Twelve of Europe’s top football clubs launched a breakaway Super League on Sunday, launching what is certain to be a bitter battle for control of the game and its lucrative revenue.
The move sets up a rival to UEFA’s established Champions League competition and was condemned by football authorities and political leaders.
Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus are among the leading members of the new league but UEFA 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 both issued statements condemning a breakaway and supporting UEFA’s position.
As well as United, Premier League clubs Liverpool, Manchester City, 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.
The Super League said that they aimed to have 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 euros ($4.19 billion) to spend on infrastructure projects and to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The money would not be available to spend on players.
The League said they will make ‘solidarity payments’ to the rest of European football which will exceed those currently offered by UEFA and which “are expected to be in excess of 10 billion euros” over the 23-year commitment period the clubs have entered into.
“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.
No German or French clubs have yet to be associated with the breakaway.
World soccer’s governing body 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 announcement came just hours before UEFA is due to sign off on its own plans for an expanded and restructured 36-team Champions League on Monday.
UEFA issued a strong statement jointly with English, Spanish and Italian leagues and football federations, saying they were ready to use “all measures” to confront any breakaway and saying any participating clubs would be banned from domestic leagues, such as the Premier League.
“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,” UEFA 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.”