Football supporters’ groups at top clubs across Europe have made a strong collective statement condemning proposals for a European “super league”, describing the initiative as “an unpopular, illegitimate and dangerous scheme”.
The statement from Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and signed by fans’ groups at clubs including the Premier League “big six” – Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea – calls for a more equitable sharing of football’s money as it faces the Covid-19 crisis, and argues that a super league is the opposite of the response required.
Pointing to the game’s extreme financial inequality, with top clubs “awash with money” while others struggle with too little and grassroots football “on the brink of collapse” in many countries, the statement says: “We are all united in our opposition to the creation of a European Super League – an unpopular, illegitimate, and dangerous scheme in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of fans.
“It would destroy the European model of sport, which is based on commonly accepted principles such as sporting merit, promotion and relegation, qualification to European competitions via domestic success, and financial solidarity. In the process, it would also undermine the economic foundations of European football, concentrating even more wealth and power in the hands of a dozen or so elite clubs.
“We recognise that the game is in desperate need of broad reform. But proposals to this end must seek to revive the competitive balance in European competitions, protect domestic leagues, promote the interests of fans, and encourage fairer revenue distribution. A European Super League would achieve none of these objectives – quite the opposite.”
The opposition marshalled by FSE, a network of European fans’ groups including the Football Supporters’ Association in England, follows the strong condemnation last month by Fifa and Uefa of the super league plans. Uefa is in formal discussions with the top clubs in the European Club Association to reshape and expand the Champions League when the current agreed football calendar concludes in 2024. But reports emerged in October that the bank JP Morgan had been commissioned to examine a plan for a super league, said to be prompted by Real Madrid and then supported by Barcelona.
Fifa and Uefa, joined by football’s five other continental confederations, moved to make their statement last month after a document emerged setting out a design for such a super league, a breakaway from the Champions League, with clubs including Liverpool and United now considering it. Fifa and Uefa said they would not recognise such a competition, and threatened to ban any club or player involved from competing in official Fifa or Uefa competitions, which would include the European Championship and the World Cup.
Andrea Agnelli, the Juventus owner who has led the ECA’s negotiations, last week dampened super league speculation, expressing support for a “Swiss system” Uefa Champions League after 2024. That envisages 32 or 36 clubs in one first-round table, each playing more matches, with opponents drawn by seeding. Agnelli revealed the anxieties underlying the top clubs’ agitations, estimating Europe-wide losses caused by the pandemic at £7.5bn.
The supporters’ groups, of clubs in Uefa’s top-ranked 200 and past winners of European competitions, including 15 Premier League clubs plus Nottingham Forest, Bayern Munich and 10 more in the Bundesliga, Real Madrid, Barcelona and six other clubs in La Liga, called for more equal sharing of money to protect football at all levels. “While reform is needed, it should not come in the shape of an ultimatum from wealthy clubs seeking to benefit from an unprecedented public health crisis,” they said.