Less than two weeks after becoming partners in a European Super League that reportedly set aside the structures and organizations that have supported football on the continent for nearly a century, a group of the sport’s biggest clubs are now engaged in a new battle behind the scenes.
This time, their fight is between them.
At the heart of the new battle are two documents. First, a so-called club declaration of commitment accepted by nine of the 12 founding clubs of the Super League and published on Friday officially renounced the Super League plan and re-engaged the separatist teams in the existing European system.
In a welcome statement to the nine clubs, European football’s governing body UEFA said the teams “recognize and accept that the Super League plan was a mistake and apologize to supporters, national associations , national leagues, other European clubs and UEFA ”for taking part in it. He also said the nine teams have pledged never to attempt a similar breakaway again.
The humiliating re-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 have agreed to donate a total of 15 million euros (around $ 2 million per team) to a UEFA youth charity; cede five percent of the income they would have received from continental competitions this season; and pay a fine of 100 million euros (approximately $ 121 million) if they re-join an unauthorized competition.
UEFA had demanded that the league’s founding clubs sign the declaration of commitment, which would complete the official demise of the Super League, as a condition for the clubs to return to the structures and formal bodies that manage European football.
But by agreeing to the terms of their reinstatement, the nine teams set up a major – and potentially costly – brawl over the second document: a letter sent Thursday by the three Super League resisters threatening to extract millions of dollars from damage to any club. moving away from the project.
Resistance fighters – Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona – say they refuse to let the Super League die. Doubling down, they said this week they would take legal action and financial penalties 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 18, collapsed 48 hours later amid popular and political backlash. In the days and weeks following this humiliating retirement, club presidents and owners of some teams held emergency meetings with football leaders in their own countries and with UEFA to try and limit penalties. they could suffer for being part of a breakaway that would have devastated the value of leagues and clubs across Europe.
Uefa had said he would treat repentant clubs more nicely than those that refused to back down. Those who refused, he warned, risked the most severe sanction available to the organization: a two-year ban from the Champions League, the richest and most publicized competition in Europe.
Documents, messages and conversations with executives involved in this week’s talks suggested that eight teams from the original 12 members of the Super League had agreed to sign the declaration, slightly less than the number required to force the liquidation of the Super League. a company created in Spain to run. The ninth club signed on Friday, but all now expect a long and expensive series of complaints.
The dispute between UEFA and UEFA’s efforts to isolate or punish resistance fighters is an indication of the severity and speed with which relations between the top teams have deteriorated. It also highlights how, even after his brief life and sudden death, the Super League continues to tear the fabric of European football apart.
Several senior club officials, including John Henry of Liverpool and the Glazer family, which controls Manchester United, have issued public statements of contrition over the Super League fiasco. On Friday, less than a week after angry Manchester United fans stormed their team’s stadium, forcing a game to be postponed, famous distant team-owner Joel Glazer. written to fans and promised to speak with them on a range of contentious issues and to make a series of new investments in the club.
The Super League began to falter even before the official announcement of its creation. Within a day, some teams started making private requests to UEFA, acknowledging that agreeing to join had been a mistake.
Less than 48 hours after the league was launched, Manchester City became the first team to officially announce their intention to step down. It started a stunt, with all six Premier League sides issuing public statements revealing their intention to step down.
The defections left teams from Spain and Italy acknowledging that the league was no longer viable in its original form, but without formally stating that they would not try to revive it.
Despite the popular reaction to the project, opinions hardened among the three clubs – Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona – which were the most committed supporters of the project. In their letter, sent on Thursday, the clubs accused teams that had publicly declared their intention to leave the Super League of committing a “material breach” of the founders’ agreement.
All violations of the shareholders’ agreement, they wrote to the outgoing founders, “have caused us significant damage, which continues to accumulate.”
They also pledged to pursue legal action to prove that the current rules of football are incompatible with competition and free trade laws.
Yet their options may now be limited. According to the Super League contract, the withdrawal of nine clubs may result in the liquidation of the entity created to organize the competition. This dissolution was one of UEFA’s demands to end the entire chapter for the clubs involved.
Separation efforts also continue to disrupt football at the national level. In Italy, the national association introduced new regulations aimed at preventing any further escape, while in England discussions are taking place on similar rule changes and also on 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 in a few days. One plan is to secure long-term commitments from member clubs not to join unauthorized competition, or to withdraw from domestic competition, with stiff penalties – including fines of over $ 50 million – s’ they’re doing it.
Finding an appropriate punishment, however, is proving difficult. Football leaders are aware that the collapse of the Super League owes much to public opposition from supporters of the English teams who had agreed to join it; punishing teams in a way that doesn’t anger those same fans is now the goal.
This means that clubs are unlikely to be hit with sporting sanctions, but rather financial sanctions aimed at owners who have backed the Super League plan. So far, a tangible response has been ostracism: officials from the six breakaway clubs have been removed from the league’s internal committees.