MADRID (REUTERS, AFP) - A controversial decision to form a breakaway European Super League was taken "to save football" and in part motivated because "young people are no longer interested" in the game, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said on Tuesday (April 20).
Speaking for the first time since 12 top European clubs announced on Sunday that they would form a new elite league, the new chairman of the Super League said football needed to evolve and adapt to the times.
"Whenever there is a change, there are always people who oppose it... and we are doing this to save football at this critical moment," Perez said on the Spanish TV show El Chiringuito de Jugones.
"Audiences are decreasing and rights are decreasing and something had to be done. We are all ruined. Television has to change so we can adapt.
"Young people are no longer interested in football. Why not? Because there are a lot of poor quality games and they are not interested, they have other platforms on which to distract themselves."
Real have been joined in the venture by two other Spanish clubs, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Premier League clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have also signed up to the plans.
The founding group of 12 is completed by Italian Serie A trio AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. Another three will be included as guaranteed members and five others will qualify to join them each year.
Perez said the new league had not invited French giants Paris Saint-Germain nor any German clubs and had not yet decided what criteria would be used to choose the additional teams.
But the top teams were losing money and needed a fresh impetus, he stressed, and the expanded Champions League announced by European football's governing body Uefa on Monday was no answer.
"If we continue with the Champions League, there is less and less interest and then it's over," he said. "The new format, which starts in 2024 is absurd…In 2024 we are all dead.
"Together we have lost €5 billion (S$8 billion)," he said of the top clubs' alleged losses. "In two seasons Madrid have lost €400 million.
"When you have no income other than television, you say that the solution is to make more attractive matches that fans from all over the world can see with all the big clubs and we came to the conclusion that if instead of having a Champions League, we have a Super League we would be able to alleviate what we have lost."
Perez came out with a string of novel suggestions during the almost two-hour long conversation, suggesting football matches could be made shorter to make them more appealing, and vowing the new league would have better officiating and better Video Assistant Referees (VAR).
He also lambasted Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin, who earlier in the day had himself launched an angry attack on the new league, but said the rebels would exhaust all dialogue before the new league started, possibly as early as August.
"If we reach an agreement with Uefa we want to start in August, if not, we can wait a year."
The move has plunged the game of football into turmoil and triggered widespread condemnation across both sport and society, but Perez brushed off the criticism and played up the prospect of more big games.
"What's so attractive? That we play among the big teams, the competitiveness, to generate more resources?" he added.
"This is not a league for the rich, it's a league to save football."
Shares in Juventus and Manchester United jumped on Monday after the clubs announced the breakaway league.
The Italian club's shares closed nearly 18 per cent higher at €0.91 on the Milan stock market, after sliding since it was eliminated from the Champions League in March.
Manchester United, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, finished 6.7 per cent higher.
"The financial incentive for the clubs is plain to see, with a multi-billion dollar package at the heart of the scheme, albeit it would forever break the integrity of the club game," said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.
"The sort of additional revenues the ESL will deliver would need to be offset by a potential material decline or total loss of existing earnings from media deals through national leagues and Uefa."