LONDON – The group behind a multibillion-dollar separatist football competition for Europe’s elite clubs have warned sports authorities that it has taken legal action to thwart efforts to block a project which aroused widespread condemnation.
As they made public their plans for the European Super League on Sunday, supporters of the proposal wrote to the president of FIFA, the governing body of world football, and the head of UEFA, the European football federation. , saying that they would like to work with the organizations but that they had also taken steps to avoid anything embarrassing them.
So far, 12 teams from England, Spain and Italy – including Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Juventus – have signed up for the league.
Rumors about the creation of the separatist competition, which hopes to add three more permanent founding members to what will be an annual league of 20 teams, prompted FIFA in January to bow to pressure from UEFA and issue a statement which threatened serious repercussions against players and clubs involved in any unauthorized tournament. UEFA, the top European leagues and the national football associations of the three countries which have clubs enrolled in the new competition issued a joint statement on Sunday condemning the project.
FIFA warned in January that players taking part in the separation effort would risk being expelled from events such as the World Cup and that participating teams would lose access to domestic competitions such as the ever-popular Premier League in England.
Faced with the threat, the company created to control the new league told FIFA President Gianni Infantino and UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin in the letter sent on Sunday that petitions had been filed in several courts for prevent any movement to jeopardize the project, which already has in place funding of $ 4 billion.
The company has “taken the appropriate steps to challenge the legality of the restrictions on the formation of the competition before the competent courts and European authorities which may be necessary to safeguard its future,” the letter said, a copy of which was examined by The New York Times.
The league they agreed to form – an alliance of big clubs closer to the concept of closed leagues like the NFL and NBA than the current model of football – would result in the most significant restructuring of elite European football since the 1980s. 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small group of teams in modern sports history.
While discussing legal steps, the six-page letter also calls on football leaders to hold “urgent” talks to find a common path for a project that the group says will benefit football even beyond the core group that will benefit from unparalleled wealth if the tournament begin. Under the plan, the 15 founding members of the European Super League would initially receive an equal share of € 3.5 billion, or roughly $ 4.2 billion, or roughly $ 400 million each.
This amount is more than four times what the winner of the flagship European football tournament, the Champions League, won in 2020. In the letter, the founders of the Super League say they do not want to replace the Champions League but to create a tournament that would go next to him.
However, the damage to the prestige and value of the Champions League would be immediate and lasting, turning what has been for decades elite club football competition into a side event, which is unlikely to retain its appeal. current commercial. UEFA plans to ratify the biggest changes to the tournament since 1992 at a meeting of its board on Monday.
These substantial changes now risk becoming irrelevant if the breakaway clubs manage to find their way and take to the pitch in a competition they say they hope to start as early as this summer.
In the letter, the group said their emergency stemmed from the huge losses accumulating as a result of the coronavirus. The sight of games played in cavernous but empty stadiums has become the norm, and restrictions on public gatherings mean hundreds of millions of dollars are lost in gate receipts, while broadcasters have also clawed back huge sums from leagues and competition organizers.
UEFA and other groups opposed to the new competition gathered over the weekend to discuss their legal options and have started talks with governments across Europe as well as the European Union. This has led to swift condemnatory statements from figures such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Europe’s biggest clubs have long been frustrated with sharing the wealth of the tournaments in which they are the biggest draw, and talks about a new league began long before the pandemic. Documents leaked in 2019 showed that Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez, architect of the current plan, had sought to create an earlier iteration of a competition involving the bigger teams.
FIFA’s role is also fascinating. Infantino, its president, has spoken in recent years about the creation of new competitions to increase interest in football around the world. As part of this push, he gave his support to a 20-team Super League in Africa.
FIFA released a statement on Sunday evening, reiterating that it will not support a closed separatist competition. The founders of the Super League, however, insist their event is not completely closed, saying there will be access to five teams each season outside of the expected 15 founding members.
“The competition intends to include some of the main European clubs, with open access qualifying routes available on the basis of sporting merit,” the letter said.