Breakaway European Super League clubs face criticism

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville joins British and French politicians as well as Uefa in condemning plans by 12 of Europe's most powerful clubs

The 12 breakaway clubs

England

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur

Italy
AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus

Spain
Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid

Twelve of Europe's leading football clubs launched a breakaway Super League on Sunday, in what may be a seismic shift in the way football is run, but faced accusations of greed and cynicism.

The move sets up a rival to Uefa's established and lucrative Champions League competition and was condemned by football authorities and politicians.

Manchester City, Real Madrid and Juventus are among the leading members of the new league, but Uefa, the governing bodies of European football, has threatened to ban them from domestic and international competition and vowed to fight the move.

French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued statements condemning a breakaway and supporting Uefa's position.

As well as City, Premier League clubs Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have signed up to the plans.

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid from Spain join Real. AC Milan and Inter Milan make up the trio from Italy, along with Juventus.

German and French clubs, including both of last season's Champions League finalists Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, have said they have not signed up, so it remains to be seen whether the others will carry out their threat to turn their backs on their domestic leagues and risk their players being barred from all competitions, including the World Cup.

The Super League said that they aimed for 15 founding members and a 20-team league, with five other clubs qualifying each season.

The clubs would share a fund of €3.5 billion ($4.19 billion) to spend on infrastructure projects and to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world. 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," said Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, the first chairman of the Super League.

Soccer Football - Real Madrid Unveil Eden Hazard - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - June 13, 2019   Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Real Madrid's Eden Hazard during the presentation    REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Fifa expressed its "disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures".

But noticeably there was no mention of a previous threat from Fifa to ban any players taking part in a breakaway from participating in World Cups.

The plans, which would represent one of the biggest changes made in the football calendar, threaten not only the future of the Champions League but could have a huge impact on the structure of the club game.

In England, the Premier League urged clubs “to walk away immediately before irreparable damage is done”.

The announcement was made hours before Uefa is due to sign off on its plans for an expanded and restructured 36-team Champions League on Monday.

Uefa issued a joint statement with English, Spanish and Italian leagues and football federations, saying they were ready to use "all measures" to confront any breakaway and that any participating clubs would be banned from domestic leagues.

"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," the statement said.

"We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough."

The moves were condemned by football authorities and political leaders, with Johnson among those who opposed the move.

"Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action," the UK prime minister tweeted.

"They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps."

Former Manchester United and England defender and now media pundit Gary Neville called the move "an absolute disgrace".

"I am disgusted by Manchester United and Liverpool the most," Neville told Sky Sports shortly before Sunday's announcement. "Liverpool, they pretend [with] You'll Never Walk Alone [they are] the people's club, the fans' club. Manchester United – 100 years, born out of workers. And they are breaking away into a league without competition, that they can't be relegated from?

“It is an absolute disgrace. Honestly, we have to wrestle back power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league, and that includes my club.”

There have been reports of a breakaway for a number of years and they returned in January when several media outlets reported a document had been produced outlining the plans.

Those reports led Fifa and Uefa to say that they would ban any players involved in a breakaway from playing in the World Cup or European Championship.

Uefa has proposed major changes to its Champions League which had received support from many clubs.

The changes will increase the competition to 36 from 32 teams, and an overhaul of the group stage into a single table rather than the current groups of four clubs.

Teams would play 10 matches each in the group stage rather than the six they currently play and a playoff round would also be introduced before the last 16.

The 12 breakaway clubs

England

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur

Italy
AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus

Spain
Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid

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