UEFA leads backlash against Super League

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — European soccer’s governing body Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) led a backlash against plans for a breakaway Super League on Monday, saying associated players and clubs could be banned from its competitions — including three of this season’s Champions League semifinalists.

Addressing an emergency meeting the day after 12 of Europe’s top clubs announced the new league, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin described the Super League plan as a “spit in the face” of all football lovers.

“As soon as possible, they (the clubs) and the players have to be banned from all our competitions,” he added.

Three of the 12 clubs in the new league — Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea — could be withdrawn from this season’s Champions League semifinals, UEFA executive committee member Jesper Moller told Danish broadcaster DR.

“The clubs must go, I expect that to happen on Friday. Then we have to find out how to finish [this season’s] Champions League tournament,” said Moller, who heads the Danish FA.

The renegade clubs — six from the English Premier League plus three each from Spain and Italy — will be guaranteed places in the new competition in contrast to the Champions League, which requires teams to qualify via their domestic leagues.

United States investment bank JPMorgan is financing the new league, providing a 3.5-billion euro ($4.2-billion) grant to the founding clubs to spend on infrastructure and recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier League clubs will meet to discuss the crisis on Tuesday but without the six breakaway clubs present as the remaining 14 clubs focus on their response.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has voiced his objections to the plan while his sports minister Oliver Dowden said everything possible will be done to block the league and is examining options to penalize the six Premier League teams to sign up.

Dowden said the government would seek to block the project if football authorities could not.

“If they can’t act, we will,” he told parliament. “We will put everything on the table to prevent this from happening.”

Prince William, who is also President of the Football Association, said the Super League risked “damaging the game we love.”

UEFA chief Ceferin said the Super League went against the core of the European football pyramid in which all clubs can dream of playing in the Champions League.

“We stand united against the disgraceful and self-serving proposal for a select few clubs in Europe motivated by greed. We are all united against this nonsense of a project,” he added.

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) had warned in January that any breakaway league would not be recognized by them and that players taking part could be banned from the World Cup.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is due to speak to UEFA delegates about the breakaway issue at its annual congress in Montreux, Switzerland, on Tuesday.

Bans or other sanctions could open the way for complicated legal battles. The Super League letter urged FIFA and UEFA to agree to talks and said they wanted the breakaway league to exist alongside current European club competitions.

Founding members of the planned Super League are Manchester United, owned by the American Glazer family, US-owned Premier League clubs Liverpool and Arsenal, Abu-Dhabi backed Manchester City, Russian-owned Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur.

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid join Real Madrid from Spain, while AC Milan and Inter Milan make up a trio from Italy along with Juventus.

Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain and European champions Bayern Munich, which is majority-owned by its fans, have not signed up, meaning France and Germany are not represented. — Reuters