News 19th April 2021

UEFA threatens bans for European Super League participants

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has threatened clubs and players that participate in a newly proposed 20 team European Super League (ESL) with bans from other competitions. The 12 founding clubs that would form the ESL confirmed the details of the competition this morning, after news reports appeared over the weekend. The timing is not insignificant – the UEFA Executive Committee holds April meeting in Montreux today, and ‘UEFA men’s club competitions – financial distribution for the 2021-24 cycle’ is listed on the agenda.

‘As previously announced by FIFA and the six Confederations, 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’, read a statement supported by the English Football Association (FA), the FA Premier League, the Spanish FA (RFEF), the Italian FA (FIGC) and Lega Serie A, referring to a January FIFA announcement.

However in a statement issued a day after UEFA’s, FIFA appeared to back away from its January position. ‘In our view, and in accordance with our Statutes, any football competition, whether national, regional or global, should always reflect the core principles of solidarity, inclusivity, integrity and equitable financial redistribution. Moreover, the governing bodies of football should employ all lawful sporting and diplomatic means to ensure this remains the case’, it read. ‘Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a “closed European breakaway league” outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles’. The Sports Integrity Initiative has asked FIFA to clarify its position. 

AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid CF and Tottenham Hotspur are the 12 founding ESL clubs. ‘It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable’, read the ESL statement. 

‘The new annual tournament will provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues. These solidarity payments will be substantially higher than those generated by the current European competition and are expected to be in excess of €10 billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the Clubs. 

‘In addition, the competition will be built on a sustainable financial foundation with all Founding Clubs signing up to a spending framework. In exchange for their commitment, Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.’

UEFA’s statement specifically thanked the French and German clubs for not agreeing to be part of the ESL. The French FA (FFF) and its professional football league (LFP) released a joint statement opposing the ESL, as did the German FA (DFB) and its football league (DFL). The European Club Association (ECA) announced that it is ‘strongly opposed’ to the idea of an ESL, and the FA Premier League ‘condemns’ it. 

‘Football is built on its unique social and cultural heritage, which not only gives it an unparalleled relationship to its fans but also has created the engine to spread the professional game like no other sport’, read a statement from international players organisation FIFPro. ‘For this to be sustained, a healthy and solidarity-based cooperation between domestic and international competitions is critical. A new competition undermining this might cause irreparable damage.’ The Football Supporters Association (FSA) announced that it was ‘totally opposed’ to the ESL, and accused the clubs involved of being ‘motivated by nothing but cynical greed’.

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