be maintained.
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