Clubs like Liverpool are attempting to create their own breakaway super league.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

European soccer, which includes all of the world’s most lucrative leagues, is about to undergo a seismic shift that could change the game of soccer forever.

Twelve of the biggest clubs in Europe, including mega clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid are planning to form a new league called the European Super League. It’s a move that could potentially wreak havoc on the traditional structures of European soccer, which is mostly made up of domestic leagues (like the English Premier League, La Liga and Serie A). Fans, players and existing bodies like UEFA have expressed outrage at the move.

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Real Madrid President Florentino Perez is the inaugural chairman of the European Soccer League. He said this will help soccer, not harm it.

“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” said Perez. “Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”

UEFA has already come out and stated that any club participating will be banned from domestic leagues and more.

“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,” UEFA said in a statement.

What teams are taking part?

Six teams from the English Premier League, three from Spain’s La Liga and three clubs from Italy’s Serie A have signed up, making for 12 clubs.

The list of the founding clubs is as follows…

  • Manchester United
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester City
  • Arsenal
  • Chelsea 
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • Barcelona
  • Real Madrid
  • Athletico Madrid
  • Juventus
  • AC Milan
  • Inter Milan

Where are teams from the French and German leagues? Teams like Bayern Munich from Germany and Paris St-Germain from France are undoubtedly among the biggest and best teams and Europe. Those clubs have yet to sign up and are currently watching from the sidelines.

How does it work?

According to current plans, the competition will feature 20 clubs made up of 15 founding clubs with an option for five further clubs to qualify based on previous seasons achievements. (The details are currently murky on what those “achievements” actually mean.)

According to the founding clubs, each team will continue to take part in their domestic leagues. This league will take place in additional midweek matches. Two groups of 10 will take part in home and away matches with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for a knockout stage. Teams who place fourth and fifth in each league will compete in a two-leg match to see who qualifies for the knockouts.

Then, those remaining eight teams will take part in two-leg knockout format to reach a single final which will take place at a neutral stadium. A women’s version of this league is also apparently in the works.

At least that’s how the founding teams hope things will work. Both UEFA and FIFA have come out against the league. FIFA has backed up UEFA, which means participating players could potentially be banned from next year’s World Cup.

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we — UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations — will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” said UEFA in a statement.

“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.”

What’s the reaction?

Reaction to the announcement of the European Super League has been almost universally negative. The hashtag #RIPfootball is beginning to trend on Twitter as is the phrase #disgusting and #embarrassing. People are angry about this.


— ChelseaLookback (@1JamesCHELSEA)
April 18, 2021

The European Super League anthem has been released..#europeansuperleague

— Eric J Wilson (@eckylad)
April 18, 2021

I’m making jokes about the Super League because otherwise I’ll be clinically depressed, this will actually change the landscape of football to a broken, hollow, moneygrabbing mess

— niran (@TheOfficialFNG)
April 18, 2021

Football. Created by the poor. Stolen by the rich. #europeansuperleague

— James Melville (@JamesMelville)
April 18, 2021

Some want to organize protests.

Do we go to the stadiums tomorrow and protest? Training grounds? We need to do something #europeansuperleague

— The People’s Champ 🤟 (@TroopzAFC)
April 18, 2021

Why are people so upset?

The European Super League has essentially become a representation of the money issues that many believe continues to threaten soccer as a sport. Unlike sports like the NBA, which operate with salary caps, clubs at the top of leagues like the English Premier League or La Liga have been allowed to spend without impunity. This means they can solidify a position at the top of the game and rule over smaller clubs with an iron fist. Clubs at the lower end of big leagues can’t compete.

Neither can top clubs in smaller European leagues in Holland, Scotland, Switzerland or Portugal. The evolution of soccer over the last 20 years has made it difficult for giants of the sport like Ajax or Celtic to compete.

For perspective — each founding member of this club is expected to take home $400 million for taking part in this league. That’s roughly four times what a team would receive for winning the Champion’s League, currently the most prestigious tournament in world club soccer.

For many, including former player and current broadcaster Gary Neville, the whole thing feels anti-competitive.

Gary Neville speaks passionately against the European Super League #mulive [sky]

— utdreport (@utdreport)
April 18, 2021

Former player Rio Ferdinand called it a “war on football”.

“This is, for me, a war on football.”

“It’s a disgrace, it’s embarrassing, and it goes against everything that football is about.”

Some strong feelings about the European Super League from our panel.

@rioferdy5, @RobbieSavage8 , @FrannyBenali

— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball)
April 18, 2021

There’s also the issue of team choice. Teams appear to have been chosen based on fanbase as opposed to performance. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, currently in 7th and 9th place respectively in the English Premier League, are two of the teams selected, despite the fact smaller clubs like Leicester City and West Ham have outperformed them this year.

Arsenal and Tottenham fans arguing on who is gonna finish last in the Super League#europeansuperleague

— KS (@sheth_happens)
April 18, 2021

Arsenal fans trying to explain why they deserve to be in the league #europeansuperleague

— sean (@beano_hakeem)
April 18, 2021

Spurs in the #europeansuperleague

— Dean Van Nguyen (@deanvannguyen)
April 18, 2021

Considering the longer game, many are worried about the potential impact on grassroots football. The current format of soccer, which favours teams in leagues with huge TV deals like the EPL and La Liga, have seen many teams decline. The European Super League would exacerbate that process. For fans of the sport, this feels like the culminations of soccer as a rich get richer, poor get poorer proposition.

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