PARIS: Twelve of Europe's most powerful clubs announced the launch of a breakaway European Super League on Monday (Apr 19) in a potentially seismic shift in the way football is run.
Six Premier League teams - Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham - are involved, alongside Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan.
The clubs were immediately accused of greed and cynicism and threatened with international exile.
Organisers said in a statement that three more founding members would be announced, with a further five places up for grabs through a qualifying system each year, with the inaugural edition to start as "soon as practicable".
The 15 founding members would be guaranteed qualification every season.
Each of the clubs will receive a one-off payment of €3.5 billion (US$4.19 billion).
The clubs said they would all "continue to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game".
But before the official announcement, European football's governing body UEFA and the three countries' football authorities said the clubs would be banned from their national leagues and the UEFA-run Champions League.
UEFA also warned that players from the participating clubs "could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams".
The Super League announcement appeared to be timed to pre-empt UEFA's own scheduled unveiling of reforms to the Champions League on Monday, with an expansion to 36 teams from 32 and two "wildcard" slots expected to be among the plans. There would be a minimum of 10 games for each team.
UEFA and the three countries' football associations and domestic leagues described the breakaway as "cynical".
"We ... will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever," read the statement.
FIFA expressed its "disapproval" at the plans and called on all parties "to engage in calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game".
The Premier League, the richest in Europe, issued a furious statement.
"Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best," it said.
"We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream."
Arsenal currently sit ninth in the Premier League, well off the pace in the race to qualify for Europe, while Liverpool and Chelsea are both also currently outside the Champions League spots.
CLUBS "HOPE" TO STAY IN OTHER COMPETITIONS
The breakaway 12 said in the statement the new group "look forward" to "holding" conversations with UEFA and FIFA.
"Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires," said Real Madrid chief, and the first Super League president, Florentino Perez.
The format would see the 20 teams divided into two groups of 10, with the top three in each pool qualifying for the quarter-finals, and the fourth and fifth-placed teams facing each other in play-offs.
"By bringing together the world's greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football," said Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer. The American will be a vice-chairman of the Super League.
The clubs also said a women's version of the competition will be created.
GERMAN, FRENCH CLUBS "REFUSE"
French and German clubs, including reigning European champions Bayern Munich and last season's beaten Champions League finalists Paris Saint-Germain, will not be part of the Super League as it stands.
"We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this," UEFA added.
"This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough."
Juventus are facing a battle to finish in the Serie A top four this season and seven-time European champions AC Milan have not played in the Champions League since 2014.
"Finally the 'gurus' of the superleague PowerPoint are exiting the darkness of the bar at 5AM, intoxicated with selfishness and a lack of solidarity," said La Liga president Javier Tebas on Sunday.
The European Club Association (ECA) also said it "strongly opposes" the Super League.
Juventus, whose president Andrea Agnelli was also chief of the ECA, said the club and its boss had left the body.
"It would be irresponsible to irreparably damage the national leagues, as the basis of European professional football, in this way," German Football League boss Christian Seifert said.
The announcement was also condemned by some supporters' groups, with Liverpool's Spirit of Shankly tweeting it was "appalled" at the plans.
POLITICAL LEADERS HIT OUT
Political leaders slammed the clubs involved, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying they have to "answer to their fans".
"The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps," Johnson said.
French President Emmanuel Macron also criticised the plans, with his office saying they risked "threatening the principle of solidarity and sporting merit".