What is the European Super League? Format, teams, earnings, reactions

Carlo Garganese
Carlo Garganese Updated: 21 Oct 2021 12:19 CEST 8 min read
Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Liverpool, Man City

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 have completely transformed the landscape of European football were announced.

The league has now been scrapped, but it certainly looked at that time as though it was going to go ahead.

What was the Super League?

The European Super League was meant to be a breakaway competition that was set to include 20 of the biggest football clubs on the continent.

It is understood that around 15 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 Super League was 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 seemed under threat.

The teams who would have been part of the 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.

What is the European Super League? Format, teams, earnings, reactions and everything you need to know

Man Utd’s Joel Glazer and Juventus’ Andrea Agnelli were announced as vice-chairmens before the league’s demise.

Which teams were in the Super League?

There were 12 teams who signed up for the Super League. 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.

What is the European Super League? Format, teams, earnings, reactions and everything you need to know

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.

When was the European Super League due to start?

It was suggested that the planned launch of the Super League would have been the start of the 2022/23 season.

However, certain reports suggested that the league could have begun at the start of the 2021/22 season, with those in charge of the Super League keen to start as soon as possible.

What was the format of the Super League?

The Super League 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 saw these 20 clubs split into two leagues of 10 teams.

What is the European Super League? Format, teams, earnings, reactions and everything you need to know

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.

The Super League was due to commence in August every year, with the top three teams in each division qualifying automatically for the quarter-finals, with the fourth and fifth placed teams playing off against each other for the remaining two slots.

There would then be two-legged quarter-finals, semi-finals and a one-off final in May each year.

How much would teams have earned in Super League?

JP Morgan confirmed that it would be debt financing the Super League to the amount of £3.5 billion.

The creation of the league was 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 Super League, thus trebling or even quadrupling the money made from the Champions League.

The total money at stake would’ve been astronomical, and Super League clubs and their owners were set to become even more incredibly rich. For the 15 founder members it would have guaranteed revenue each and every season.

What would’ve happened to the Champions League?

The future of the Champions League was very much under threat as a result of these Super League plans.

The teams who signed up for the Super League rejected UEFA’s ‘Swiss model’ for the Champions League, which was to reform the competition in time for the 2024/25 season.

What is the European Super League? Format, teams, earnings, reactions and everything you need to know

It seemed certain that these rebel clubs wouldn’t play in the Champions League – or the Europa League or UEFA Europa Conference League, as Super League matches were scheduled to be played in midweek at the same time that current UEFA club matches take place.

And if Europe’s biggest clubs didn’t enter the Champions League, the tournament would be devalued so much that it was difficult to see it thriving. Television and commercial income would naturally plummet in a second-rate tournament.

UEFA released a powerful statement in response to the Super League plans, vowing to ‘fight against’ the project and calling on fans to join them in condemning the plans.

What would’ve happened to the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A & domestic leagues?

It was understood that teams joining the Super League would still have been able to compete in their domestic leagues.

However, these leagues and the clubs who weren’t invited to be in the Super League 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.

What is the European Super League? Format, teams, earnings, reactions and everything you need to know

It was also believed that Super League teams would 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 league being scrapped, it seems the future of domestic league football is safe.

Would the teams joining the Super League have been punished?

UEFA announced that – together with other influential governing bodies and associations like FIFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga and Lega Serie A – “we will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening.”

“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.”

It was likely that this controversy could have ended up in the courtrooms (and still may do), while there may even have been attempts for Super League teams and their players to be banned, fined and potentially deducted points or relegated.

The Super League did, however, threaten legal action against UEFA, FIFA and other organisations who attempted to ban or punish clubs who were part of the breakaway. In the end, these threats proved to be in vain.

What was the reaction to the Super League?

Plans for the Super League led to almost unanimous anger from fans. The main complaints were that this Super League is all about money and greed.

The idea of there being a closed shop – with 15 permanent Super League members – goes against the ideals of sporting competition and it was viewed that it would simply kill domestic leagues and smaller clubs.

The European Super League was condemned by UEFA and the Premier League, with many more leagues, associations and governing bodies following suit.

Other influential people in the football community such as Gary Neville also slammed the Super League, describing it as a “criminal act”.

Even the UK government and Prince William got involved to condemn the Super League.

Why did the Super League collapse?

There were a number of reasons the 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.

In September, UEFA announced that it has dropped legal action against Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid for their roles in founding the European Super League.

The UEFA Appeals Body announced that it is no longer suing Juventus, Barca and Madrid.

"Following the stay of proceedings against FC Barcelona, Juventus FC and Real Madrid CF, in the matter related to a potential violation of UEFA’s legal framework in connection with the so called ‘Super League’, the UEFA Appeals Body has declared today the proceedings null and void, as if the proceedings had never been opened," read a statement.

Juventus, Barca and Madrid had slammed UEFA’s disciplinary proceedings against them, labelling them as a “direct attack against the rule of law”.

"Either we reform football or we will have to watch its inevitable downfall," said the defiant clubs in a joint statement.

"Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid, all of them more than a century old, will not accept any form of coercion or intolerable pressure, while they remain strong in their willingness to debate, respectfully and through dialogue, the urgent solutions that football currently needs."