The announcement from 12 of Europe’s “elite” football clubs that they are founding a new European club competition has sent the world of football up in arms.
The clubs, some of the richest in world football, all announced the formation of the European Super League on Monday - catching nearly everyone by surprise.
The league is billed by the founders as a new mid-week elite European club competition, which they say is intended to improve the quality of matches and bring in a “sustainable commercial approach” which they claim will benefit football as a whole.
The reaction from current and former professional players, managers, pundits, football clubs, politicians, and crucially fans, has however been one of near universal outrage.
What do we know about the format of the Super League?
20 teams would take part annually, playing midweek home and away fixtures in two groups of ten.
The top three of each group would go through to quarter finals, with play-offs for the teams in fourth and fifth to reach the remaining quarter final spots.
But the first major point of controversy to note is that the 15 founding clubs (three are yet to stick their heads above the parapet) won’t even have to qualify for the tournament.
The remaining five would qualify based on achievements from the previous season.
The founding clubs named so far are:
England: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham
Italy: AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus
Spain: Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid
The games would be played mid-week, according to the founders, in conjunction with national league fixtures.
This means they would be playing in this league instead of the Champions League or the Europa League, the current annual European club competitions run by European football’s governing body UEFA.
Why is the idea so controversial?
Aside from the founding clubs setting up their own league from which they can’t be relegated, which many say destroys the notion of competition which is the bedrock of sport, the plan is hugely controversial because of the astronomical amount of money involved.
US investment bank JP Morgan is to provide startup debt financing to the tune of €3.5 billion, which the founding clubs will be entitled to a chunk of.
The league will lead to “significantly greater economic growth”, the founders say, via “uncapped solidarity payments” which will be much higher than those enjoyed by clubs currently qualifying for the Champions League or Europa League.
The solidarity payments, they say, are expected to be in excess of €10 billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the Clubs.
With so much money coming into the coffers of the founding teams, competition is further compromised.
As the founding teams don’t have to qualify each season, they will be guaranteed huge sums of money. They then (plan to) continue taking part in their domestic leagues, where the gulf between their wealth and the competition will be even greater than ever.
Don’t these clubs make enough money already?
Qualification to the Champions League and Europa League has conferred great financial benefit on teams for many years, with millions in television revenue and prize money at stake.
But as Professor Simon Chadwick from the Centre of Eurasian Sports Industry explained to Euronews, the teams involved in the Super League have been pressuring UEFA to give them more money for a long time.
“The big teams are always pressuring UEFA to share more of their revenues with them, but UEFA doesn’t exist to serve the interests of just 12 clubs. You’re talking about hundreds of clubs...What UEFA somehow needs to do is serve the needs of the majority, while being aware it is Real Madrid, AC Milan, Manchester United that generates revenue.”
He says UEFA needs to find a middle way, but also says this is one outcome of an unregulated approach to football in Europe, which has seen investors coming in from all over the world for decades, looking to make money.
What’s the reaction been from fans?
It’s not often an issue brings together fans from arch rival clubs such as Arsenal and Tottenham, or Manchester United and Liverpool.
But that’s what has happened, as fan groups have insisted they will do what they can to stop their clubs from going ahead with the plans.
In England, supporters associations for all six clubs involved have signed a joint statement saying: “Despite our clubs' behaviour, we are unified in opposition to them and we will continue to do all we can collectively to stop these plans. This includes seeking joint representation to the Government and all of the relevant football authorities.”
The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust called the move from the club a "betrayal".
Social media replies to posts regarding the formation of the league from all the clubs involved have been largely negative from fans of those clubs.
What about the rest of the footballing world?
UEFA’s chief Aleksander Ceferin has lashed out, threatening the clubs with a ban from all UEFA competitions “as soon as possible”.
He has raised the prospect of players for the club being banned from even representing their countries in UEFA and FIFA competitions, such as the Euros and World Cup.
Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City play in the Champions League semi finals next week, while Manchester United and Arsenal are set to play in the Europa League semi finals.
Addressing the owners of the six Premier League clubs, he said “you made a huge mistake.”
“Some will say it is greed, others (will say) disdain arrogance, flippancy or complete ignorance of England’s football culture. It does not matter.
“What does matter is that there is still time to change your mind. Everyone makes mistakes.”
The 55 member associations of UEFA have condemned the Super League.
FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino gave his full support to UEFA, saying the Super League was a “closed shop”.
The Premier League’s all-time top goalscorer and pundit Alan Shearer called on the league to ban the Super League clubs immediately.
The English, Spanish, and Italian top leagues have all condemned the Super League.
Managers of the clubs involved have refused to be drawn into making strong statements so far, with perhaps the exception of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City who said “it is not sport”.
“When the relation between effort and success doesn’t exist, it’s not a sport. It’s not a sport if it doesn’t matter if you lose.”
Real Madrid’s manager Zinedine Zidane refused to give his opinion on the situation, saying it was a question for the club president, Florentino Pérez, who will be the chairman of the new league.
Former Southampton player Francis Benali told Euronews: “It is about money and greed, it’s a closed shop...it’s just been widely condemned by virtually everybody.”
There has been very little from players at the clubs involved so far, but Liverpool veteran James Milner said in a post-match interview "I don't like it and I hope it doesn't happen,” while the club’s captain Jordan Henderson has reportedly called an emergency meeting of Premier League club captains for Wednesday.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford posted this on Twitter on Tuesday.
What happens next?
It’s not yet clear what the threats levied at the founding clubs from football associations will achieve, nor the outpouring of anger from fans.
Clubs not involved in the Super League have been holding meetings on Tuesday without the founding members invited, to work out a response.
Currently PSG in the French league and Bayern Munich and Dortmund in Germany have not signed up to the Super League, drawing praise from UEFA’s president.
There are currently no more details on when the Super League will start.