A planned breakaway Super League announced by twelve of European football's most powerful clubs and backed by US investment bank JPMorgan was roundly condemned by fans and federations across the continent on Monday.
European soccer's governing body UEFA on Monday said clubs and players joining the proposed breakaway Super League could be banned from all of its competitions and the World Cup as it condemned a "disgraceful and self-serving proposal".
The reaction from fans and pundits was also furious.
Addressing an emergency meeting the day after 12 of Europe's top clubs announced the breakaway, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin launched a scathing attack on the plan, which has been widely condemned across the game and beyond.
"We're still assessing with our legal team but we will take all the sanctions that we can and we will inform you as soon we can," he said. "My opinion is that as soon as possible they have to be banned from all our competitions and the players from all our competitions."
The meeting was initially scheduled to confirm plans for an expanded UEFA Champions League but has been overshadowed by the breakaway Super League.
"UEFA and the football world stand united against the disgraceful and self-serving proposal we have seen in the last 24 hours for a select few clubs in Europe motivated by greed. We are all united against this nonsense of a project," Ceferin said.
Six Premier League teams joined forces with three Spanish and giants to launch the planned competition. A joint statement said three more clubs would be invited to join the founding members before the start of the competition "as soon as possible".
Organisers have also filed a motion "before the relevant courts" to "ensure the seamless establishment and operation" of the Super League, according to a letter seen by AFP and addressed to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin as well as FIFA chief Gianni Infantino.
The competition threatens to completely shake up the world's biggest sport and leaves UEFA's flagship Champions League facing an uncertain future. The clubs, most of them saddled with debt and large wage bills, and hit hard by the pandemic, stand to benefit financially. JPMorgan confirmed it is financing the breakaway league. The absence of French and German teams from the founding members is notable.
KEY FACTS ABOUT THE SUPER LEAGUE
1. Twelve heavyweights from England (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur), Spain (Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid) and Italy (AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus) have agreed to establish a new competition, the Super League, governed by its founding clubs. This challenges the supremacy of Europe's top club competition, the UEFA-run Champions League.
2. Three more teams are expected to join as founding clubs, which are guaranteed participation each year, with another five qualifying annually, making it a 20-team competition. Games will be mid-week, ruling teams out of the Champions League but leaving them free for domestic fixtures.
3. The inaugural edition will take place "as soon as practicable", the announcement says. With an August start, it will feature two groups of 10 playing home and away, and the top three qualifying for the quarter-finals. The fourth and fifth-placed teams will play off for the remaining quarter-final spots. The quarter and semi-finals will be played over two legs and the final is a single game at a neutral venue. There are also plans for a women's version.
4. Europe's top clubs have long agitated for the income that guaranteed, annual competition against their fellow powers would bring. Currently, they have to qualify for the Champions League by placing high in their domestic competitions, and then make it through the season-long tournament to reach the high-profile latter stages. The clubs, saddled with big debts and huge wages for their star players, say the pandemic has "accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model". The Super League will bring them far more than the Champions League. The founding clubs are expected to receive more than 10 billion euros in uncapped "solidarity payments" during their initial commitment period. They will also receive 3.5 billion euros for infrastructure investment and to offset their losses from the pandemic. By comparison, UEFA competitions generated 3.2 billion euros in TV earnings in the pre-pandemic 2018-2019 season
Who's saying what
"The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams. "—UEFA.
"Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles. "-FIFA
"Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best. We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream. "—EPL statement read.
"Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires. "-- Real Madrid president and new Super League president Florentino Perez.
"The newly proposed top European competition is nothing more than a selfish, egotistical proposal designed to further enrich the already super rich," a La Liga statement read.
"I'm disgusted. It's an absolute disgrace. We have to wrestle back power from the clubs at the top of this league and that includes my club. "-- Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville.
"We, the coaches, are ready to coach the clubs. I have no doubt that the club will make the best decision for what is best for the future of the club. "-- Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone.
"Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action. They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps. "-- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
"#Embarrassing as fan representatives we are appalled & completely oppose this decision. (Liverpool's owners) FSG have ignored fans in their relentless & greedy pursuit of money. Football is ours not theirs. Our football club is ours not theirs. "-- Liverpool supporters' union Spirit of Shankly.
"The president of the Republic welcomes the position of French clubs to refuse to participate to a European football Super League project that threatens the principle of solidarity and sporting merit."-- French president Emmanuel Macron