The Super League (legal name: European Super League Company, S.L.), also referred to as the European Super League, is a planned annual club football competition to be contested by twenty European football clubs. As a breakaway competition, it is planned to rival or replace the UEFA Champions League.
After long speculation about the formation of a “European Super League”, the competition was established by twelve clubs in April 2021, with three more anticipated to join. These fifteen “founding clubs” are permanent participants in the competition, which they will govern. An additional five teams will be able to qualify annually for the competition based on their performance in the previous season. According to the organization, the competition will commence “as soon as practicable” with talks of it commencing before or during August 2021.
Proposals for the creation of a European Super League date back to at least 1998, when the Italian corporation Media Partners investigated the idea, which failed after UEFA moved to expand the Champions League. Various proposals had been brought forth over the next two decades, with little success.
The league was announced on 18 April 2021, via a press release sent out by the founding clubs. The announcement came on the eve of a meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee, which intended to revamp and expand the UEFA Champions League from the 2024–25 season in order to increase the number of matches and revenues, following pressure from elite European clubs. The press release stated an intention to “provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid” while also “provid[ing] 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”
First chairman of the Super League Florentino Pérez said that The Super League will will help clubs recover lost earnings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pérez also said that The Super League would also eventually have a system of promotion and relegation.
In addition to the men’s competition, the organization also plans to launch a corresponding women’s competition “as soon as practicable”.
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Inter Milan
- Atlético Madrid
- Real Madrid
The competition will feature twenty teams, including the fifteen founding clubs. The remaining five places will be decided by a qualifying mechanism based on the performance of teams in the previous season. Starting in August, the teams will be split into two groups of ten, with clubs playing home-and-away in a double round-robin format for a total of 18 group matches per team.
Fixtures will take during midweeks to allow clubs to still participate in their domestic leagues. The top three teams of each group will qualify for the quarter-finals, while the teams finishing fourth and fifth from each group will compete in two-legged play-offs to decide the last two quarter-finalists. The remainder of the competition will take place in a four-week span at the end of the season, with the quarter-finals and semi-finals featuring two-legged ties, while the final in May will be contested as a single fixture at a neutral venue. In total, each season of the competition will feature 197 matches (180 in the group stage and 17 in the knockout stage).
The competition is set to feature uncapped solidarity payments to its clubs, which can increase in line with league revenues. The organization stated that the solidarity payments will be higher than those of existing European competitions, expected to be “in excess of €10 billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the clubs”, and that founding clubs will receive €3.5 billion to support infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. American investment banking giant JPMorgan Chase is reported to be the major financial backer of the planned Super League, which pledged US$5 billion towards the competition.
The following football executives have been confirmed as the leaders of the organization.
The announcement generated widespread condemnation from UEFA, The Football Association and Premier League of England, the Italian Football Federation and Lega Serie A of Italy and the Royal Spanish Football Federation and La Liga of Spain, from which the founding clubs were from. They issued a joint statement stating that they would “consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting” to prevent the Super League from proceeding. UEFA and the three nations warned that any clubs involved in the Super League would be banned from all other domestic, European and world football competitions.
They also threatened that the players involved could be banned from representing their national teams in international matches. The French Football Federation and Ligue de Football Professional of France, as well as the German Football Association and Deutsche Fußball Liga of Germany, from which no clubs had yet joined, also released statements opposing the proposed Super League. Criticism was also levelled at the fact that English clubs Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have never won the UEFA Champions League and the latter have not won their domestic top-flight title since 1961.
The Super League has been described as a “breakaway” endeavour, and the most significant restructuring of elite European football since the creation of the European Cup, with claims of a potential negative impact on lower-placed clubs similar to those made at the time of the Premier League‘s formation in 1992. However, first chairman of the Super League Florentino Pérez has argued that the Super League will generate income across football since it would increase overall revenues in football thus allowing bigger clubs to invest more in smaller clubs thru Transfer fees.
The European Club Association (ECA), whose then-chairman Andrea Agnelli is the vice-chairman of the Super League, held an emergency meeting and subsequently announced their opposition to the plan. Agnelli, also a member of the UEFA Executive Committee, along with the founding clubs of the Super League did not attend the virtual meeting. Agnelli subsequently resigned from his positions as ECA chairman and UEFA Executive Committee member, with all twelve Super League clubs also leaving the ECA. FIFA also expressed its disapproval of the announcement.
Football Supporters Europe (FSE), a body representing supporters in 45 UEFA countries, issued a statement opposing the creation of the Super League.
Outside of football, numerous politicians have expressed their opposition to the proposals. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the proposals “very damaging for football” and vowed to ensure that it “doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed”. In addition, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement to the House of Commons that “This move goes against the very spirit of the game”, pledged to do “whatever it takes” to stop English clubs from joining, and announced a “fan-led review” into football, to be led by former Minister for Sport Tracey Crouch. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his support for UEFA’s position, stating “The French state will support all the steps taken by the LFP, FFF, UEFA and FIFA to protect the integrity of federal competitions, whether national or European.” The Spanish Government released a statement saying they “[do] not support the initiative to create a football Super League promoted by various European clubs, including the Spanish ones.” Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi also backed UEFA in their decision, saying he “strongly supports the positions of the Italian and European football authorities”. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, president of The Football Association, said that he “share[d] the concerns of fans about the proposed Super League and the damage it risks causing to the game we love.”
Commentators have noted that the Super League would eliminate financial risk for its founding members due to its “semi-closed” league setup similar to Euro League where a group of clubs are guaranteed entry in the Super League every year without having to qualify. This would eliminate the risk of clubs being relegated in their domestic leagues or failing to qualify for the Champions League, thus making the founding clubs more stable in generating revenue and more likely to increase in value. Commentators also state that the Super League could render domestic competitions as irrelevant and lower tier compared to the Super League, and that it would destroy the ideas behind promotion and relegation systems. However, Super League first chairman Florentino Pérez claimed that the Super League plans to later have a system of promotion and relegation. Bloomberg argued that a diminished Premier League due to the Super League could hurt Britain’s soft power as well. Forbes wrote that The Super League will bring the lucrative U.S. professional sports league model to Europe.
Former Manchester United player and current Salford City co-owner Gary Neville’s reaction generated strong attention on social media, calling the formation “an act of pure greed” and being especially disappointed at his former club’s admission, going on to say that stringent measures must be taken against the founding clubs, including bans from European competitions and point deductions. Supporters groups from all six English clubs opposed the league, releasing statements condemning the plans and the clubs for their involvement in the league.
Another former Manchester United player Roy Keane said, “It comes down to money, greed. Obviously, we’ve heard nothing from FIFA yet but it doesn’t sound good, let’s hope they stop it in its tracks because it is just pure greed. We talk about big clubs – Bayern Munich are one of the biggest clubs in the world. At least they’ve made a stand, which is a good start.”
Italian sports commentator Mario Sconcerti called the Super League a “crude idea that goes against the fans.”
PSG player Ander Herrera said in a tweet “I fell in love with popular football, with the football of the fans, with the dream of seeing the team of my heart compete against the greatest. If this European super league advances, those dreams are over.” Atalanta B.C. fullback Robin Gosens said the Super League “is a huge disaster for football. I am shocked that it is coming true now… If there is now a Super League in which Arsenal or Tottenham qualify forever without any sporting achievement, then football will be stripped of its foundations. Everyone must be aware that football will change forever and never be the same again.”
Liverpool midfielder James Milner in a post-match interview that he didn’t like the super league and wished it won’t happen. Liverpool head coach Jürgen Klopp was also critical of the Super League yet said he would not resign and said he would “sort it somehow” with Fenway Sports Group.
On 19 April 2021 a crowd of about 700 fans appeared outside Elland Road despite COVID-19 restrictions ahead of the scheduled match between Liverpool and Leeds United to protest against the Super League. While warming up before the match Leeds United F.C. players wore a shirt that read “Champions League. Earn it. Football is for the fans.” under a Champions league logo. The shirts been left on the benches inside the Liverpool changing room though they weren’t worn by its players. In addition a large banner was placed behind one goal stating “Earn it on the pitch, football is for the fans.”
A snap YouGov poll found that 79% of British football fans oppose the Super League with only 14% expressing support. 76% of fans of the British teams joining the Super League also expressed disapproval, with 20% expressing support.
On 19 April 2021, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin stated that UEFA would begin making “legal assessments” on the following day, and that the organization would look to ban the twelve Super League clubs “as soon as possible”. However, The Super League informed UEFA and FIFA that they had begun legal action to prevent the competition from being thwarted. Jesper Møller, chairman of the Danish Football Association and UEFA Executive Committee member, stated that he expected the three Super League clubs in the semi-finals of the 2020–21 UEFA Champions League—Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid—to be expelled from the competition by 23 April.
In addition he also expected Arsenal and Manchester United to be expelled from the semi-finals of the 2020–21 UEFA Europa League UEFA Europa League. However First Chairman of the Super League Florentino Pérez said that would be “impossible,” and that the law protects them. The Super League has also sparked discussion of it’s in violation of anti-trust law since it contains business practices that are allegedly designed to reduce competition, by creating a protected market that restricts others from entering that may limit competition.
However the European Commission has stated that it doesn’t plan to investigate the Super League. Bloomberg argued that it can see why as if a case against the Super League failed, it could face a huge popular backlash, and be seen to have effectively given the Super League a legal stamp of approval