AP

Super League organizers set out 80-team competition idea

Feb 8, 2023, 4:58 PM | Updated: Feb 9, 2023, 8:38 am

GENEVA (AP) — Organizers of the Super League project presented a long-promised new proposal Thursday for a multi-division competition involving up to 80 European soccer teams and operating outside of UEFA’s authority.

Setting out 10 principles for the project, Spain-based A22 Sports Management said it had talked to “nearly 50 European clubs” about the revived proposal two years after the original idea collapsed. It is unclear if any clubs have supported the privately owned commercial project that would compete directly with the Champions League.

The document follows an initial legal setback for A22 in December at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg in a challenge to what it claims is monopoly control by UEFA, the governing body of European soccer. Advocate General Athanasios Rantos proposed then that the court recognize UEFA’s authority over European soccer competitions.

An official ruling from the court is expected before the end of the season.

“Our objective is to present a sustainable sporting project for European club competitions, available to, at a minimum, all 27 EU member states, as soon as possible after receipt of the judgment,” A22 said Thursday.

The document provides detail on an idea first conceived by A22 leaders in 2021 that their next proposal would be a more inclusive multi-tier competition involving more countries.

“Participation should be based on annual sporting merit and there should be no permanent members,” A22 said.

Twelve clubs from Spain, Italy and England launched the original breakaway plan in April 2021. That project called for a 20-team league with 15 founders protected from relegation. It was backed by J.P. Morgan Chase bank, which later apologized for a “misjudgment.”

The project collapsed within two days amid a fierce backlash from UEFA, fans and lawmakers, who in England threatened legislation to counter it. Only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus publicly backed the case at court in Luxembourg.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said Thursday that the Super League was “progressing” while urging for more negotiations between its promoters and existing soccer authorities.

“We don’t want our dialogue with UEFA to break down,” Laporta said. “I believe we need to establish a deeper debate with the national leagues to find a solution shared by all so the new Super League can coexist with the national leagues, just like now the national leagues coexist with the Champions League.”

The latest proposal was met with derision by the Football Supporters’ Association in England.

“The waking corpse that is the European Super League twitches again with all the self-awareness one associates with a zombie,” the FSA said in a statement.

English clubs are still thought to be unlikely to join a revived breakaway plan. The Premier League’s international appeal and financial power has only grown in the past two years.

The gap between England and the rest — typified by the Premier League’s domination of the January transfer window and record losses posted last year by Barcelona and Juventus — could persuade team officials across Europe to find alternative ways to compete.

“To stay afloat, clubs in Spain and France have mortgaged their futures,” noted A22, whose initial project was widely seen as a kind out of bailout for storied teams which already had the highest revenues in world soccer.

For any breakaway from UEFA to succeed, it would likely need support from clubs with international fan bases in smaller leagues like the Netherlands, Portugal and Scotland.

“Participating clubs should remain fully committed to domestic tournaments, as they do today,” A22 said.

While plotting two years ago to launch the Super League, the same clubs who also then controlled the European Club Association were in talks with UEFA about reforming the Champions League.

UEFA approved those reforms in April 2021 despite the rupture in its relationship with clubs and they will take effect next year, creating more games and aiming for a 30% increase in revenue and prize money.

The ECA on Thursday dismissed the latest announcement as “just another deliberately distorted and misleading attempt to destabilize the constructive work currently taking place between football’s real stakeholders.”

In the 2024-25 season, a 36-team Champions League, up from the current 32, will guarantee eight games per club instead of six. The traditional group stage will be replaced by a league stage with a single standings.

The new format will see the top eight teams advance to the round of 16, joined by winners in playoffs involving teams ranked Nos. 9-24. The two finalists will play 15 games throughout the competition, though teams Nos. 25-36 in the standings will play only eight.

A22 said Thursday its format would offer the 60 to 80 clubs “a minimum of 14 guaranteed European matches each season.”

UEFA has said 108 teams will play in its revamped competitions starting in 2024, with 36 each in the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League.

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Super League organizers set out 80-team competition idea