BERLIN: A future European Super League could include as many as 80 teams, Bernd Reichart, the chief executive of A22 Sports Management, a company formed to sponsor and assist in the creation of a breakaway football league, said on Thursday.
In a statement outlining the preliminary results of talks that A22 had with what it said was 50 European clubs and stakeholders of football, the company said change was necessary.
“The vast majority of them share the assessment that the very foundation of European football is under threat, and it is time for change,” A22 said.
“Feedback suggests a European football league that is open, based solely on sporting merit, multidivisional with 60 to 80 clubs and a minimum of 14 guaranteed European matches per club.” Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus were among 12 clubs to announce a breakaway Super League in April 2021.
But the move collapsed within 48 hours after an outcry from fans, governments and players forced Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid to pull out.
That left only Real, Barcelona and Juventus as holdouts. The ESL took its case to a Spanish court which subsequently sought guidance from the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
“Our objective is to present a sustainable sporting project for European club competitions available to, at a minimum, all 27 EU Member States as soon as possible after receipt of the judgment,” Reichart said.
“The issues are clear, and action must be taken for the benefit of fans, players, and clubs.”
Spain’s La Liga President Javier Tebas, a staunch opponent of the ESL, said the plan would only favour big clubs.
“The Super League is the wolf, who today disguises himself as a granny to try to fool European football, but his nose and his teeth are very big,” Tebas wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
“Four divisions in Europe? Of course the first for them, as in the 2019 reform. Government of the clubs? Of course only the big ones.”
European football body UEFA, the biggest opponent to the ESL plan which it sees as threatening its own Champions League club competition, did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
The European Club Association (ECA) said A22’s “rehashed idea” had already been “proposed, discussed and comprehensively rejected by all stakeholders in 2019.
“As the sole organisation recognised by FIFA and UEFA representing clubs at European and international level, and the only body through which clubs have genuine representation in their decision-making, ECA reiterates its long-standing opposition to the European Super League and any breakaway project,” the ECA added.
“From 2024 more clubs from more countries will participate in European men’s club competitions every season.”
The Champions League is set to expand from 32 teams to 36 from the 2024-25 season after UEFA approved the new format last year.
The Football Supporters’ Association, which represents fans in England and Wales and is a co-founder of Europe’s equivalent fan body, said the ESL plan did not have any backing from the continent’s fans.
“The walking corpse that is the European Super League twitches again with all the self-awareness one associates with a zombie,” said FSA chief executive Kevin Miles in a statement.
“Their newest idea is to have an ‘open competition’ rather than the closed shop they originally proposed that led to huge fan protests. Of course an open competition for Europe’s top clubs already exists — it’s called the Champions League.”
A22 said there were 10 principles that emerged from the discussions, including improving competitiveness, financial sustainability and fan experience.
At issue in the ongoing court case is whether European body UEFA and global governing body FIFA statutes allowing them to block rival events and bar clubs and players from taking part conform with EU competition rules.
Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2023
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