Less than two weeks after becoming partners in a European Super League that would have thrown aside the structures and organizations that have supported football on the continent for almost a century, a group of the sport’s greatest clubs is now in one new fight behind the scenes.
This time they fight each other.
At the heart of the new battle are two documents. A so-called association declaration, approved by nine of the twelve founding clubs of the Super League and published on Friday, officially renounced the Super League project and committed the breakaway teams again to the existing European system.
In a statement welcoming the nine clubs, the European football federation UEFA said that the teams “recognize and accept that the Super League project was a mistake, and are committed to fans, national associations, national leagues, other European clubs and apologize to UEFA “part of it. It also said the nine teams had pledged never to attempt a similar outlier again.
The humble engagement of the teams – Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City; Inter and AC Milan; and Atlético Madrid – came at a cost. The nine clubs agreed to donate a total of 15 million euros (approx. 2 million US dollars per team) to a UEFA youth welfare organization. give up five percent of the revenue they would have made from Continental competitions that season; and pay a fine of 100 million euros if they ever enter an unauthorized competition again.
UEFA had requested that the league’s founding clubs sign the declaration of commitment that would complete the formal demise of the Super League as a prerequisite for clubs to return to the formal structures and bodies that run European football.
In agreeing to the terms of their reinstatement, the nine teams waged a significant – and potentially expensive – battle over the second document: a letter sent Thursday from the three Super League holdouts threatening to take millions in damages from each club that goes away from the project.
The holdouts – Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona – say they refuse to let the Super League die. They doubled in size, saying this week they would take legal action and fines against their former partners and make a broader argument against UEFA’s influence on club football in the European judicial system.
The Super League, announced by its 12 founding teams in a late-night press release on April 18th, Collapsed 48 hours later amid a popular and political backlash. In the days and weeks since that humiliating retreat, club presidents and owners of some teams have held emergency meetings with football leaders in their own countries and with UEFA in an attempt to limit the punishment they face if they are part of an outlier that would be worth destroyed by leagues and clubs across Europe.
UEFA had said it would treat repentant clubs more kindly than those who refused to resign. Those who refused risked the heaviest penalty available to the organization: a two-year ban on the Champions League, Europe’s richest and most famous competition.
Documents, messages and conversations with executives involved in this week’s talks indicated that eight teams of the 12 original Super League members had agreed to sign the statement to launch it. The ninth club signed on Friday but everyone is now awaiting a long and costly series of accusations.
The dispute between UEFA and UEFA’s efforts to isolate or punish holdouts is an indication of how badly and how quickly relationships between the top teams have deteriorated. It also underscores that even after its short life and sudden death, the Super League continues to tear the structure of European football.
Several senior club officials including John Henry from Liverpool and the Glazer family, who control Manchester United, have made public statements of repentance following the Super League fiasco. On Friday, less than a week after angry Manchester United fans stormed their team’s stadium and forced a game to be postponed, was Joel Glazer, the team’s notoriously distant co-owner wrote to the fans and vowed to have discussions with them on a number of contentious issues and to make a number of new investments in the club.
The Super League began to wobble even before the official announcement of its creation. Within a day some of the teams began making private requests to UEFARealizing that agreeing to join had been a mistake.
Less than 48 hours after the league started, Manchester City became the first team to officially announce their intention to withdraw. That started a cascade in which all six Premier League teams issued public statements revealing their plans to withdraw.
The defects left teams in Spain and Italy who acknowledged the league was no longer viable in its original form but did not officially state that they would not try to revive it.
Despite the popular backlash against the project, opinions have intensified among the three clubs – Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona – who have been the most dedicated supporters of the project. In their letter sent on Thursday, the clubs accused the teams that had publicly declared their intention to leave the Super League with a “material breach” of the founding agreement.
All violations of the shareholders’ agreement, they wrote to the resigning founders, “have caused us considerable damage, which continues to arise.”
They also vowed to take legal action to prove that the current rules of football are inconsistent with competition and free trade laws.
However, your options may be limited right now. Under the Super League contract, the withdrawal of nine clubs could force the liquidation of the company that was set up to run the competition. This dissolution was one of the requirements of UEFA in order to calm the whole chapter for the clubs involved.
The runaway efforts continue to weigh on football at the national level. In Italy the national association has introduced new regulations aimed to prevent new outliers while talks take place in England similar rule changes and how to punish teams whose actions threatened the interests of the Premier League.
The Premier League is expected to announce the outcome of its consultation within a few days. A plan calls for member clubs to make long-term commitments not to join unauthorized competitions or to withdraw from national competition, with severe penalties – including fines in excess of $ 50 million – imposed if they do.
However, it proves difficult to find a suitable punishment. Football leaders understand that the collapse of the Super League was largely due to public opposition from fans of the English teams who had agreed to join the league. Punishing the teams in a way that doesn’t upset the same fans is now the goal.
That means clubs are unlikely to face sporting sanctions, but financial sanctions against the owners who supported the Super League plan. A concrete reaction was initially the exclusion: officials of the six breakaway clubs were removed from the internal committees of the league.