In 1955 the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) introduced an annual knockout tournament participated in by the champions of its member domestic leagues. Over the decades the competition format and eligibility rules changed until in 1992 it became the UEFA Champions League, where league champions, and in larger domestic leagues additional top-tier clubs, get to duke it out to become European club champion, plus gain automatic qualifications in the next year’s Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup. Some member clubs however feel the current format is lacking in terms of competition quality, and they have announced their intent to form a breakaway league in response.
CNN reports that a dozen of Europe’s strongest football/soccer clubs made a joint announcement on Sunday, April 18, of their formation of a European Super League, a separate annual football competition with an exclusive club lineup, outside of the established UEFA Champions League. The breakaway clubs consist of, from England: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur; from Italy: AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus; and from Spain: Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid. The clubs plan to start the first Super League season soon, after they finish adding three more participants.
“By bringing together the world’s greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid,” says Manchester United co-chair Joel Glazer, appointed vice-chairman of the planned Super League. His statement echoes a prevailing sentiment from the breakaway football clubs, who feel unchallenged battling other clubs in their respective domestic leagues that they deem inferior to the competition they get in the Champions League tournament. They prefer to face those top clubs all season long.
Such a unilateral action from the top football clubs in Europe could dramatically shake up how things are done in their leagues and for UEFA. It is therefore no surprise that the Super League announcement has been attacked by UEFA and its members such as the English Premier League and German Football Association, FIFA itself, and even the national governments of the three nations the dissident clubs hail from. Threats have ranged from the likes of Super League players being banned from FIFA competitions, to governmental intervention. Far from being deterred, the Super League’s inaugural leadership is inviting UEFA and FIFA for discussions on the future of European football, with games affected by the pandemic.
Image courtesy of The Guardian