The long rumoured debates about a European Super League have taken a seismic step forward today in the biggest shake up of football since the foundation of the Premier League and the redesigned UEFA Champions League.
12 European clubs, including six from England have announced their intention to commence a 20 team European Super League, played in midweek, starting as early as August.
Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea were joined by AC Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid in announcing their intention to peel away from UEFA's club competition.
The clubs all aim to continue competing in their domestic leagues but FIFA, UEFA and the Premier League have all warned that there could be severe sanctions if the clubs continue down this route.
A joint statement issued by the founding 12 clubs late Sunday night said:
Going forward, the Founding Clubs look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole.
The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model. Further, for a number of years, the Founding Clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.
They list the format to operate as:
# 20 participating clubs with 15 Founding Clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season.
# Midweek fixtures with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game.
# An August start with clubs participating in two groups of ten, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.
Florentino Pérez, the Real Madrid chairman, is taking on the role of Chairman of the new European Super League, whilst Joel Glazer, of Man United and Andrea Agnelli, of Juventus, were named as vice-chairman.
It represents a seismic shift in European football and the consequences for the Premier League if they decide to ban their six biggest clubs could be huge.
Agnelli's statement read:
“Our 12 Founder clubs represent billions of fans across the globe and 99 European trophies. We have come together at this critical moment, enabling European competition to be transformed, putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future, substantially increasing solidarity, and giving fans and amateur players a regular flow of headline fixtures that will feed their passion for the game while providing them with engaging role models.”
The move has been met with widespread condemnation by the main footballing bodies who will no doubt want to maintain the status quo, but also many grassroots supporters.
This argument with UEFA and the Premier League is likely to rumble on for some time.