JPMorgan slammed by football fans for financing breakaway European league

JP Morgan's role in the formation of the breakaway league has made it a target for a storm of criticism.
JP Morgan's role in the formation of the breakaway league has made it a target for a storm of criticism.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (NYTIMES) - European football fans are known for their intense passion for the sport. Now, they are aiming their ire at US banking giant JPMorgan Chase for backing the so-called Super League.

"JP Morgan will regret setting up a #SuperLeague with my entire life savings," one irate soccer fan wrote on Twitter. "Account is now closed and this £32.25 is going elsewhere!"

A dozen top clubs from England, Italy and Spain shocked the football world with plans to form their own breakaway competition. The notion of a closed continental competition featuring a set group of teams has been explored before, but the seriousness of this proposal was underlined by more than US$4 billion (S$5.3 billion) in financing from JPMorgan.

The bank's role has made it a target for a storm of criticism. Football's organising bodies and domestic leagues, European heads of state, former players and supporter groups of the clubs involved were among those speaking out against the plan. JPMorgan was a trending topic on Twitter, and the chatter wasn't complimentary.

"If your bank is @jpmorgan you simply have to move your money elsewhere," one fan posted on Twitter. "Say NO to the #SuperLeague."

A theme of the ire from fans in Britain, in particular, was that the move represented another step in the foreign takeover of the game, especially by American interests.

The Wall Street bank will lend to clubs controlled by American owners, like Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United - three of the six English clubs that are founding members of the proposed league.

The competition would largely do away with promotion and relegation based on performance, making it more like American sports leagues: With a US-based bank in the background, it "smacks of the NFL template", said one British commentator.

That said, the prime mover behind the proposal isn't an American but Florentino Pérez, the billionaire president of Real Madrid who has proposed a version of the Super League before, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. Mr Pérez previously relied on JPMorgan to help finance a renovation of his club's stadium.

The Super League's backers have already filed motions in multiple courts to challenge any attempts to stop the project.

Other than its size, the actual financing of the league may not be overly complicated, because it is similar to debt raises arranged by American sports leagues, the person briefed on the matter said.

The bank is probably betting that lending to a new competition featuring top football teams will prove lucrative - assuming it gets off the ground.