Football: European Super League – Fact or Fiction?

By Jonathan Copping, Lawyer, Stone King LLP, London, United Kingdom

At the beginning of November, the German weekly news magazine, ‘Der Spiegel’, revealed that a number of football clubs in Europe had discussed the possibility of leaving their national leagues and setting up a European Super League.

According to ‘Der Speigel’, 11 clubs, deemed to be “founding members” have been in negotiations regarding setting up a new competition. Documents seen by ‘Der Speigel’, indicated the league could start as soon as 2021.

The draft “binding team sheet” sent by the firm Key Capital Partners to Real Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez, appears to show Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City would be joined by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Milan as founding members with a further five clubs – Atlético Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Marseille, Internazionale and Roma – appearing as “initial guests”.

The “founding members” would be exempt from relegation for a period of 20 years.

It is not really surprising that the prospect of a European Super League has been allegedly discussed. It is, after all, the logical next step after the Champions League.

With the Champions League also becoming something of a two-tier competition, with lopsided groups creating one-sided matches and results, some critics have mooted the idea of a European Super League for some time.

In the event that a European Super League were formed, the knock-on effect for the Champions League and the domestic leagues of the participant teams, could be drastic.

Broadcasting revenues are the dominant source of revenue for football clubs and it would surely be the case that the broadcasters would follow the participant teams and pay substantial sums to broadcast the matches. With the majority of the largest European clubs alleged to be included in the new League, there would be little incentive to pay substantial sums for the rights to show domestic matches.

It would also surely follow that commercial sponsors would pay less to sponsor teams left in the domestic leagues, because the exposure received for their brands would decrease.

UEFA, who would potentially lose out significantly in the event that a European Super League were created, was quick to dismiss the idea. UEFA’s President, Aleksander Ceferin, stated:

“”The Super League will not happen. It is in a way a fiction now or a dream,” 

The Chairman of the European Club Association, Andrea Agnelli, also the Chairman of Juventus FC, allegedly one of the teams to discuss the European Super League, also dismissed the idea of a European Super League. Agnelli stated:

“I can confirm we have never seen, never discussed, never been involved in the creation of this document”.  

“We are fully engaged with UEFA in shaping the game going forward.”

There is constant discussion about reformatting the shape of the European club competitions governed by UEFA, and it will be interesting to see whether the leak of documents alleging the creation of a European Super League, will lead to reforms taking place.

With so many competing interests, it will also be interesting to see whether UEFA can keep all the European clubs happy and stop a breakaway European Super League from being formed.

Time will tell!

Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘jonathancopping@stoneking.co.uk’