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European Super League: Clubs backing and opposed to 'breakaway' tournament

A22's vision to create the ESL is far from becoming reality—almost immediately after the ruling, a plethora of top European clubs announced their strong objection to joining the breakaway league, despite celebrations in some quarters about the CJEU ruling.
Last Updated : 22 December 2023, 13:05 IST
Last Updated : 22 December 2023, 13:05 IST

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Buzz about the European Super League (ESL) has resurfaced again on the back of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling that UEFA and FIFA contravened EU law to prevent the formation of the controversial and breakaway league.

Shortly after the CJEU ruling, sports development firm A22, which was formed to assist in the creation of the ESL, floated its proposal for the tournament, which envisions 64 men's teams and 32 women's teams competing in midweek matches in a league format across Europe.

However, A22's vision to create the ESL is far from becoming reality—almost immediately after the ruling, a plethora of top European clubs announced their strong objection to joining the breakaway league, despite celebrations in some quarters about the CJEU ruling.

Here, we take a look at the clubs and leagues that stand in opposition to the ESL, and the ones which are still supporting the controversial proposal.

The Premier League

Unsurprisingly, the Premier League, which had earlier also hit out at the ESL proposal, strongly rejected the proposal for the breakaway league on Thursday.

While the ESL, in theory, has the green light to go ahead now, the Premier League unequivocally stated that it “continues to reject any such concept”.

“Supporters are of vital importance to the game and they have time and again made clear their opposition to a ‘breakaway’ competition that severs the link between domestic and European football,” the PL added in its statement.

Commenting on the semi-closed nature of the ESL that detractors say stifles competition, the PL said, “Football thrives on the competitiveness created by promotion and relegation, the annual merit-based qualification from domestic leagues and cups to international club competitions and the longstanding rivalries and rituals that come with weekends being reserved for domestic football.”

“The Premier League reiterates its commitment to the clear principles of open competition that underpin the success of domestic and international club competitions,” it concluded.

Notably, apart from the league’s statement, almost all of the so-called ‘Big Six’ of the PL also rejected the proposal for the ESL, including Manchester United, which had earlier backed the breakaway league, much to the ire of fans who had stormed the grounds ahead of a Liverpool game, forcing the fixture to be postponed.

While United noted in a brief statement that it remained committed to UEFA competitions, the other clubs in the so-called Big Six followed suit, with Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, and Arsenal all rejecting the possibility of joining the ESL. 

Liverpool, meanwhile, took their time in releasing a statement on the ESL, but joined the anti-ESL bandwagon on Friday, saying their stance remained unchanged: "Yesterday’s ruling by the European Court of Justice does not change Liverpool FC’s previous stance on a proposed European Super League. Our involvement has been discontinued," the LFC statement said.

The Merseyside club, which had faced fan backlash for its support of the ESL earlier had taken a U-turn in 2021—back then, the club had given a statement to The Guardian, stating, “Our involvement in the proposed ESL plans has been discontinued. We are absolutely committed to following that through and there should be no ambiguity to suggest otherwise.”

Thus, as it stands, none of the PL clubs look set to join the ESL.

La Liga

La Liga clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona were at the heart of the ESL proposal when it was floated in 2021, with Madrid president Florentino Perez being one of the most vocal campaigners for the breakaway league.

Unsurprisingly, both clubs celebrated Thursday’s ruling: while Madrid president Perez expressed “great satisfaction” at the ruling, Barca president Joan Laporta asserted that the “sentence paves the way for a new elite level football competition in Europe by opposing the monopoly over the football world.”

However, the third major club in La Liga, Atletico de Madrid, put out a strong statement against the ESL.

“The European football family does not want the European Super League. Germany, France, England, Italy, Spain (with the exception of Real Madrid and Barcelona), etc. do not want the Super League. We are in favor of protecting the big family of European football, protecting the domestic leagues and through them qualifying for European competitions on the pitch every season,” the club said.

Ligue 1

Following the CJEU ruling, the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP), which governs football in France, issued a statement rejecting the ESL—”The LFP unequivocally supports the competitions organized by UEFA. Nothing can replace the legitimacy, credibility and prestige of European competitions as they have been organized for more than 60 years.”

The Ligue 1’s biggest club, Paris Saint-Germain, which had earlier rejected the ESL proposal, reiterated its commitment to UEFA competitions—“Paris Saint-Germain categorically rejects any and all plans for the so-called Super League, a stance held since day one and will always be maintained. As a proud European institution, PSG upholds the principles of the European sports model, values of open competition, and inclusion,” club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said.

Bundesliga

Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich too were quick to reject the possibility of joining the ESL, with the club CEO and European Club Association (ECA) Vice-President Jan-Christian Dreesen saying, “The Bundesliga is the foundation of FC Bayern, just as all national leagues are the foundation of other European football clubs. It is therefore our duty and our deep conviction to strengthen them, not to weaken them. We are also committed to the European club competitions under the umbrella of UEFA. So let me make it very clear once again that the door for the Super League remains closed at FC Bayern.”

It should be noted that the ECA, which incidentally is headed by PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, represents nearly 500 clubs across Europe.

Bayern’s rivals, Borussia Dortmund too rejected the possibility of joining the ESL, with a club statement saying, “For Borussia Dortmund, regardless of the discussions surrounding the ruling, the following applies: We are not in favor of a Super League.”

Bayern, Dortmund’s statements were also followed by similar statements from RB Leipzig and league leaders Bayern Leverkusen, indicating that the Bundesliga, like last time, stands poised to reject the ESL.

Serie A

Three Serie A clubs—AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus—were among the initial 12 which had signed up for the ESL in 2021, and two among them, namely Milan and Juventus, have yet to release a statement on Thursday’s ruling.

Inter, however, rejected the ESL shortly after Thursday’s ruling, stating, “FC Internazionale Milano reiterates its position that European football's future well-being can only be secured by clubs working together through the ECA, in partnership and collaboration with UEFA and FIFA.”

AS Roma, which was not part of the original ESL proposal, also put out a strongly-worded statement, saying, “The club in no way endorses any so-called Super League project that would present an unacceptable attack on the importance of the national leagues and the foundations of European football.”

Among other Italian giants, Napoli, however, is reportedly in favour of the ESL.

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Published 22 December 2023, 13:05 IST

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