The Premier League believes a new declaration of war by European Super League rebels will not pose a threat to its financial supremacy in the global game after a proposal for a new breakaway competition was launched on Thursday.
The plans announced by A22, the ESL’s sister company in Madrid, with teams of “60 to 80” in more than one division, commit to few details other than having no permanent members and a minimum of 14 games per club, for season. But there was no clarity on whether there will be promotion and relegation between the divisions or if the more established teams will ever find themselves eliminated from the competition.
Those behind the project that the rebels Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus are still promoting, assure that it will not be the original format that crashed in such a spectacular way in April 2021, having proposed 14 permanent founding members and five open places each year.
A22 claims that the basis for the new project came as a result of detailed discussions with clubs from all over Europe about the financial problems they are facing. A key factor in launching A22 to clubs across Europe is that the financial power of the Premier League has made it impossible for other European clubs to compete.
Executives from the 20 Premier League clubs, who met for a shareholder meeting in London on Thursday, dismissed the plans, saying it was an attempt to pit Europe against English soccer. “It’s a reverse Brexit for football,” a source said.
John Hahn, the American investor who co-founded A22, said that, with the exception of the English game, “European soccer is in pretty bad shape and it’s getting worse.” Hahn has worked closely in the past with Florentino Pérez, president of Real Madrid and a main promoter of the ESL, who was named president in the original proposals two years ago.
‘The Premier League has become the Super League’
Hahn said the gap between the Premier League and Europe was financial, but would lead to a competitive imbalance over time. “Among the clubs we spoke to there is a pretty clear recognition of what the problems are and how serious they are,” he said. “There is reasonably broad agreement on the steps we need to take to correct and what has been happening in recent years is not effective, and the system is not working that well.”
A22 have campaigned against the Premier League’s financial dominance of the transfer market in recent months as a means of galvanizing grassroots support for their plans. “The Premier League has become the Super League,” says A22. It says the annual revenue of the 20 clubs amounts to 7.1 billion euros, which is 1.9 times more than its closest competitor, the Spanish League, at 3.7 billion euros.
The original ESL in April 2021 included six from the Premier League. Those were the two Manchester clubs – Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur – who could now face a 30-point penalty under since-agreed rules if they joined a breakaway league outside the auspices of UEFA.
There have been suggestions that ESL and A22 could go ahead without the English clubs in a bid to force them to join a new competition. However, industry insiders agree that broadcast revenue from a European competition without English clubs would not come close to the levels that have been projected for ESL.
There has been no new response from the Premier League as to these latest proposals, although it is understood to view the latest ESL and A22 announcements as little different from previous claims.
Spanish La Liga president Javier Tebas, who is at odds with Perez and his Barcelona counterpart Joan Laporta, launched the most open attack on ESL. Thebes said that four divisions of European soccer would guarantee permanent membership to a select few. “The Super League is the wolf, which today disguises itself as a grandmother to try to deceive European football,” Tebas tweeted, “but it has a very large nose and teeth.”
The Football Fans’ Association, which represents fans in England and Wales and is a co-founder of the equivalent supporters’ body in Europe, said the plan does not have the backing of fans on the continent.
“The walking corpse that is the European Super League twitches again with all the self-awareness one associates with a zombie,” FSA chief executive Kevin Miles said in a statement.
“Their newest idea is to have an ‘open competition’ instead of the closed shop they originally proposed which caused huge protests from fans. Of course, there is already an open competition for the best clubs in Europe – it’s called the Champions League. They say ‘dialogue with fans and independent fan groups is essential’, yet the European Zombie League carries on, deliberately ignoring the contempt held by fans across the continent for it.”
The body that represents 40 of Europe’s national leagues in 34 countries and 1,092 clubs (European Leagues) said it was not consulted by A22 or ESL. There were wide claims from A22 that their new ESL project would support the women’s game and national competitions, as well as protect the health of players, enforce financial sustainability rules and improve the fan experience. But there were no firm details on how this would be achieved or details of any financial backing.
In ESL’s earlier proposal, US investment bank JP Morgan agreed to lend a total of £3.25bn to launch the project. Hahn did not discuss any new loan agreements that may be in place. Hahn said: “The clubs we spoke to do not see it as fair or right for an entity that does not assume any of the business risks associated with club ownership or management to have sole control of European competitions. Participating clubs do not have a vote and do not have direct government.
However, the clubs have played a key role in agreeing the new Champions League format that will come into force after the end of next season, the so-called “Swiss model”. That will make 36 teams in a single division play ten group stage matches instead of the current six.
Real and Florentino Pérez continue to be the engine of the ESL project
As for the wealth of those competitions, UEFA and the powerful European Club Association, which represents clubs across Europe, are co-owners of a joint venture that controls all revenue from the Champions League, Europa League and Europa League. Conference League.
The ESL and A22 were dealt a major blow before Christmas in their long-running legal case with UEFA at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. Counsel General Athanasios Rantos’ advice to the court was strongly in favor of UEFA’s monopoly position.
The Advocate General’s advice is not binding on the judges of the European Court of Justice, but is followed in most cases. It found EU competition law to be compatible with the restrictions that UEFA and FIFA’s power placed on football and “proportionate” to achieve UEFA’s “legitimate objectives” in line with EU policy on the sport. Since then, A22 and the ESL have successfully reinstated, in the Spanish court of appeal, an injunction protecting it against UEFA action.
It seems that Real and Perez are still the driving force of the ESL project. Hahn has worked closely with the club before through his American private equity firm Providence, which has helped finance Real by selling future marketing revenue.
Reports out of Croatia this week have claimed that Croatian captain Luka Modric’s new contract offer from Real Madrid includes a clause requiring him to retire from international football. If genuine, that would suggest the club’s relationship with international soccer bodies is at an all time low.
Since the ESL’s original collapse two years ago, one of the key allies, former Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, has been forced to resign due to an investigation by the Italian soccer federation into financial mismanagement.