A22 Sports Management, the company in charge of promoting the breakaway European Super League (ESL) soccer project, has unveiled new plans for a continent-wide competition featuring 60 to 80 clubs across multiple divisions.
Under the new proposals, the ESL would be owned and run by the participating clubs and replace tournaments overseen by European governing body UEFA including the top-tier Champions League, secondary Europa League, and third-tier Europa Conference League.
The new plans come almost two years after the ESL project launched and fell in the space of around four days after multiple teams pulled out of the scheme following widespread condemnation.
The original plans envisaged a 20-club competition in which 15 of the teams would qualify by right and share an upfront sum of €3.5 billion ($4.2 billion), with US investment bank JPMorgan Chase driving the financing.
However, English Premier League clubs Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur backed out of the project within 48 hours of the announcement, while Spanish clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Italian giants Juventus remained supportive.
In its statement today (February 9), A22 said since then, it has consulted with “nearly 50 clubs and stakeholders” regarding the proposals but did not name the interested parties that had participated in the discussions.
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It added: “The vast majority of them share the assessment that the very foundation of European football is under threat, and it is time for a change.”
A22 said its revamped European league would be a multi-divisional competition with 60 to 80 teams “based on annual sporting merit, with no permanent members.”
Each team will be guaranteed a minimum of 14 matches per season and continue to play in their domestic leagues. A22 did not provide more specifics on the format but said there will be an improved fan experience, with dialogue with fans and independent fan groups.
Player organizations, meanwhile, will be consulted on all matters with players not “obliged to participate in expanded or new tournaments imposed by third parties”.
There will be well-enforced financial sustainability rules, with competitions “governed by the clubs as they are domestically, not by third parties who benefit without taking any risk.”
A “minimum of €400 million per year” will be paid out to “nonparticipating clubs, social causes, and investment in grassroots”, while there is a promise to develop and finance women’s soccer with a competition that will be “center stage” alongside the men’s competitions.
A22 chief executive Bernd Reichart said: “Clubs bear all entrepreneurial risks but too often are forced to sit on the sidelines when key decisions are made, and they are watching their sporting and financial foundations crumble.
“Our discussions have made clear clubs are often unable to publicly speak up against the system where the threat of sanctions is used to stifle opposition.
“Our dialogue has been honest, direct, and fruitful. There are clear conclusions about the need for change and the building blocks of how to achieve it.”
However, Javier Tebas, president of Spain’s LaLiga and a strong critic of the project said on his Twitter account: “The Super League is the wolf, who today disguises himself as a granny to try to fool European football, but his nose and his teeth are very big.
“Four divisions in Europe? Of course, the first for them, as in the 2019 reform. Government of the clubs? Of course, only the big ones.”
The Football Supporters Association (FSA), which represents fans in England and Wales and is also a co-founder of its European counterpart, said A22 did not have the backing of any fan groups in Europe.
Kevin Miles, FSA’s chief executive, said: “The walking corpse that is the European Super League twitches again with all the self-awareness one associates with a zombie.
“Their newest idea is to have an ‘open competition’ rather than the closed shop they originally proposed which led to huge fan protests. Of course, an open competition for Europe’s top clubs already exists – it’s called the Champions League.”
The new plans come after A22 was dealt a heavy blow in December when the European Court of Justice’s preliminary verdict ruled in favor of UEFA over the governance of European club soccer and if its move to block rival events and bar clubs and players from taking part conforms with EU competition rules.
The European Court of Justice is due to announce the full verdict next month (March). If the court upholds the initial ruling, it will cement UEFA’s position as the sole organizer of European club competitions going forward.
Earlier this month (February), A22 claimed a small victory when a Spanish court agreed to reinstate an injunction that it handed down in April 2021 preventing soccer bodies from punishing the founding ESL clubs and their players.
The injunction means UEFA, as well as international governing body FIFA, are not able to sanction – either financially or through points deductions – Barcelona and Real Madrid, and Juventus, for their founding involvement in the ESL.