European Premier League: What we know about FIFA-backed plans for cross-continental super tournament
Leaked plans for a lucrative European Premier League have sent the footballing world into frenzy and left the game on the precipice of generational change.
Liverpool and Manchester United have participated in talks over the construction of a new FIFA-backed tournament, which would be funded to the sum of $6billion (£4.6billion) by Wall Street bank JP Morgan.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham have reportedly been approached as the revolutionary proposal takes shape, but what does this mean for the future of the Premier League, the Champions League, and football as we know it? Here’s what we know so far…
Who is involved?
It’s understood that more than a dozen clubs from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are in negotiations about becoming founding members of the competition.
Liverpool and Manchester United – who have faced recent criticism over their development of the controversial ‘Project Big Picture’ proposals – Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham make up the contingent of Premier League clubs who have been approached, and it believed as many as five of them could sign up.
- UEFA strongly opposes plans
- Liverpool, Man Utd in ‘European Premier League’ talks
- Neville: European PL talks obscene – fans will turn away
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid from Spain, Bayern Munich from Germany, Juventus from Italy and Paris Saint-Germain from France are also thought to be among the candidate clubs for the new league.
The plans are said to have the backing of the sport’s world governing body FIFA and are also reported to involve Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.
Can other clubs join the league?
As part of the initial blueprint, founder clubs could not be relegated for 20 years, meaning that a maximum of six places would be available each season.
It’s understood relegation could form part of the new competition, with the participation of non-founding member clubs subject to their domestic league position at the end of each season.
What would a European Premier League look like?
At first glance, the European Premier League makes for a fascinating prospect that would see the biggest clubs on the continent compete on a more consistent basis.
Initial proposals suggest the European Premier League would be split into two distinct sections; a league and a knockout phase.
With as many as 18 clubs involved, the league would comprise of a round-robin tournament in which clubs would play home and away midweek fixtures over 34 matchdays.
Once completed, the top-placed teams in the league would compete in a knockout phase where the European Premier League winners would be determined, although such details are yet to be revealed.
What does this mean for the Premier League?
Whereas proposals in the past for a European Super League threatened to break away from existing domestic leagues, European Premier League plans have been designed to work alongside competitions such as the Premier League.
Instead of forming a breakaway league, fixtures will be played in existing midweek slots that are currently occupied by the UEFA Champions League. It means a Premier League club could honour their European Premier League commitments during the week, while fulfilling their domestic schedule at the weekend.
Nevertheless, the creation of European Premier League would have profound implications for the value of domestic broadcasting and sponsorship rights across Europe, at a time when the finances of the entire football pyramid have been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis.
Would it mean the end of the Champions League?
UEFA are strongly opposed to the plan and has made it clear that any changes to their open-format competitions are “non-negotiable”
They are in talks over changes to the Champions League format from 2024, with reports they may consider increasing the number teams to 36, but nothing has been decided.
However, the creation of a European Premier League would make it unlikely that UEFA’s flagship competition, which was introduced in 1992, would be able to continue.
Legally, are there any restrictions that could stop this happening?
If a new super league is to kick off as early as 2022, in an already-disrupted World Cup year, there would have to be considerable hurdles to overcome.
UEFA has a format, and lucrative TV contracts, in place until 2024 and companies have paid big money for the rights to broadcast games involving Europe’s top clubs.
A ‘European Premier League’ would also have a considerable impact on the value of the Premier League too.
What if finishing in the top four no longer matters? What would happen to the compelling drama if European participation was guaranteed to only a select number of clubs, regardless of where they finish?
Legal challenges would surely follow.
How could the power struggle play out between FIFA and UEFA? Could other governing bodies break away from FIFA as a result of any potential dispute?
FIFA prides itself on being a “family”, made up of 211 national associations around the world, and supports them financially and logistically through various programmes.
UEFA is one of FIFA’s six confederations, with 55 national associations in Europe including the Football Association.
The FA is the governing body of football in England, which includes all competitions such as the Premier League.
Quite simply, the game’s administration is entwined and everything is linked.
To untangle it is complicated and will require approval at every senior level within the game.
What about FIFA’s own plans for a Club World Cup?
Liverpool are reigning champions of the FIFA Club World Cup, after their win against Flamengo in Doha last December.
Last month, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said the competition will be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Infantino said: “When it comes to the current Club World Cup of 2020, well since many confederations or some confederations will probably not conclude their Champions Leagues until December, it is unlikely that this event will take place in December of this year as was originally planned.
“But we are discussing, we are monitoring, we are seeing if it can be hosted in Qatar maybe at the beginning of the [new] year.
“We certainly want to see if we can keep it, we will do that consulting all the confederations and all the participating clubs and take the best decision for football.”
What has been said?
Liverpool are yet to comment but Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward was asked about the European Premier League during a conference call following the announcement of United’s latest financial results on Wednesday.
Woodward replied to a question asking for more detail and said: “I don’t know where this story came from, we’re engaged with the ECA and UEFA about changes to be made to the Champions League from 2024 onwards which could involve 36 teams being involved.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, FIFA said: “FIFA does not wish to comment and participate in any speculation about topics which come up every now and then and, for which, institutional structures and regulatory frameworks are well in place at national, European and global level.”
UEFA also released a statement stating their opposition to the plan:
“The UEFA president has made it clear on many occasions that UEFA strongly opposes a Super League.
“The principles of solidarity, of promotion, relegation and open leagues are non-negotiable. It is what makes European football work and the Champions League the best sports competition in the world.
“UEFA and the clubs are committed to build on such strength not to destroy it to create a super league of 10, 12, even 24 clubs, which would inevitably become boring.”
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville says the sums of money discussed to finance the new proposed league – at a time when areas of the English game are in severe financial difficulty – reflects badly on a Premier League who are yet to agree a support package for EFL teams.
He told Sky Sports News: “The big issue that I have with it, is that at this moment in time, in the middle of a pandemic and when football is on its knees at so many different levels – the FA, EFL clubs and Non-League clubs are struggling – the idea that a $6billion package is being put together to set-up a new league when lower clubs are scrambling around to pay wages and stay in existence.
“It’s another wound for football. It doesn’t feel like the right time to be talking about this. The leak probably doesn’t suit Manchester United or Liverpool at this moment in time as they’re seen as the big, bad bullies.
“I’m for progression of football, with new competitions and new formats, but we have got to look after the fabric of the game and what it means to the communities in this country.
“There is a position, potentially, for a new European League and for an amazing Premier League, a fantastically competitive EFL and funded grassroots and Non-League football. There is enough money.
“If they can pull $6bn together for a European league then they can pull together £150-£200m to save the rest of football in this country.”