Still, according to documents reviewed by The Times in January, plans for the breakaway league had gathered pace since the summer. Top clubs sought to take advantage of uncertainty in the soccer industry caused by the pandemic to forge a new path that would ensure a degree of financial stability for them but would also almost certainly lead to a significant — and potentially devastating — loss in value and revenue for teams excluded from the project. Each of the would-be permanent members of the proposed super league are being promised 350 million euros, or $425 million, to sign up, the documents said.
Under the proposals reviewed at the time, the super league, which would play its matches in the middle of the week, sought to secure 16 top soccer franchises as permanent members and to add four qualifiers from domestic competitions. The clubs would be split into two groups of 10, with the top four teams in each group qualifying for the knockout stages, culminating in a final that would take place on a weekend.
The event would, according to the documents, generate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue for the participating teams, which are already the richest clubs in the sport. (An alternative version of the plan proposed 15 permanent members and five qualification spots.) The group had entered into discussions with JPMorgan Chase & Co. to raise financing for the project, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The firm has so far declined to comment.
UEFA found a powerful ally in opposition to the plans in FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. FIFA warned that any player who took part in such an unsanctioned league would be banned from appearing in the World Cup. The statement came after UEFAs president, Aleksander Ceferin, demanded support from his FIFA counterpart, Gianni Infantino, amid mounting speculation that the breakaway would have FIFA’s backing.
European soccer leaders huddled on the telephone and in video conferences over the weekend to forge a counterattack. However, finding a solution to the potential loss of the biggest brands in soccer is not an easy task. The Premier League, for example, would lose much of its sheen — and almost certainly a lot of the commercial appeal that has turned it into the richest league in soccer — should it move to banish its top six teams.
As member-owned clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid would likely require the support of the thousands of their supporters before formally joining, and any German clubs that agree to take part would face similar obstacles. All can expect heavy internal opposition; fan groups from across Europe had already voiced opposition since details of the plans for a super league emerged earlier this year.