Call it what you will, but should the group behind the formation of the Super League go on to form their own break-away league, then the game of football as we know it will have changed, likely irreversibly.
There has been talk about a ‘European Super League’ brewing on backburners for years now, decades even. The big driving force behind it has been that UEFA are mismanaging the coveted Champions League, and that there were even bigger television revenues to be gained for the clubs that partook perennially than the continental body was distributing.
Early on Sunday, an unheralded article in the New York Times suddenly revealed that a dozen of the biggest clubs in Europe had been working behind the scenes to form their own break-away league. That news item triggered fanatical responses from not just fans of those twelve clubs but across the footballing world.
The Premier League immediately announced that the six English clubs would be expelled immediately from all forms of the game in the United Kingdom if they joined the super league. Football associations across Europe echoed that sentiment.
The twelve sides involved have all confirmed their official participation - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, & Tottenham Hotspur; AC Milan, Inter Milan, & Juventus; Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid - with the American owners of three of the clubs were instrumental in forming this ‘elite’ league, with bankers JP Morgan financing the project to the tune of £4.6 billion. Real President Perez is set to be the chairman of the new league, with Joel Glazer (Man Utd) and Andrea Agnelli (Juventus) as vice-chairmen.
The timing of the news leak is even more curious with UEFA scheduled to announce their new Swiss-format Champions League concept on Monday. Agnelli, in his role as European Clubs Association President has been working with UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin on those changes, so this represents an about-face from him and Agnelli stepped down from his position minutes after the announcement was made.
BREAKING: Statement confirming that Man Utd, Liverpool, Man City, Spurs, Arsenal & Chelsea - along with AC Milan, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, & Real Madrid have agreed to establish a new European ‘Super League’, with 3 more clubs expected to join pic.twitter.com/33xrmIWrrp— Dan Roan (@danroan) April 18, 2021
As indicated by the manifesto announced by the new league, they are anticipating playing this tournament instead of the midweek Champions League, but from the reactions seen so far from the domestic leagues indicate that all twelve clubs will be immediately expelled from their national tournaments, and their players possibly facing repercussions at an individual level when they try to represent their respective national teams.
After the #SuperLeague statement, this is the UEFA position: "Every club and player participating in the Super League could be banned from all UEFA and FIFA competitions, European or International level". #UEFA— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) April 18, 2021
More on the joint official statement from UEFA, the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A can be found here.
FIFA statement... "FIFA can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles."— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) April 18, 2021
The Super League are aiming to have 15 teams signed up as permanent members, each receiving an equal share of €3.5 billion ‘solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic’. A yet unannounced system of promotion and relegation will be used to get five more teams in the league to make up twenty clubs that will be divided into two groups of ten.
Fans of the twelve clubs involved have been unequivocal in their opposition to these actions - a quick look at Twitter says that not a single fans group from any of the clubs were consulted, making this look more and more like a money grab by club owners.
Television pundit and former United stalwart Gary Neville said it as well as anyone else has said it today.
Gary Neville is the people's hero right now. Unreal piece of television about the European Super League. pic.twitter.com/ypdQbdQfs7— Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) April 18, 2021
It remains to be seen if indeed the Premier League can hold firm on their stance to immediately expel the clubs involved in this rebellion - the financial clout of the ‘Sky Six’ have helped inflate television deals that has benefited all other clubs including Everton. With those clubs out, will television rights holders now look to rework those contracts?
A standoff seems in sight as the twelve clubs and their respective federations as well as UEFA and FIFA stare intently at each other looking to see who blinks first and makes a concession or two.
Meanwhile, for Everton, two paths remain open. One is to disavow this breakaway league and refuse to get involved in the hitherto unreleased qualification system that will allow five clubs to join the Super League every season. Alternatively, they can keep their heads down and see how the situation develops before making their stance clear. There is not doubt whatsoever though that the majority of the Toffees fanbase will insist on staying in the domestic competitions, something that makes up the fabric of football as we have known it since 1878 when the club was formed.
However this turns out, Sunday April 18th 2021 is likely to go down as one of the most significant days in modern football history.