FIFA vows 'consequences' for Super League clubs as backlash intensifiesTuesday, April 20, 2021
MONTREUX, Switzerland (AFP)— FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Tuesday threatened "consequences" for clubs involved in the European Super League only for a court in Madrid to later ban football's establishment from moves to block the deeply divisive project as the fierce backlash against it intensified.
Infantino rallied to the support of European football's governing body UEFA as it attempts to quash an initiative that threatens its prized Champions League and the health of domestic competitions such as England's Premier League.
"It is our task to protect the European sport model, so if some elect to go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choices," Infantino said at UEFA's congress in Switzerland.
"They are responsible for their choices."
Reports on Tuesday evening suggested that cracks were appearing in the plan with some clubs having second thoughts in the face of the outrage. British media named Chelsea as one team that could be on the brink of pulling out of the project.
But the scale of the battle ahead was all too evident when a Madrid court ruled against UEFA and FIFA from any moves to stymie the controversial private Super League backed by billions from US investment bank JPMorgan Chase.
In its ruling, a copy of which was seen by AFP, the court ordered both bodies to refrain from any action or statement that would prevent the creation of the ESL as well as any disciplinary measures or match bans against the clubs, players or officials involved.
Real Madrid and Liverpool are among a dozen clubs -- six from England, and three each from Spain and Italy -- to have signed up for the Super League, which offers guaranteed spots for its founding members and billions of dollars in payments.
Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool are the English clubs involved, together with Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real from Spain and Italian trio Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.
Strikingly reigning European champions Bayern Munich and French giants Paris Saint-Germain both came out vehemently opposed to the breakaway league.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: "On behalf of the board, I would like to make it explicitly clear that FC Bayern will not be taking part in the Super League."
Currently, teams have to qualify for the Champions League each year through their national competitions, and survive a group phase before reaching the high-profile latter stages.
The Super League would guarantee a spot for its founding members every year, removing the uncertainty of qualification and the accompanying risks to revenue.
The incendiary plan has sparked a furious reaction from fans, players and the British Prime Minister.
"The prime minister confirmed the government will not stand by while a small handful of owners create a closed shop," Downing Street said in a statement after PM Boris Johnston had met Premier League clubs, the English FA and fans groups.
Johnson voiced his "unwavering support" for football chiefs and told the meeting the government could "drop a legislative bomb" to block the ESL.
The Premier League clubs "unanimously and vigorously rejected" the new competition at an emergency meeting which did not include representatives of the big six.
Although his club are involved, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola concedes the Super League does not fit with the way he believes sport should be run.
"It is not a sport where the relation between effort and success does not exist," the Spaniard said. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said its closed nature was "not right".
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin on Monday decried the Super League as motivated by "greediness, selfishness and narcissism".
On Tuesday, Ceferin implored club owners, particularly those of Premier League teams, to row back on the plans.
"There's still time to change your mind. Everyone makes mistakes," said the Slovenian. "English fans deserve to have you correct your mistake, they deserve respect."
Three more clubs are expected to sign up, including "at least two" from France, a source told AFP, but not Qatar-owned PSG.
"Paris Saint-Germain holds the firm belief that football is a game for everyone," said PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi in a statement.
Five more clubs will qualify annually for the 20-team, midweek competition, where two groups of 10 will precede two-legged quarter- and semi-finals and a one-off final. The competition is due for launch "as soon as is practicable".
With JPMorgan's backing the Super League is offering the founding clubs an initial pot of 3.5 billion euros (US$4 billion) for infrastructure investment and to offset COVID-19 pandemic costs.
The clubs, most of them heavily indebted and saddled with enormous player salaries, are expected to receive a further 10 billion euros in "solidarity payments" over the life of the initial commitment -- much more than the returns available in the Champions League.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, the head of the new ESL, said it was "impossible" that clubs would be thrown out of the Champions League, whose upcoming semi-finals feature Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid.
"Football has to keep changing and adapting to the times. Football is losing interest. Something must be done," Perez said.
Liverpool midfielder James Milner became one of the first players at one of the clubs involved to speak openly against the project.
"I can only say my personal opinion, I don't like it and hopefully it doesn't happen," Milner said after Liverpool's Premier League draw at Leeds on Monday.
Furious fans gathered outside Stamford Bridge in protest ahead of Chelsea's Premier League clash with Brighton on Tuesday night.
Fans held up signs reading: "RIP Football 1863 - 2021", "Created by the poor, stolen by the rich", "We want our cold nights in Stoke" and "Roman do the right thing" -- in reference to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
The breakaway announcement came just hours before UEFA announced a new, 36-team format for the Champions League, which had been conceived to placate the continent's biggest clubs.
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