Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez has launched a blistering attack on Uefa, doubling down on his demands for a breakaway like the European Super League and then passing rules which will make it almost impossible to challenge him as the head of his own club.
Pérez, 75, and 13 years into his second stint in office, was the architect of the 2020 failed Super League [ESL] breakaway and claimed anew to the club’s AGM that European football needed radical change. In a rare public speech, one of Spain’s wealthiest businessmen said that football was “sick”, losing ground to the NFL in the battle for broadcast millions, and of diminishing interest to the younger generation.
He complained that Real had fallen from first to 13th of Forbes’ global list of the most valuable sport franchises and said that the biggest clubs should play each other more often – as was the case with the world’s leading tennis stars. He said, by way of example, that Real had only played Liverpool nine times in 67 years.
Pérez said: “If we look at the legends of tennis, [Rafael] Nadal and [Roger] Federer played each other 40 times in 15 years. So far, Nadal and [Novak] Djokovic have faced each other 59 times in 16 years. Is this boring?” He added that if Uefa “organised tennis, we would have only ever seen two or three matches between Nadal and Federer.”
While Uefa may well point out that is the essence of knockout football, in which there are a greater range of contenders than tennis, it would be worth pointing out that, for example, Real have faced Bayern Munich 20 times in the last 22 years.
Pérez also lobbied the club’s members to vote on a new measure that would exempt him or any of his allies from having to secure the prerequisite bank guarantee of 15 per cent of the club’s revenue to stand in a presidential election. At around €110 million that is prohibitive for most.
Under the new rules, passed by 96.7 per cent of the members, any board that has overseen a profit over the course of a financial year, can deduct the size of those profits from the value of the guarantee they are obliged to lodge. It would also pave the way for Pérez’s allies to succeed him.
Pérez controls the Real voting franchise and his speech to them was a version of other attacks he has launched on Uefa, other opponents to the ESL, Paris St-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and the state-owned super clubs in general. He also repeated his claim that young people are “becoming less and less interested in football” as a justification for radical change.
Positioning Real as the “protectors” of European football he said that Uefa’s new post-2024 format for the Champions League would “only serve to further alienate fans and accelerate the decline of European football”. He claimed that television revenues were falling as a result and that while “football used to be the top sport; now it has been widely overtaken by American sport.
‘Competition is in Real Madrid’s DNA’
Once again he claimed that the ESL was the answer to the problem. He even defended the proposal to give 12 founder clubs guaranteed places, although he suggested that might be up for debate. He appeared to take aim at newly-wealthy clubs like PSG and Manchester City for their spending.
“And they [opposition] want the abuses of financial fair play by certain clubs, abuses we all know about, to be simply accepted, without consequences for their behaviour. Instead of addressing the debate on all these issues, they keep trying to focus criticism towards the Super League exclusively on its supposed format by repeatedly saying that it does not take merit into account. But this is not true.
“The Super League proposed a potential format with 25 per cent of its slots open, in line with many other European competitions. We clearly announced that our proposal was subject to debate in any case. A debate that we also proposed to the whole football family, including in a letter to Uefa and Fifa. You already know what happened. We received threats and insults from Uefa.”
The three remaining ESL rebels, Real, Barcelona and Juventus have pursued their case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The EU advocate general will announce its views on December 15 and a decision is expected early next year. Pérez appeared over the head of Uefa to appeal to former ESL allies to rejoin him by saying that the original ESL format “cannot and will never be an obstacle stopping a constructive and free dialogue”.
There was also a direct attack on Al-Khelaifi, PSG president and also head of the European Club Association who Pérez said has claimed recently “that ‘Real Madrid is afraid of competition’”. Speaking to a room of devotees, Pérez said: “Perhaps the president of the ECA should also be reminded of who Real Madrid is. Real Madrid is the most successful club in history and competition is in our DNA.”