MANCHESTER – Top English and Italian clubs were strongly linked again on Sunday to a breakaway European Superleague, a rival competition to UEFA’s Champions League which could have massive ramifications for the game.
UEFA is due to sign off on its own plans for an expanded and restructured Champions League on Monday but less than 24 hours before the meeting reports emerged of a new attempt at creating a rival competition involving the continent’s top clubs.
The board of Italy’s Serie A league held an emergency meeting on the threatened Super League, inviting AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan to the discussion on Sunday.
A Serie A source told Reuters that the league had recently become aware of the plans for a breakaway project and the potential involvement of broadcaster DAZN.
DAZN said reports of its involvement were “false”. (LINK)
Shortly after the Serie A meeting finished, The Times newspaper reported that five of England’s top clubs had signed up to the plans for a breakaway.
The paper said Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have agreed to join the new league.
The only member of the “big six” not to have signed up is Manchester City, the paper said, citing sources with knowledge of the development.
None of the six clubs or the Premier League immediately responded to requests for comment.
There have been reports of a plan for a breakaway for a number of years and they returned in January with several media reported a document had been produced outlining the plans for a 20-team league.
Those reports led FIFA and UEFA to warn that they would ban any players involved in a breakaway from playing in the World Cup or European Championship.
The move is a surprise after the European Club Association (ECA), which represents 246 of the continent’s leading clubs, gave their backing to UEFA’s reforms which are on the agenda for Monday’s executive committee meeting.
UEFA has proposed an increase to 36 from 32 teams, and an overhaul of the group stage into a single table rather than the current groups of four clubs.
Teams would play 10 matches each in the group stage rather than the six they currently play and a playoff round would also be introduced before the last 16.
But while there has been a broad consensus and those reforms, the ECA made a late push to have changes to the governance and control of the competition.
Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors last month that he expected such an outcome.
“We look forward to seeing the full final proposal from UEFA that we anticipate will include a greater involvement of clubs in the governance and control of the competitions,” Woodward said.
The ECA is already involved in UEFA’s club competition structures, including the second-tier Europa League through a joint company, known as “UEFA Club Competition SA” or UCC.
UCC is a subsidiary company of UEFA where half the members of the board are appointed by the governing body and the other half by the ECA.
It was created following the signing of a five-year agreement between UEFA and the ECA in 2018, a deal which will run out before the proposed new Champions League format begins in 2024.