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…
First things first, who’s 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.
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 breakaway 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.
So will this spell the end of the Champions League?
The long and short of it is – yes.
If discussions are successfully concluded, the European Premier League would effectively usurp UEFA’s flagship Champions League competition, which has been a mainstay of the continent’s football calendar for decades since its inception in 1992.
Unsurprisingly, UEFA is strongly opposed to it. It released a statement on Tuesday evening saying that the principles of open leagues were “non-negotiable”. It also said that any such super league would “inevitably become boring”.
When would the European Premier League start?
A provisional start date as early as 2022 has apparently been mooted for the inception of the European Premier League.
However, with the existing UEFA Champions League format in place until 2024, a number of complications stand in the way of such a swift start.
What has been said?
Neither Liverpool nor Manchester United have commented publicly yet.
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.”
‘Edge taken off domestic leagues’
Sky Sports News’ Bryan Swanson:
“Think of the impact this would have for the Premier League and other domestic competitions – think of the race for the top four and the compelling drama that can bring. The edge would be taken off it domestically if it didn’t really matter because those big clubs knew they were competing in Europe’s top competition anyway.
“UEFA controls the Champions League and the Europa League, but it also has competitions such as the Nations League and the European Championships. So could any players who take part in a new European Premier League be denied the right to compete in the European Championships?
“It’s a possibility. This could get very messy indeed – or a compromise could be reached.”
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.
What I read about this Super League idea will destroy football as we know it. It’s all about greed and keeping the game for a few elite clubs, while killing the other clubs and leagues that fans love. Football should unite! Everyone should oppose it! https://t.co/98VC6xd2qX
— Luís Figo (@LuisFigo) October 21, 2020
“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.”