Football: Breakaway 'Super League' players will be banned from World Cup, says Fifa

Fifa reiterated long-standing policy that all competitions should be recognised by national federations and confederations. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANCHESTER (REUTERS) - World football's governing body Fifa says players who feature in any breakaway European Super League would be banned from playing in Fifa competitions, including the World Cup.

In a joint statement with European governing body Uefa and the other five continental confederations on Thursday (Jan 21), Fifa said it would not recognise any such breakaway.

"In light of recent media speculation about the creation of a closed European 'Super League' by some European clubs, Fifa and the six confederations (AFC, CAF, Concacaf, Conmebol, OFC and Uefa) once again would like to reiterate and strongly emphasise that such a competition would not be recognised by either Fifa or the respective confederation.

"Any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by Fifa or their respective confederation."

The idea of a breakaway league, as an alternative to Uefa's flagship Champions League, has been floated for many years but speculation has intensified in the past two years.

The Times newspaper said it had seen an 18-page proposal for the Super League, which outlines a plan or a league with 15 founding members and five other clubs who would qualify annually.

The plan envisages those 20 clubs being split into two groups of 10 and play between 18 and 23 European matches a season.

While the Fifa statement reiterates long-standing policy that all competitions should be recognised by national federations and confederations, the timing and joint nature of the declaration indicates a growing concern that this time, the threats of a breakaway could be more than just a negotiating tactic from the big clubs.

Uefa is expected to shortly announce plans for the Champions League structure from 2024 with changes to the group-stage format expected to feature.

Talk of a breakaway league, with more games and more revenue for the big clubs, has been bubbling for over two years.

In November 2018, German magazine Der Spiegel, citing leaked documents, reported that Real Madrid had been making plans for a Super League to feature the continent's biggest clubs.

Although a number of those clubs denied they were in talks, Real president Florentino Perez has continued to talk of the need for major changes in European club competition.

In October, outgoing Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said he had signed the club up to a Super League.

"The board of directors approved the requirements to participate in a future European Super League, a project promoted by the big clubs in Europe," he said.

On Monday, Real's Perez travelled to Turin to meet Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, who is head of the European Club Association (ECA) which represents the biggest teams on the continent.

Sporting merit

Uefa also received political backing for its stance from the European Commission.

"There is no scope for the few to distort the universal and diverse nature of European football," said Margaritis Schinas, European Commission vice-president, in comments reported by Politico.

"The European way of life is not compatible with European football being reserved for the rich and the powerful."

The European Leagues organisation, which brings together the continent's domestic competition, said the plans were for a league with a "limited number" of clubs similar to those franchise models operating in North America.

"The European sports model is based on sporting merit, promotion and relegation with qualification to international club competitions via domestic league competitions.

"We are determined to protect the existing model and how football is organised in Europe and the way the industry works for professional football," the statement added.

"If the initiative is put in motion, we will coordinate our measures with Uefa, Fifa and the Confederations."

The European Club Association, which represents the top clubs, is part of the Uefa process on the future of the Champions League and did not comment on Fifa's statement.

Thursday's joint statement also gave clear backing from Uefa and the other confederations to the plans for an expanded Fifa Club World Cup. Uefa had been cautious about the plans for an expanded 24-team tournament.

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