European Super League: What is the new proposal, who is involved and what happens next?

European Court of Justice has given the ESL backers hope but many obstacles remain

The previous attempt to launch a new European Super League was blocked in large part due to fan protests. PA
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Just when it seemed to have gone away for good, the European Super League (ESL) is back in the news again.

Two and a half years ago, the initial ESL proposal came out of the blue with 12 of Europe's biggest clubs - six from England, three from Spain and three from Italy - going all in before most backed down in the face of enormous opposition from stakeholders and, more importantly, the fans.

However, A22, the organisation behind the plans is back with a fresh take on the concept. Here we explain the latest developments and what happens next.

Why is the ESL back?

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg ruled that Fifa and Uefa had "abused a dominant position" and had acted unlawfully by threatening the Super League founder clubs and, potentially, their players with sanctions and bans from their competitions.

The ECJ called Fifa and Uefa's rules "harmful" to clubs, media companies and fans and they amounted to a restriction of trade.

Just hours after Thursday's ruling was released, a new ESL proposal was announced by A22.

What is the new proposal?

A22 chief executive Bernd Reichart declared: "The Uefa monopoly is over. Football is free."

The group had clearly listened to the complaints last time about there being no promotion or relegation and about barriers to entry. "There will be promotion and relegation and there will be access from domestic competitions on sporting merit," Reichart told the BBC. "We are open and democratic. We have to talk to clubs and leagues."

The new idea is for 64 men's teams split across three divisions, 32 women's teams split across two. No clubs were named but "guaranteed revenues" were mentioned, plus increased solidarity payments for those not involved, and all the games aired for free on a new digital streaming platform.

Who are A22 and who else is involved?

The two remaining super clubs pushing the project forwards are La Liga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. A22 are a sports management company who, according to their website, were "formed to sponsor and assist in the creation of a new European Super League". They say "club football at European level requires fresh thinking and can be meaningfully improved incorporating a profound respect for the game's traditions". They are based in, you guessed it... Madrid.

What are Uefa and Fifa saying?

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin and European Club Association (ECA) chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, also chairman of non-Super League Paris Saint-Germain, dismissed the new plan.

"What they are proposing is even more closed than the 2021 plan that was rejected by everyone," said Ceferin. "We will not try to stop them. They can create whatever they want. I hope they start their fantastic competition as soon as possible, with two clubs."

Al-Khelaifi added: "Who are A22? Where have they come from? What is their history? What is their profile? We want to talk to serious people."

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said he felt "nothing has changed".

Given the Champions League will feature a new expanded group stage next season, and the creation of a joint venture between the ECA and Uefa on commercial matters, Uefa feel they are in a strong position.

What are the clubs saying?

The Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ have all now distanced themselves from the possibility of joining.

Real Madrid and Barcelona, key supporters of the 2021 project, are driving the revamped project. Juventus and AC Milan, also two of the original 12, have not commented yet but Inter Milan have strongly rejected it, so too have Spanish club Atletico Madrid.

The president of Italian champions Napoli, Aurelio De Laurentiis, said his club was ready to hold talks over the new project. Napoli were not part of the 2021 breakaway.

The Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle means the Premier League probably now has a ‘Big Seven’, but their manager Eddie Howe said he was against the idea of a Super League. "I’d probably say I’m against it if you want a clear decision because I like the structure as it is,” he said.

What happens next?

Thursday's ruling did not give approval to a Super League and said that if A22 want to run a competition under Uefa's jurisdiction, it had to apply to them for authorisation. Uefa, though, can no longer reject the idea out of hand as they did previously.

The main issue for the new scheme, however, is that there is precious little wider support.

In England, the opprobrium of the fans was telling, and there now seems little appetite for change given the financial advantages the clubs already enjoy from their bumper TV deal. An independent regulator is also on the horizon and that could further block any moves to defect. It also seems France and Italy are looking at ways to introduce legislation stopping their clubs from joining.

Should any clubs feel strongly enough to try and join the project but find their path blocked, then you'd imagine it would very quickly end up back in court.

But the power seems very much in the hands of Uefa and existing leagues and competitions.

The French Minister of Sports, Amelie Oudea-Castera, said on X, formerly Twitter, that these latest developments could prompt fresh EU law to codify the structure of European football.

"The Super League project goes against the values that France holds for professional sport on a national and European scale," she said. "Its attempt at reactivation, based on a hasty and biased reading of the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union rendered today, has begun to lead to a unanimous reaction from European countries and stakeholders concerned to block it."

Updated: December 22, 2023, 4:05 PM