Anger is building following reports of a breakaway European Super League, featuring around 16 top soccer clubs.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham are reportedly part of the group. As are La Liga’s Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid and Serie A’s AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus are involved. None of the clubs have addressed the reports so far.
The move has been widely condemned by national and European soccer authorities as well as leading politicians including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and France’s President Emmanuel Macron. Social media has been awash with criticism of the supposed plan, which most see as undermining national soccer ‘pyramids’ and selling out local fans.
DAZN Deals Latest Blow To Sky By Signing "Game-Changing" Boxing Deal With Eddie Hearn's Matchroom
Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action.
They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. (1/2)
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 18, 2021
European football body UEFA said it will use “all measures” possible to stop the “cynical project”. FIFA has previously said that any player who plays in the breakaway league will be barred from playing at the World Cup.
Watch on Deadline
Sky News’ City editor Mark Kleinman said today about the project: “The new league includes staggering sums of money that will be handed to the participating clubs. About $5BN has been committed to this new project by the American bank JP Morgan.”
A report in Italy’s respected sports newspaper Corriere dello Sport today claimed that sports streaming service DAZN, which is owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, has been working on the formation of the league. The Italian paper claimed the streamer is willing to pay $3.5BN for the TV rights to the European SuperLeague if it goes ahead.
However, in a statement to us, DAZN firmly rejected the report: “In relation to a report by Corriere dello Sport today, this and related reports are false. Neither DAZN nor Mr. Blavatnik are in any way involved or interested in entering into discussions regarding the establishment of a Super League and no conversations have taken place,” the streamer said.
We have reached out to Access Industries for additional comment. The latter is well known in the film world for its movie investments, and Blavatnik himself has been an exec-producer on films such as I, Tonya, Hacksaw Ridge and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. He is a producer on the upcoming Apple film Tetris, starring Taron Egerton. Access Industries acquired Warner Music for $3.3BN in 2011 and Access Entertainment hired former BBC chief Danny Cohen as President in 2016.
Serie A clubs last month awarded DAZN the main domestic rights to Italy’s soccer championship for the next three seasons.
The implications of a European Super League are vast. Quite simply, its formation would mark the biggest shakeup in global soccer in decades, perhaps ever. The implications for global broadcasters would in turn be enormous.
Naturally, broadcasters such as Sky, BT Sport and the BBC in the UK, which all have major stakes in broadcasting the Premier League and UEFA Champions League (which is due to announce its own structural shakeup tomorrow), are glued to this developing story. As are media outlets across the world.
There were reports that the breakaway clubs could put out a statement this evening but so far none has been forthcoming. There is also some speculation that the clubs at the heart of the proposal are using the rumours to strengthen their hand when it comes to ongoing negotiations over broadcasting rights of existing tournaments.
A number of leading soccer pundits have expressed dismay tonight, and some have expressed doubt that the plans could ever get off the ground given the apparent levels of hostility towards them.
A furious Gary Neville has hit out at plans to launch a breakaway European Super League, labelling the English clubs involved a "disgrace" and calling for them to face sanctions from the Premier League.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 18, 2021
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.