ICT

"PALACE COUP" IN SOCCERRich clubs seeking to isolate themselves from the rest of the world

OCTAVIAN DAN (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
English Section / 04 mai

Rich clubs seeking to isolate themselves from the rest of the world

The world of football is at a turning point. The rich in football have started a revolution to isolate themselves from the rest of the world, a kind of haiducie in reverse. The reactions against this action range from moderate and violent and come from all levels, including from significant politicians.

Twelve clubs announced the launch of the Super League on April 18, a private competition that will compete with the current Champions League. We are basically witnessing a declaration of war which UEFA promised it would respond to, by expelling the dissident teams and their players from every competition. According to a press release of the founders of the new competition: "Twelve of Europe's biggest clubs announce that they have reached an agreement to create a new competition, "The Super League', governed by the founding clubs. AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, Inter Milano, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham have come together as founding clubs. The inaugural season will debut as soon as possible. In exchange for their commitment, the founding clubs would receive a one-off payment of approximately 3.5 billion euros, intended exclusively for infrastructure investments and will offset the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. If those figures are confirmed, the new competition will generate much higher revenues than UEFA for all of its club-level competitions (Champions League, Europa League and Europe's SuperCup), which generated receipts of 3.2 billion euros from TV broadcasting rights in the 2018-2019 season, before the pandemic that seriously affected the European sports royalties market.

The UEFA reacted prior to the announcement of the "putschists" and has announced it would expel the clubs that participate in a private Super League: "UEFA, the British Federation and Premier League, the Spanish federation and LaLiga, the Italian Federation and Lega Serie A have found out that some clubs in England, Spain and Italy could be planning to announce the creation of a so-called Super League. If that were to happen, we want to reiterate that we - UEFA, FA, RFEF, FIGC, Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, as well as FIFA and all of our member federations - will remain united in the efforts to stop this cynical project, a project which is based on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever. We will be reviewing all of the measures that we can take, on every level, both from judicial and athletic point of view, to preven that. Football relies on open competitions and athletic merit, it can't be any other way. As previously announced by UEFA and the six federations, the clubs in question will be banned from participating in any other national, European or world competition, and their players will lose the opportunity to represent their national teams. We want to thank clubs in other countries, especially the French and German ones, who have refused to participate.

We appeal to all football lovers, supporters and politicians, to join us in the fight against such a project if it is announced. This persistent self-interest has been going on for too long. What's too much is too much".

FIFA urged calm and unity: "Given the growing number of media enquiries, and as it has already mentioned several times, FIFA wants to clarify that it is firmly in favor of solidarity in football and of a fair redistribution model that can contribute to the development of football as a sport, especially globally, given that the development of global football is the main mission of FIFA. In our opinion and in accordance with the bylaws, any football competition, either national, regional or global, should always reflect the basic principles of solidarity, integration, integrity and fair financial redistribution. Furthermore, football agencies should use all legal, sports and diplomatic means to ensure that those things remain valid.

In this context, FIFA can express its disapproval of a < < separatist European league > > outside the international football structures and which doesn't honor the above-mentioned principles. FIFA always supports unity in world football and calls on all parties involved in heated discussions to engage in a calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game and in the spirit of solidarity and fair-play. FIFA, of course, will do everything that is necessary to contribute to a harmonized path to follow in the general interest of football".

The president of the Romanian Football Federation, Răzvan Burleanu, said that he did not believe that project of the European Super League would be successful in the medium and long term: "I am happy with the fact that I have seen that the UEFA, FIFA, the three national federations, of the UK, Italy and Spain, together with the three professional leagues of those countries share the same view, namely that that competition can destroy the European model of the sport, which is based on a system of demotion-promotion and also on the solidarity principle. From my point of view, the clubs taking the step towards that competition do so for exclusively financial reasons and are absolutely not interested in the supporters' passion, in investing in their own academies, in other words they are treating football teams - and I am now referring to the shareholders of those clubs - only as an entertainment product. And we are going to understand why most of the clubs that are part of this group right now, of the 12, are owned by American capital. Therefore, I do not think that in the medium and long term such a competition can be successful, especially since the UEFA, FIFA, as well as the three national associations and the leagues in the countries in question have had a firm position: any club that can participate in this competition will be expelled, both from European competitions, as well as from internal competitions".

The president of that group of clubs is Florentino Perez, the leader of Real Madrid: "We will help football at every level to take it to the place it deserves. Football is the only global sport with four billion fans and our responsibility as major clubs is to fulfill supporters' expectations". President of the Juventus club, Andrea Agnelli, resigned from the UEFA Executive Committee and from the position of president of the Association of European Clubs (ECA), which worked on the planned reforms of the Champions' League. He said that the groups have "come together at this critical moment to allow the transformation of the European competition, by placing the game we love on a durable foundation for the long-term future". Co-president of Manchester United, Joel Glazer, will be the vice-president of Super League: "By bringing together the biggest clubs and players in the world to play throughout the season, the Super League would open a new chapter for European football, ensuring a world-class competition and facilities and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid". The League will have 20 teams - the 12 founding teams plus three yet unnamed clubs, expected to join soon and five teams that would qualify annually depending on their domestic results. According to the proposals, European Super League would begin in August each year, with matches held mid-week, and the clubs would be divided in groups of ten each, with matches home and away. The top three teams of each group would qualify in the quarter finals, with the fourth and fifth ranked teams to play-off two round for the two remaining spots. After the quarter finals, the format would be eliminatory in two rounds, just like in the Champions' League, with a one game final held in May at a neutral location.

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Boris Johnson, British prime-minister

"The plans for a European Super League would be very harmful for football and we support the football authorities taking measures".

Emmanuel Macron, French president

"The French government will support every action of the French League, French federation, UEFA and FIFA to protect the integrity of the federal competitions, regardless of whether they are national or European".

Margaritis Schinas, vice-president of the European Commission

"We need to defend a European athletic model based on values, diversity and integration. It is out of the question to have it reserved for just a few rich and powerful clubs".

Răzvan Burleanu, president of the Romanian Football Federation

"From my point of view, clubs that will take the step towards this competition are exclusively interested in money and are not at all interested in the fan's passion".

Joel Glazer, co-president of Manchester United

"By bringing together the biggest clubs and players in the world to play throughout the season, the Super League would open a new chapter for European football, ensuring a world-class competition and facilities and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid".

Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid

"We will help football at every level to take it to the place it deserves. Football is the only global sport with four billion fans and our responsibility as major clubs is to fulfill supporters' expectations".

Aleksandr Ceferin, president of the UEFA

"The creation of the European Superleague is spitting in the face of all football lovers".

UEFA

"We will remain united in the effort to stop this cynical project, a project which is based on the selfish interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs more solidarity than ever".

Winners of the Champions Cup/ Champions League of the last 35 years

1986 - Steaua Bucureşti (Romania)

1987 - FC Porto (Portugal)

1988 - PSV Eindhoven (Holland)

1989 - AC Milan (Italy)

1990 - AC Milan (Italy)

1991 - Red Star Belgrade (Yugoslavia)

1992 - FC Barcelona (Spain)

1993 - Olimpique Marseille (France)

1994 - AC Milan (Italy)

1995 - Ajax Amsterdam (Holland)

1996 - Juventus Torino (Italy)

1997 - Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

1998 - Real Madrid (Spain)

1999 - Manchester United (England)

2000 - Real Madrid (Spain)

2001 - Bayern Munich (Germany)

2002 - Real Madrid (Spain)

2003 - AC Milan (Italy)

2004 - FC Porto (Portugal)

2005 - Liverpool (Anglia)

2006 - FC Barcelona (Spain)

2007 - AC Milan (Italy)

2008 - Manchester United (Anglia)

2009 - FC Barcelona (Spain)

2010 - Inter Milano (Italy)

2011 - FC Barcelona (Spain)

2012 - Chelsea (Anglia)

2013 - Bayern Munich (Germany)

2014 - Real Madrid (Spain)

2015 - FC Barcelona (Spain)

2016 - Real Madrid (Spain)

2017 - Real Madrid (Spain)

2018 - Real Madrid (Spain)

2019 - Liverpool (Anglia)

2020 - Bayern Munich (Germany)

The teams with their names in bold are part of the group of founders of the new Super League.

INSERTuri

Politicians' reactions

UK prime-minister, Boris Johnson, reacted to the announced project and expressed his support for the football governing bodies, which he urged to take measures against that project: "The plans for a European Superleague would be very harmful for football and we support the football authorities to take measures. The plans would hit at the heart of domestic football and would cause concern among fans all over the world". Previously, French president Emmanuel Macron, had announced he was opposed to the project of the European Superleague, saying that he wanted to protect the integrity national and continental competitions. "The president of the Republic salutes the position of French clubs to refuse participation in a project of a European Super League that threatens the principle of solidarity and athletic merit. The French government will support every action of the French League, the French Federation, UEFA and FIFA to protect the integrity of federal competitions, regardless of whether they are national or European". Greek Margaritis Schinas, one of the vice-presidents of the European Commission, said that the Super League project is contrary to the European values of "diversity" and "integration". "We have to defend a European model based on values, diversity and integration. It is out of the question to have it reserved for a few rich and powerful clubs that want to sever the ties" with the national federations, wrote Margaritis Schinas, commissioner in charge with Promoting the European lifestyle.

European Clubs Association is against it

The European Clubs Association (ECA) announced that "is categorically opposed to a closed Super League model". "The ECA, as a representative body of the 246 top clubs in Europe, reaffirmed its commitment to collaboration towards developing a club competition model under the aegis of the UEFA, for the cycle that will begin in 2024," the ECA said in a release posted on Twitter. The ECA, often known as a representative for the most powerful European clubs, took a position just before the 12 major European clubs announced the launch of this "Super League", even more surprisingly, as among those clubs was Juventus Torino, chaired by Italian Andrea Agnelli, who is also the ECA president. The Italian club said it left the association and that in a similar move, its president resigned from the ECA presidency. Andrea Agnelli also resigned from the UEFA Executive Committee whose member he was, a Juventus spokesman said. "The ECA is making public the position adopted in its Executive Committee meeting of April 16, stating that it supports the commitment to work with UEFA on a new structure of European football as a whole after 2024," the Association said, inviting the European Football Union to continue on that path.

British fans expressed their shock at the project

Fan clubs of all the most powerful British clubs involved in the project strongly oppose the European Super League, the BBC reports. The fan group Spirit of Shankly (SOS) of the Liverpool club said it was "horrified" by the decision of Fenway Sports Group, the American owner of the club. "FSG has ignored the fans in their implacable and greedy search for money. Football is ours, not theirs. The football club is ours, not theirs", SOS said, in a message posted on social networks. Chelsea Supporters' Trust called this move "unforgivable" and said that its members and "football fans all over the world have experienced the ultimate betrayal". Arsenal Supporters' Trust called the club's decision to koin the 12-club group as "Arsenal's death as an athletic institution". The Official Club of Manchester City supporters said that the move has shown that "the people involved have zero respect for the traditions of the game", and stated that "it was decided to fight against this proposed Super League". Manchester United Supporters' Trust previously mentioned that the proposals are "completely unacceptable", and the ESL (ed. note: -European Super League) "goes against everything that football and Manchester United should represent". Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust said that the ESL was a "concept led by avarice and personal interest to the detriment of intrinsic values of the game that we hold so dear". The fans' position is absolutely clear as far as this project is concerned.

Secretary general of the Romanian Professional Football league accuses UEFA

The Secretary General of the Romanian Professional Football League, Justin Ştefan, accused the UEFA of bearing the blame for the European Super League project. Ştefan believes that the professional leagues will be able to analyze the prospect of gaining their total independence from the national federations: "A few ideas, closely after the fact, about the European Super League project: 1. The main blame for where things have gotten is the UEFA. Why? Because by creating the Champions League the gap between the rich and the poor has been widened. As a result, it was predictable that the European Super League would eventually become the natural step of the rich, interested in creating a new entertainment product and to thus increase their revenues. Anybody who still believes the fairy tales about amateurs and the values of sports is no longer up to date with the times of an excessive commercialization of athletic products. 2. From that move, the professional leagues will be able to analyze the prospect of gaining full independence from the national federations, especially to the extent where the European forum, and implicitly the national federations, fail to come out as winners from this mutiny. 3. It remains to be seen how the fans will react and how the 12 dissident clubs will succeed in communicating with them in the immediately coming period. Moreover, I think that the leagues that those clubs belong to will be faced with making a difficult choice: a Spanish premier league with or without Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona? A British premier league with or without Manchester United, City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea or Tottenham? An Italian premier league without Inter, Juventus or AC Milan? 4. Solidarity between the UEFA, federations and leagues could break to the extent where the financial interests of the national leagues would be affected through the restructuring of the partnerships with media distributors. The exclusion of the insurgents from the national leagues will create huge pressure on the media contracts, especially since they generate huge ratings for the internal competition. 5. Dissident clubs have a global fans community, not just a local one, so a negative reaction from local fans communities may not be sufficient to make them turn back from the path they set out on. It is an interesting match between the globalist and nationalist currents. It becomes increasingly obvious that the steam roller started by this project will be very hard to stop.

Several voices calling for the exclusion of the "mutinous"

Representatives of several European clubs demanded the immediate exclusion of "insurgents" from domestic and international competitions alike, where appropriate. At stake are immediate interests, clubs that would escape demotion from the national leagues (Italy, Spain, England) or teams that would reach the green table in the Champions League semi-finals instead of the Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City clubs.

Three clubs from the Italian first division (Atalanta, Verona and Cagliari) have asked the football federation to immediately expel from the championship Inter Milano, AC Milan and Juventus Torino, founding members of the Super League. The president of the Italian forum, Paolo Dal Pino asked for a little patience, but he also hinted that there a number of lawsuits would follow and it would be best if they were avoided. On the other hand, he admitted that an Italian championship without the three clubs would bring in far less money in broadcasting rights. The head of the Italian government, Mario Draghi, has announced that he supports the UEFA against the European Superleague. "The government carefully watches the debate around the Superleague's project and resolutely supports the positions of the Italian and European authorities in the desire to preserve the values of the meritocracy and the social function of sports", the Italian government has announced.

There is also a huge pressure on UEFA for the expulsion of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Chelsea from the Champions League semifinals. Jesper Moller, President of the Danish Federation and member of the UEFA Executive Committee, believes that all clubs involved in the project will be expelled.

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