This is exactly what some of the project participants feared. There was doubt that the plan was ready to go live; Insiders feared it might not survive a violent initial backlash. “This is not the time,” warned one executive involved in the project. The executive suggested waiting until the summer.
By then, the clubs had hopefully found a front man for the runaway. Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid, had been the driving force behind much of it; it was his idea to some extent. But his colleagues were aware that he would have difficulty convincing an English audience in particular.
Manchester United co-owner Joel Glazer, whose family also owns Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Chelsea’s Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich; and Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke, who controls nearly a dozen professional teams, almost never speaks publicly. Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, does not speak to reporters at all. And others considered for the role – like John W. Henry, the majority owner of Liverpool – were not ready to take it on.
There were also concerns that the rebel communications strategy put forward by Katie Perrior, a political agent close to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was too focused on gaining government support rather than popular support. There were no efforts to consult, involve or win over fans, players or coaches. An outcry could destroy everything before lobbying could begin in earnest.
These concerns were not addressed. Agnelli, theoretically a voice for all European clubs in his leadership positions and a close friend of Ceferin, felt the tension of actually being a double agent. He had guarded the rebels’ secret for weeks and shaded the truth – or worse – in conversations with friends and allies. However, on Monday morning he had to sit on the podium with the rest of the UEFA board as he voted to approve changes to a Champions League that would be fatally threatened by the Super League.
He knew the league was happening. With the signatures of Chelsea, Manchester City and Atlético Madrid in hand, the founding members were determined. The funding, provided by Spanish consultancy Key Capital Partners and backed by American bank JPMorgan Chase, would mean billions of new fortunes. Agnelli just needed the news.
Glazer, one of the co-chairs of Manchester United, agreed. He was convinced it was time to push the button.