European football looks set for a seismic schism, with 12 of the biggest clubs in the world signing on to a new competition — the Super League.
The threat of a rebel league initially looked like something of a bargaining chip in negotiations over proposed Champions League reforms, but things are moving rapidly towards an apparent start date.
So what do we know about this potentially game-changing league and what does it all mean?
Which teams are playing in the Super League?
Only the most famous and successful teams in the world.
From England: Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
From Spain: Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid.
And from Italy: Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan.
As yet, no team from France or Germany has signed on, meaning teams like Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich remain on UEFA’s good side.
There are still three more spots left to be filled among the “founding clubs”, with five more teams (for a total of 20) also joining each year depending on their results from the previous season.
When will it start?
The plan is to kick off in August.
The Super League says it wants to start ASAP and is aiming for that August start date this year, with a women’s league to get off the ground “as soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition”.
What is the format?
Those of you with degrees in advanced mathematics will have noticed there will be 20 teams in the league each year.
Fifteen of those will be permanent fixtures, with the remaining five having to qualify.
We don’t know exactly how that qualification will happen yet except that it will be “based on achievements in the prior season”.
Despite threats that the competing teams will be banned from their respective domestic leagues, the plan is for Super League games to be mid-week fixtures to allow the clubs to play in the Premier League, La Liga or Serie A.
The 20 teams would be split into two groups of 10 for home-and-away games, with the top three teams in each group automatically reaching the quarter-finals. The fourth and fifth teams in each group will face off in two-legged playoffs to claim the remaining quarter-final spots.
Similar to the current Champions League format, the quarters and semis will be two-leg knockout ties, with the final a winner-take-all clash at a neutral venue.
Who is in charge of the Super League?
The founding clubs are governing the league, according to the announcement.
Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez has been installed as the first Super League chairman, with Manchester United’s Joel Glazer and Juventus’s Andrea Agnelli vice-chairmen of the league.
The statement says all 15 founding clubs will govern the league, so we will have to wait and see who the final three governing clubs are.
Why is this happening?
It all comes back to money.
Playing in a massive competition like the Champions League is a major earner for big clubs, but they want more and they want that income every year.
Based on current Premier League standings, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal would miss out on a shot at the European title. But with the Super League format, they would be guaranteed those broadcast dollars every year.
The founding clubs have also been promised 3.5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) and the league said “uncapped solidarity payments” could climb as high as 10 billion euros ($15.5 billion) “during the course of the initial commitment period of the clubs”.
The people in charge of the league said they want to ensure football retains its spot at the top of the world sport pecking order and remains financially stable and viable into the future.
What happens to the clubs and players who join the Super League?
Major bans have been threatened for any clubs playing in the league.
According to European football’s governing body, UEFA: “As previously announced by FIFA and the six confederations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.”
If that threat is followed up, it would mean the Premier League would lose its six biggest clubs, who have won 24 of the past 25 English titles.
Spain’s La Liga would lose the three teams who have won the league every year dating back to 2004, and Serie A would be without the three teams who have won every Italian title since 2001.
It would also seriously harm the current Champions League, because the 12 teams already signed on have dominated that competition for the past two decades, with Bayern Munich (2001, 2013, 2020) and Porto (2004) the only other teams to be crowned European champions this century. Although, last year’s Champions League final was Bayern vs Paris St Germain, neither of whom have committed to the Super League.
It could also decimate a number of national teams if superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal), Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina), Luka Modrić (Real Madrid and Croatia) and N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea and France) are ruled ineligible for the World Cup.