Everything you need to know about European Super League: The teams, format, and what it means for football

Late on Sunday night, 12 teams confirmed they intend to join the Super League as founders. The Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Manchester United and Tottenham – will be joined by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan in founding the new competition.

It’s not the first time such rumors have emerged, but the timing is what makes this situation different. On Monday, UEFA are expected to approve changes to the Champions League that will include an expanded format, more games and tweaks to the revenue distribution. These changes were agreed only on Friday after protracted negotiations with Europe’s leading clubs and the European Club Association (ECA). All of this would now be overshadowed — and rendered potentially meaningless — if Europe’s biggest clubs renege on that agreement and are really ready to walk out as early as 2022, as some have reported.

The implications, though, go far beyond this. UEFA isn’t merely a competition organiser; it’s a confederation whose job is to redistribute revenue and develop the game across the continent. The Champions League is its biggest cash cow, and a severely weakened competition would have a serious impact on the sport throughout Europe.

How will the European Super League work?

The statement from the organisers explained how the tournament will work.

“[There will be] 20 participating clubs, with 15 Founding Clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season,” it said.

“[There will be] midweek fixtures, with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game.

“[There will be] an August start with clubs participating in two groups of 10, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.

“As soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a corresponding women’s league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women’s game.”

What does this mean for football as a whole?

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has said a breakaway European Super League would be a move away from 70 years of football history and that fans love the Champions League as it is.

“Talk of a Super League is a move away from 70 years of European club football,” he told Reuters. “Both as a player for a provincial team Dunfermline in the 60s and as a manager at Aberdeen winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup, for a small provincial club in Scotland it was like climbing Mount Everest.

“Everton are spending £500 million to build a new stadium with the ambition to play in Champions League. Fans all over love the competition as it is.”

Gary Neville, Ferguson’s former captain, interrupted his commentary on Sky Sports coverage of United’s victory against Burnley to criticise the breakaway plans.

“We have to wrestle back the power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league – and that includes my club. I’ve been calling for 12 months as part of another group for an independent regulator to bring checks in place to stop this happening.

“It’s pure greed. They’re imposters. They’re nothing to do with football in this country. There’s 100 years of history in this country from fans that have lived and loved these clubs, and they need protecting.

“I’m not against money in football. The principles and ethos of fair competition and the right to play the game, so that Leicester win the league, they go into the Champions League… Man Utd aren’t in the Champions League, Arsenal aren’t in the Champions League – they’re a shambles of a football club right now.

Basically, rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. The big clubs will earn all the revenue, whereas smaller clubs, who earned most of their revenue because of playing against big clubs will lose out. Viewership for domestic leagues, UEFA Champions League, Europa League will take a huge downturn. The situation was bad as is due to COVID, now it will worsen and ruin the legacy of many football clubs. No more Leicester 2015-16, no more Monaco, Ajax UCL runs in 2017,2018.

What have UEFA said?

“The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied opportunity to represent their national teams” said UEFA in a statement.

What do fans think?

Additionally, Football Supporters Europe (FSE), a body representing supporters in 45 UEFA countries, issued a statement.

“Along with the overwhelming majority of fans, Football Supporters Europe is wholly opposed to plans to create a breakaway Super League.

“This closed-shop competition will be the final nail in the coffin of European football, forsaking everything that has made it so popular and successful – sporting merit, promotion and relegation, qualification to UEFA competition via domestic success, and financial solidarity.

“It is illegitimate, irresponsible and anti-competitive by design.”

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