A superficial super league?

Top Euro clubs reported to join new $8b Fifa tournament, but may face much opposition

The new Fifa-backed tournament would involve expected prize money worth several hundreds of millions of pounds for the winners. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • More than a dozen top European football teams, including Liverpool and Manchester United, are in discussions to join a new Fifa-backed competition, Sky News reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

A financing package worth US$6 billion (S$8.1 billion) is being prepared to assist in the making of the new league, the report said and investment bank JP Morgan is in talks to provide that debt financing.

Teams from France, England, Germany, Italy, including champions Juventus, and Spain are involved in the talks and a provisional start could occur as soon as 2022.

The new tournament would include as many as 18 teams, involve games played during the regular European season and expected prize money worth several hundreds of millions of pounds for the winners.

While a formal announcement may happen by the end of this month, details including the list of participating clubs have yet to be finalised and the plans could still fall apart, Sky said.

Any new tournament would compete with the Champions League, Europe's top club competition.

The Champions League has been among the most-watched sporting events on TV worldwide, with the 2014 final drawing an estimated 380 million viewers - more than three times the Super Bowl's audience the following year.

Uefa awarded more than €2 billion (S$3.2 billion) to clubs throughout the course of last season's edition, which ended in August.

Talks of a European super league involving the region's biggest clubs have repeatedly popped up in recent years, but have usually been met with opposition from politicians, fan groups and national football bodies over concerns domestic leagues would suffer as a result.

"The authors of that idea - if they really exist, because there is nobody actually defending it - not only show a total ignorance of the organisation and customs of European and world football, but also a serious ignorance of the audiovisual rights markets," said Spanish La Liga president Javier Tebas.

"A project of this type will mean serious economic damage to the organisers themselves and to those entities that finance it, if they exist, because they're never official."

Uefa also denounced the plan as "boring" and would not take off as the Champions League was already the "best sports competition in the world". A statement read: "Uefa and the clubs are committed to build on such strength, not to destroy it to create a super league of 10, 12, even 24 clubs."

Fifa said through a spokesman that it "does not wish to comment and participate in any speculation about topics which come up every now and then".

United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward yesterday denied claims the Red Devils were in talks, claiming he did not "know where that story came from".

While plans for a super league have long been mooted but never materialised, the coronavirus pandemic may accelerate its possible formation, given that clubs worldwide - even elite ones - are suffering badly from the lack of match day revenue.

United yesterday posted a £23 million (S$40.9 million) loss for the financial year to June 30, with Woodward labelling the shutout of fans, who are "the bedrock of this game" as "frustrating".

A fresh injection of funds could be welcome, after The Times of London reported Uefa will cut Champions League and Europa League prize money over the next five seasons because of the crisis.

Uefa has informed its member associations it lost £514 million owing to a drop in TV and sponsorship income after the knockout stage from the quarter-finals was changed to a one-off game format.

Staging the games behind closed doors at neutral locations exacerbated the losses, with The Times saying that English Premier League clubs can expect to see TV and prize money drop by about four per cent.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2020, with the headline A superficial super league?. Subscribe