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European Super League – what is being proposed and will it happen?

Paris Saint Germain v Manchester United – UEFA Champions League – Group H – Le Parc des Princes
(Image credit: PA Wire via ABACA)

Details of a proposed 20-team European Super League have been published, leading to a renewed debate about the future of top-level club football on the continent.

Here, the PA news agency examines the issue more closely.

– What has been proposed?

The Times has published details of the proposal and reports that the 15 founder members of the new league, slated to start in 2022-23, would be offered a joining fee of £310million each, and could earn up to £213m a season thereafter. The remaining five clubs in the 20-team competition would have to qualify to take part.

– Where has this come from?

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is understood to be the key driver behind a European Super League

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is understood to be the key driver behind a European Super League (Tim Goode/PA)

Super League breakaway proposals always tend to emerge at the time when a new format for UEFA’s Champions League competition is being negotiated, which is the case this time as well. It is understood the project is being led by Real Madrid and its president Florentino Perez, while one source told PA that AC Milan and Manchester United were also ‘torchbearers’ for the new concept. Sources close to the Premier League club say they are not one of the driving forces behind the published proposal.

United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, said last November: “We are at the centre of discussions about the future of European club competitions. Most of my time in this regard is focused…on the strengthening of existing UEFA club competitions.”

– What has been said?

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Before the Times report was published, FIFA and the six continental confederations issued a statement saying that no such Super League would be officially recognised and that any players involved would be barred from playing in official events such as World Cups and European Championships. PA also understands the Super League’s stated intention of its clubs continuing to play in their domestic leagues at the weekend would not be permitted.

What would this mean for the Champions League?

UEFA's flagship competition, the Champions League, would face an existential crisis if a Super League happened

UEFA’s flagship competition, the Champions League, would face an existential crisis if a Super League happened (Mike Egerton/PA)

If it went ahead, it would effectively be the end of UEFA’s flagship competition. The format of the Champions League from 2024 onwards remains under discussion, though consensus is understood to be forming around a 36-team league where each team plays 10 matches under the so-called ‘Swiss system’. One area where agreement is yet to be reached appears to be around how many teams secure qualification for the following season’s Champions League via their European performance – the European Leagues group insists this should remain limited to the competition winners.

– Where does this go next?

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As with Project Big Picture, it will be interesting to see if any of Europe’s top clubs go on the record to support or reject the concept, or whether the final format for the new-look Champions League satisfies the likes of Real Madrid and ends the Super League debate – for a few years at least.