- 3 December
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What is the new European Super League? Format, teams, earnings, reactions
The Super League is back.
Sunday April 20, 2021 is a day that could go on to be remembered as one of the most seismic in football history. It was the day when plans for a European Super League that would completely transform the landscape of European football were announced.
The planned league dramatically collapsed in less than 48 hours but, as of 2023, there are new plans afoot to launch an updated version of the European Super League.
European Super League 2.0
In February 2023, fresh plans for a new Super League were announced.
The Super League would be a multi-division competition consisting of 60-80 European teams. There would be promotion and relegation, and teams would have to qualify for the league on merit.
There would be a minimum of 14 matches a season.
There would also be cost control measures, meaning clubs can only spend only a fixed percentage of their annual football-related revenue on player salaries and net transfers.
What is the Super League?
The European Super League is a planned breakaway competition that is set to include the biggest football clubs on the continent.
When it was initially announced in April 2021, the plan was for the Super League to include 20 of the biggest football clubs in Europe. Fifteen of these teams would have been permanent members who could not be relegated, while another five would have been able to qualify for the annual tournament.
The teams who would have been part of this original Super League would’ve been likely banned from participating in the UEFA-organised tournaments. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez (pictured below with Gareth Bale) was due to hold the chairman’s position for the Super League. Man Utd’s Joel Glazer and Juventus’ previous president Andrea Agnelli were announced as vice-chairmens before the league’s demise.
After the original Super League's demise, a revamped project was launched and is being headed by A22 Sports Management.
Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus remain the three biggest clubs backing the project.
This Super League is intended to represent an alternative to the current club competitions organised by European football’s governing body, UEFA.
These UEFA continental competitions date back to the 1950s, but the future of the Champions League, Europa League and the newly-formed UEFA Europa Conference League are under threat.
A22’s chief executive, Bernd Reichart, told Die Welt in February 2023: “The foundations of European football are in danger of collapsing. It’s time for a change. It is the clubs that bear the entrepreneurial risk in football. But when important decisions are at stake, they are too often forced to sit idly by on the sidelines as the sporting and financial foundations crumble around them.
“Our talks have also made it clear that clubs often find it impossible to speak out publicly against a system that uses the threat of sanctions to thwart opposition. Our dialogue was open, honest, constructive and resulted in clear ideas about what changes are needed and how they could be implemented. There is a lot to do and we will continue our dialogue.”
Which teams are in the Super League?
There were 12 teams who signed up for the original Super League that was launched and dramatically collapsed in April 2021. The so-called big six of the Premier League; Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool; the big three in Spain of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid; and the big three in Italy of Juventus, Inter and AC Milan.
It is understood that Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain were all invited to be part of the Super League but all Bundesliga and Ligue 1 clubs refused to be part of the breakaway tournament.
All of the teams who were part of the original Super League officially pulled out, with the exception of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus. These three teams have publicly remained committed to launching a Super League throughout.
In February 2023, it was announced that there would be 60-80 teams in the new European Super League. However, apart from Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus, no other clubs have put their name to the project yet.
When is the European Super League due to start?
It was suggested that the planned launch of the original Super League would have been the start of the 2022/23 season.
There have been reports that the relaunched Super League could begin for 2024/25 but there are currently court proceedings ongoing before any hypothetical launch date can be officially announced.
What is the format of the Super League?
The newly-announced Super League would be a multi-division competition consisting of 60-80 European teams.
There would be promotion and relegation, and teams would have to qualify for the league on merit. No teams would automatically qualify or be permanent members. There would be a minimum of 14 matches a season.
The original Super League from April 2021 was due to consist of 20 teams. Fifteen of those would have been permanent members who could not be relegated. An additional five teams would be able to enter each season.
The format would have seen these 20 clubs split into two leagues of 10 teams. Everyone in those two leagues would have played each other home and away, and there would have been a minimum of 18 European matches played each season.
The matches were due to be played in midweek, and the idea was that teams would still be able to compete in domestic competitions such as the Premier League, La Liga or national cups. This will likely be the case with the new Super League, also.
How much will teams earn in Super League?
It is too early to say how much money will be earned in the new Super League but it is likely to be very significant. One of the biggest reasons for launching a Super League is to give clubs outside of England the financial means to challenge Premier League clubs.
It is claimed that the Premier League has built up a financial monopoly on the European game due to its astronomical television deals, to the extent that teams from outside of England can no longer challenge for the best players and continental trophies.
There are likely to be some big backers behind the Super League project.
JP Morgan confirmed that it would be debt financing the original Super League to the amount of £3.5 billion.
The creation of the league is intended to lead to numerous lucrative commercial, television and sponsorship deals, with reports of national tv stations being prepared to pay billions to air games in their countries circulating.
In total, it was estimated that each team would make between €275m and €400m per year just from participating in the original Super League, thus trebling or even quadrupling the money made from the Champions League.
It remains to be seen what the figures will be for the new Super League.
What will happen to the Champions League?
The future of the Champions League is very much under threat as a result of these Super League plans.
UEFA's very position as European football's governing body will naturally be at risk, as will the power it holds and the purpose it serves.
If there is a European Super League, then the teams who join this breakaway competition would very likely be unable to participate in the Champions League, Europa League or Conference League.
And if many of Europe’s biggest clubs - like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus - didn’t enter the Champions League, the tournament would be devalued so much that it is difficult to see it thriving. Television and commercial income would naturally plummet in a second-rate tournament.
UEFA’s ‘Swiss model’ for the Champions League, which is to reform their competition in time for the 2024/25 season, has been heavily criticised.
What will happened to the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A & domestic leagues?
It is understood that teams joining the Super League will still be able to compete in their domestic leagues.
These leagues and the clubs who weren’t invited to be in the original Super League in 2021 were understandably unhappy. The money on offer from the Super League was set to lead to an even greater disparity in wealth between those who are in and out of the breakaway tournament.
It was also believed that Super League teams may take their local leagues less seriously, deploying reserve sides, as they would focus on the midweek games.
These domestic leagues would thus have been devalued even further and like the Champions League there would’ve been less money on offer from television and commercial avenues.
This would have had big ramifications on the futures of many smaller clubs, with fears it could even drive some out of business.
However, with the revamped Super League promising qualification from domestic leagues, the concerns from 2021 may not be so bad now.
Will the teams joining the Super League be punished?
UEFA is currently fighting against the legality of the European Super League in the courts in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
The court will decide in 2023 whether the Super League can legally form a breakaway from UEFA and whether Uefa and Fifa are within their rights to impose sanctions on clubs who join any breakaway competition.
The Super League argues that UEFA has a monopolistic hold on European football which prevents third parties from acting freely in the market.
What is the reaction to the Super League?
Outside of England, there is now an increasing support among fans around Europe for a Super League.
The key reason for this is the financial power of the Premier League. During the 2023 January transfer window, the Premier League spent €830 million on new signings. This compared to Ligue 1 (€127m), Bundesliga (€68m), La Liga (€32m) and Serie A (€31m).
It has been argued that there is already a Super League in football, the Premier League, with every other domestic league becoming a feeder league.
Thus, a European Super League is required to help bring back some competitive balance and increase the revenues of teams from non-English leagues.
The fact that the revamped Super League is not a closed-shop has also answered the biggest issue fans had with the original launch.
Plans for the original Super League led to almost unanimous anger from fans. The main complaints were that this Super League was all about money and greed. The idea of there being a closed shop – with 15 permanent Super League members – went against the ideals of sporting competition and it was viewed that it would simply kill domestic leagues and smaller clubs.
The original European Super League was condemned by UEFA and the Premier League, with many more leagues, associations and governing bodies following suit.
Even the UK government and Prince William got involved to condemn the Super League.
Why did the original Super League collapse?
There were a number of reasons the original Super League collapsed so suddenly within 48 hours of its launch.
The most important reason was the anger of fans around the footballing world, but especially in England.
There were mass protests by supporters of all of the Premier League big six, with Chelsea fans even refusing to allow their team bus access into Stamford Bridge ahead of their game against Burnley.
Furthermore, several players and managers expressed their negative views on the league, with Jurgen Klopp and James Milner publicly saying they didn’t like it, and Pep Guardiola condemning it: “It is not a sport if success is guaranteed”.
The football community came together as one to prevent the owners from making a decision that the majority simply didn’t want. In the end it forced the owners of the Big Six to pull their sides out of the Super League, and they were soon followed by Inter, Atletico Madrid and AC Milan.
It must also be noted that the political interference of Boris Johnson’s UK government and by Prince William also played an important role.
Recently, Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes revealed he would have pushed to leave the club had the European Super League proposals gone ahead.