The backbone of European Football, the clubs leagues faced a split as 16 leading clubs were engaged in secret talks to form a rival European Super League.
Almost all the top 16 football clubs in Europe were engaged in secret talks to form a breakaway European Super League, according to a report first published by Der Spiegel. The article is based on the leaked FIFA documents obtained by the German publication.
The weekly news magazine claims that reigning European champions Real Madrid, AC Milan, Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester United have all gone behind the back of Uefa, European soccer’s governing body, to discuss forming the breakaway competition.
The proposed tournament would feature 11 of Europe’s biggest clubs, known as the ‘founders’, who would not face relegation and be guaranteed membership for 20 years. The remaining gaps in the league would comprise five ‘initial guests’.
Along with the aforementioned teams, the other founding members would include Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Der Spiegel reports that the five initial guests would be Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Marseille and AS Roma.
The breakaway league, which had been touted to start as early as 2021 according to the leaked documents, could involve the clubs leaving their national leagues and football associations entirely. Such a competition has long been rumoured as a way for Europe’s elite teams to cash in on lucrative TV rights and sponsorship deals, but official discussions over the matter have not previously been publicised until now.
The news came after it emerged last week that Fifa was bracing itself for a fresh release of private information following a cyberattack on its computer network by hackers. The world governing body for football has been subject to a series of leaks in recent times, which have exposed secrets relating to issues such as transfer market regulations, tax evasion by players and coaches and failed drug tests.
The latest leaks also revealed that English champions Manchester City and Ligue 1 title-holders PSG were able to sidestep financial fair play (FFP) sanctions thanks to the intervention of Fifa president Gianni Infantino.
Der Spiegel’s report claims that City owner Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and PSG’s Qatar Sports Investment overvalued sponsorship deals from their own companies in order to help their respective clubs meet FFP rules. Then, when facing punishment over the matter, the allegations in the documents state that Infantino helped arrange more lenient sanctions for them in 2014.
At the time, Infantino was serving as Uefa general secretary and City and PSG both received UK£49 million fines, UK£32 million of which was suspended.
City have since come out and denied the allegations, claiming “the attempt to damage the club’s reputation is organised and clear”.
The statement added: ‘We will not be providing any comment on out of context materials purportedly hacked or stolen from City Football Group and Manchester City personnel and associated people.’
Fifa has also released a statement in the wake of the revelations, claiming that the media reports “distort both the facts and the truth in a deliberate attempt to discredit Fifa and to mislead their readers”.