New European Super League announced, to replace Champions League
The European Super League backers have revealed that they want to launch a new version of the project that crashed two years ago: a multi-division competition of 60 to 80 teams with no permanent members, and a minimum of 14 games per club, per season.
The announcement was made in various European newspapers by A22, the Madrid-based sister company of the Super League (ESL), and timed to coincide with a new push from the three remaining rebels Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus to continue their battle with Uefa.
A22 claim that the new project is a result of detailed conversations with clubs around Europe on the financial problems facing them. For the past few months A22 and the ESL have focused their attacks on the wealth of the Premier League, its dominance of the transfer market and the effect that has on other European leagues with less lucrative television deals.
There are no details yet on how the original 60 to 80 teams would be constituted or how they would drop out of the proposed competition to make way for new clubs. The original ESL, in April 2021, was pilloried for offering permanent membership to its founding clubs of which six were from the Premier League: the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
The format of the proposed new Super League has been kept a secret by Real, Barcelona and Juventus, but even now there are still questions about how it might work – were it ever given the legal room to operate. A22, as well as its major backers like Real president Florentino Pérez, has claimed in the past that there would be greater solidarity payments for clubs who do not participate in European competitions.
'The walking corpse twitches again'
Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga, was among the first to respond to Thursday’s announcement. He tweeted: “The Super League is the wolf, who today disguises himself as a granny to try to fool European football, but his nose and his teeth are very big. Four divisions in Europe? Of course the [top division] for them [the founding clubs], as in the 2019 plan. Governance of the clubs? Of course only from the big ones.”
La Superliga es el lobo, que hoy se disfraza de abuelita para intentar engañar al fútbol europeo, pero SU nariz y SUS dientes son muy grandes, ¿cuatro divisiones en europa? Claro la primera para ellos, como en la reforma de 2019.¿Gobierno de los clubes? Claro solo de los grandes pic.twitter.com/y0IQmLzS6W
— Javier Tebas Medrano (@Tebasjavier) February 9, 2023
The Football Supporters’ Association, which represents fans in England and Wales and is a co-founder of Europe’s equivalent fan body, said the ESL plan did not have any backing from the continent’s fans.
“The walking corpse that is the European Super League twitches again with all the self-awareness one associates with a zombie,” said FSA chief executive Kevin Miles in a statement.
“Their newest idea is to have an ‘open competition’ rather than the closed shop they originally proposed that led to huge fan protests. Of course an open competition for Europe’s top clubs already exists – it’s called the Champions League.
“They say ‘dialogue with fans and independent fan groups is essential’ yet the European Zombie League marches on – wilfully ignorant to the contempt supporters across the continent have for it.”
‘Clubs bear the entrepreneurial risk in football’
Writing in the German newspaper Welt, the chief executive of A22, Bernd Reichart, continued the attack on Uefa by claiming that clubs have no say in the running of its competitions. He said: “It is the clubs that bear the entrepreneurial risk in football. But when it comes to important decisions, they are too often forced to stand idly by from the sidelines as the sporting and financial foundations run under their hands. Our talks have also made it clear that it is often impossible for clubs to raise their voices publicly against a system that uses the threat of sanctions to prevent opposition.”
Reichart made other claims about supporting the women’s game, supporting domestic competitions, the health of the players and financial sustainability rules and fan experience (see analysis below). There are pledges to pursue all these issues but no details on how much revenue will be generated to do so or who might run the ESL. In its first iteration in 2021, power was concentrated in the hands of Pérez; Andrea Agnelli, the former Juventus chairman; and Manchester United co-owner Joel Glazer.
It is the most powerful clubs outside the rebel three who have helped shape the new format for Uefa’s Champions League post 2024 – the so-called “Swiss model” which will have 36 teams in a single division playing 10 group stage games instead of the current six. As for the wealth of those competitions, Uefa and the powerful European Club Association which represents clubs across Europe co-own a joint venture that controls all the revenue from the Champion League, Europa League and Europa Conference League.
The original European Super League was dealt a major blow before Christmas in its long-running legal case with Uefa in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The advocate-general Athanasios Rantos’ advice to the court was heavily in favour of the Uefa monopoly.
The advocate-general’s advice is not binding to the ECJ judges but in most cases it is followed. He found that EU competition law was compatible with the restrictions that Uefa and Fifa’s power asserted over football and “proportionate” for achieving Uefa’s “legitimate objectives” in line with the EU policy on sport.
The new Super League’s 10-point manifesto, and what we can learn from it
By Tom Morgan
Bernd Reichart, the chief executive of A22, claims European football is at a “tipping point” and announced the following 10-point manifesto for the new Super League.
1. More teams than the original Super League plan
Under A22's vision for “broad-based and meritocratic competitions”, a European multi-divisional competition would be launched for 60 to 80 teams, “allowing for sustainable distribution of revenues across the pyramid”. Unlike the previous proposal controversially backed by England’s so-called big six, participation “should be based on annual sporting merit and there should be no permanent members”.
“Open qualification based on domestic performance would grant rising clubs access to the competition while maintaining competitive dynamics at domestic level,” A22 says.
2. A breakaway replacing Uefa competitions but not domestic leagues
In an apparent bid to calm previous uproar, A22 state that domestic leagues are the “foundation of football”. “Participating clubs should remain fully committed to domestic tournaments as they do today,” A22 says. “At the same time, [there is] the critical need to strengthen and make more competitive domestic tournaments”.
The Super League’s commitment to preserving existing domestic leagues would not necessarily save any potential Premier League sign-ups from being expelled from the English football pyramid if they join up.
3. A guarantee of 14 European matches for every club
Thursday’s Super League announcement comes after a transfer window in which Chelsea's spend of £288 million dwarfed the £190 million total for all 78 clubs in France, Spain, Germany and Italy combined. Serie A reported the steepest year-on-year decline in gross transfer spend, falling 84 per cent from £163 million in January 2022 to £25 million in January 2023 – the lowest spend by the league since 2006. La Liga also saw a 63 per cent fall in expenditure.
A22 suggest that a European league with divisions would start to close this gulf. “Stability and predictability in revenues would be dramatically improved by offering clubs a minimum of 14 guaranteed European matches each season,” A22 add.
4. An overall limit on matches
Player union Fifpro and elite managers, including Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp, are fierce critics of already-packed playing calendars. The A22 response is that “player health must be at the centre of the game”. The number of games would "not be increased beyond those in currently planned competition calendars”, A22 say.
“Importantly European clubs and players should not be obliged to participate in expanded or new tournaments imposed by third parties,” A22 says, in an apparent reference to Fifa’s proposals to expand the World Cup and Uefa’s plan to expand the Champions League.
5. A competition run by clubs rather than blazers
This is A22’s version of the “take back control” slogan coined during Brexit. The idea is to have a Premier League-style system of club ownership, but with more safeguards in place. “The governance structure must be fully compliant with EU law," A22 say. “To improve sustainability, spending should be based only on resources generated, not from competition-distorting capital injections.”
6. Season-long European competition
The Premier League’s rapid overseas TV rights growth in recent years has been fuelled by an explosion of interest in the US market. “It is also critical that younger generations, attracted by globally expanding US sports and digital entertainment, continue to embrace football as the most loved sport in the world,” A22 say.
7. A plan to ease the burden on travelling fans
A22 recognise that “additional measures should be taken to facilitate fan attendance at away games” and say there should be increased dialogue with supporter groups. There is no mention of cost curbs on tickets, however.
8. Financial boost for the women’s game
It is unclear whether the European breakaway would have a similar set up for the women’s game. Instead, A22 say “financing should be significantly expanded beyond existing contributions from women’s European club competitions”.
9. Boosting grass-roots funding
A minimum of €400 million per year would be paid into the grass-roots, which A22 say is “more than two times the contribution from existing European club competitions”.
10. Aligning the breakaway with the EU
With its overt commitment to the EU, the A22 is perhaps resigned to launching without the involvement of English clubs. “Stakeholders must embrace the values, laws and fundamental freedoms of the EU,” the group says.