breakaway | 

Super League 2.0 now primed – and this time it won’t go away

Redesigned plans include promotion and relegation along with mega bucks

Frenkie de Jong of FC Barcelona reacts during the UEFA Champions League group C match between FC Barcelona and FC Bayern München at Spotify Camp Nou . (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)© Getty Images

Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League Group stages© Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Antoine Griezmann and Atletico Madrid crashed out too© Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Barcelona President Joan Laporte© Getty Images

Kevin PalmerSunday World

ASthe shockwaves continue to ripple through Spanish and Italian football after a disastrous week of setbacks, stand-by for the relaunch of the European Super League project.

The exits of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Juventus from the Champions League with a game still to play in their groups highlighted the changing face of the European game, yet the clubs being edged out in a new world order are not ready to accept their demise.

And Champions League humiliation is only likely to embolden those planning a very public revolution.

The date of April 18, 2021 is etched into the memories of all football fans, as that was the evening that saw the release of a statement confirming 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs had signed up for a breakaway league that would end the game as we knew it.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal all signed up for a Super League that did not feature relegation or promotion, as they looked to secure their future as the only teams capable of winning the game’s biggest prizes.

Their plan was to continue playing in their domestic league and use the midweek dates to launch their own micro-league, but a backlash from fans, especially in England, scuppered the venture.

A little like the story with the star names who have quit the PGA Tour to join the LIV Golf circus and still want to play into the Major championships and Ryder Cup, breakaway clubs are still hoping they can have their cake and eat it by playing in two competitions.

Now Super League 2.0 is being dreamed up, with this relaunch likely to include huge cash incentives for clubs around Europe who are not part of the big league in what will be a bid to buy-off opposition with cold, hard cash.

Barcelona President Joan Laporte, Real Madrid chief Florentino Perez and Juventus Chairman Andrea Agnelli are leading the manoeuvres that have stepped up a pace in recent weeks with the appointment of A22 Sports Management to lead the relaunch of the Super League plan.

This time, the plan will be modified to ensure promotion and relegation is part of the story, with Bernd Reichart from the A22 group suggesting this attempt to redraw the landscape of European football will be presented as a chance to reset the game for the better at all levels.

BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 22: Bernd Reichart attends the 'The Story Of My Life' photocall at Hamburg East Hotel on March 22, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Tristar Media/Getty Images)© Getty Images

“This is very much alive,” Reichart said. “There are some who want to declare that it is dead, but that is not the case.

“There are clubs in Europe that surely share the vision of Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona, and now they have the opportunity to share what they think.

“There is a broad consensus that football needs reform. Football cannot continue as it is designed now.

“The Super League has never been intended to harm the domestic leagues, or the calendar, but we are talking about European competition during the week? Yes we are.

“European club football is facing existential problems. The sport is losing its undisputed leadership position in global sports. It’s not living up to its potential by not offering the best matches week after week.

“The current financial model in football is broken and unsustainable. Financial controls are inadequate and insufficiently enforced, leading to competitive imbalances and financial stress.

“Clubs should be sovereign and master of their own destiny since they bear all risks and all investments.

“Today they are not allowed to freely organize themselves at European level, while almost every domestic league is run independently by clubs, governance of European competition resides only with UEFA … why?”

It may seen strange that top clubs are plotting to wrestle control of European club football away from UEFA at a time when the governing body of the game are redrawing their own rules to all-but ensure the traditional giants will be guaranteed a place in the Champions League every season.

A 36-team Champions League will be introduced in the 2024/25 season, with the scrapping of the current group stage format and a seeding system introduced that will ensure the top teams play lower-ranked opponents in the opening phase of the tournament.

This format has been designed to encourage the prospect of the giants who are pondering a breakaway to feel assured that they can earn more money without the need of a breakaway.

Barcelona President Joan Laporte© Getty Images

Laporte, Perez, Agnelli and La Liga President Javier Tebas concluded long ago that they cannot compete with clubs owned by oil-rich Arab states or billionaire benefactors, so they are now pushing for change once again.

Legal battles will need to be won before the clubs can extricate themselves from their commitments to UEFA, but they believe the prize at the end of their rainbow is worth fighting for.

“We have had to resort to the financial levers that have been necessary to sustain our future,” declared Laporte this month.

“That is why we have supported the creation of the Super League from the beginning.

“We still firmly believe that it is the solution that football needs, especially football in the European Union which, unfortunately, is not having the best of times.

“It is immersed in a negative trend in terms of television audiences, stadium attendance and the difficulty of attracting new fans, especially among young people, who are seduced by other entertainment.

“In addition, Barca’s financial situation has been aggravated in recent years by another problem that no one has been able to put a stop to until now, the financial doping of certain competing clubs.

“This issue will indeed be addressed by the Super League and this is one of the main reasons why we support the project.”

That term ‘financial doping’ is incendiary to the owners of state-owned clubs Man City and PSG, with Newcastle likely to be the next club getting in the mix at the top table of European football thanks to the cash of their Saudi Arabian backers.

Yet as Barcelona prepare to play in the Europa League in the first half of the New Year and Atletico Madrid and Juventus need positive results in their final Champions League group games next week just to qualify for the second tier European competition, the empire is about to strike back.

The whiff of a revolution may soon become an unmissable stink, as the giants of the European game are not prepared to give up their status to clubs they feel have a financial advantage which needs to be neutered.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ODDS Man City - 9/5

Bayern Munich - 6/1

Paris Saint-Germain - 7/1,

Liverpool - 13/2

Real Madrid - 9/1

Napoli - 12/1

Chelsea - 12/1

Tottenham - 20/1

BREAKDOWN OF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PRIZE MONEY

  • All 32 clubs to qualify for the group stages receive a base payment of €15.64m.
  • Group stage wins are worth an additional €2.8m, with draws earning clubs €930,000.
  • Reaching the round of 16 earns an additional €9.6m.
  • Quarter-finalists will collect €10.6m.
  • Semi-finalists make €12.5m.
  • And the finalists receive €15.5m with €4.5m for the champions.


Today's Headlines

More Soccer

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos