A proposed ‘European Super League’ is beginning taking shape that could see the biggest clubs on the continent join a brand new competition intended to pit the elite against each on a regular basis.
A report from Sky News has so far provided the bulk of the information known about it and here’s the breakdown of what could happen and what it all means.
The competition would initially take the format of a round robin league for its proposed 16 of 18 teams, potentially meaning 30 or 34 games to play.
The conclusion of that phase would then lead into a playoffs-style knockout tournament of the highest finishers, as is often the case in various American sports leagues. It means that the team who finishes top of the league standings would not necessarily go on to lift the trophy at the end of it.
That could be a top eight, for example, which would not be dissimilar to the popular ‘Finals’ mini-tournament seen in the Champions League last season.
Unlike previous rumoured breakaway projects, there is not expected to be a severing of ties with existing domestic leagues. Real Madrid and Barcelona would not leave La Liga to compete, for example, while Manchester United and Liverpool would remain in the Premier League.
Yet with potentially so many games during the initial phase of the European Premier League alone, between 30 and 34 during as mentioned, playing both a full domestic league and competing in the new competition hardly seems viable – the details could yet change as they are not final.
Winning the Champions League, assuming a club starts in the group stage, is a maximum commitment of 13 games per season, a fraction of the number of games.
The new competition would be played alongside domestic competitions, with the major victim being the Champions League. While FIFA are backing this ‘European Premier League’, it is not yet known if UEFA are. If they are not, they stand to lose out massively if it goes ahead as the Champions League would become just a shadow of its former glory without the biggest clubs.
Games would take place during the European club season. However, it is not yet known whether the plan is for them to be played during existing Champions League slots – there would not be enough of those to make room for at least 30 games – or if they could be staggered over weekends to make them more accessible to lucrative North American and Asian markets.
Hundreds of millions are said to be on offer to the founder members and the winners each season, with financiers rumoured to be raising a package worth the equivalent of £4.6bn to get the competition off the ground and entice participants to join.
Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are four of the clubs specifically rumoured to have been in talks about joining, while Real Madrid have been described as ‘one of the principal architects of the European Premier League’s creation’.
It is rumoured that Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham have all at least been approached, although with supposedly only five places available for English clubs, one of the Premier League’s established ‘Big Six’ may miss out.
That could be catastrophic for whoever it is that doesn’t get an exclusive invite – Arsenal and Spurs seem to be most vulnerable to being cut out.
Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are other obvious contenders to be invited, while the likes of Benfica, Dortmund, both Milan clubs and Roma have all been involved in showpiece exhibition tournament the International Champions Cup in recent years.
If UEFA aren’t onboard there could be huge problems if expected legal challenges are put forward to protect the Champions League, while the current UEFA club competition structure covers the period up to 2024, meaning things are locked in as they are until then.
Another major issue is that elite European games could become far less special and attractive for fans, both partisan and neutral. Liverpool and Real Madrid may only face each other home and away once every few years, for example, or Manchester United and Barcelona.
But playing each other and everyone else twice a season takes the edge off it because it would no longer be a rarity. Because, as things stand, whenever big clubs meet it is usually because something major is at stake, which adds to the intrigue.
But not every ‘big fish’ can remain a ‘big fish’ when they’re all crammed into the same limited pond. Some will sink to the middle or bottom of the pack and simply become the ‘small fish’ from whom they are trying to get away domestically.
Will anyone really care when Paris Saint-Germain play Atletico Madrid in what might only amount to a meaningless mid-table clash?
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