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Super League steels itself against action as football’s internal war rages

The European Super League has already taken steps to protect itself from any attempts from UEFA and FIFA to punish its member clubs and players.

Six Premier League sides – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – are part of an initial group of 12 clubs seeking to establish a new 20-team continental competition “as soon as practicable”.

If the plans succeed it would devastate existing European club competitions and in particular the Champions League. A joint statement including UEFA and the English, Italian and Spanish leagues published on Sunday said it would consider “all measures, both judicial and sporting” to prevent the competition going ahead.

Excerpt of letter from Super League to UEFA and FIFA
Excerpt of letter from Super League to UEFA and FIFA (PA)

This could include attempts to bar the competing clubs from domestic leagues and their players from UEFA’s international competitions too.

World governing body FIFA has called for “calm, constructive dialogue” to resolve the crisis, but the company behind the Super League has pre-emptively taken steps to protect itself against any legal challenges.

In a letter to UEFA and FIFA, seen by the PA news agency, the Super League wrote: “We are concerned that FIFA and UEFA may respond to this invitation letter by seeking to take punitive measures to exclude any participating club or player from their respective competitions.

“We hope that is not your response to this letter and that, like us, your organisations will recognise the immediate benefits of the competition established by SLCo.

“We also seek your co-operation and support on how the competition can be brought within the football ecosystem and work with us to achieve that objective.

“Your formal statement does, however, compel us to take protective steps to secure ourselves against such an adverse reaction, which would not only jeopardise the funding commitment under the grant but, significantly, would be unlawful.

“For this reason, SLCo has filed a motion before the relevant courts in order to ensure the seamless establishment and operation of the competition in accordance with applicable laws.”

The decision to go public on the Super League follows a disagreement among some clubs over the level of commercial control they would have over the new-look Champions League.

Plans for a revamped competition are set for approval by UEFA’s executive committee on Monday, after which its president Aleksander Ceferin is set to face the media for the first time since the Super League proposals were announced.

The corporate structure of the Super League gives a clear indication of the leading figures behind the breakaway.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is the chairman of the new organisation, while Manchester United’s co-chairman Joel Glazer is a vice-chairman.

Manchester United’s co-chairman Joel Glazer, left, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward
Manchester United’s co-chairman Joel Glazer, left, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward (PA)

So too is Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, who had been chair of the European Club Association and a member of UEFA’s ExCo.

The PA news agency understands that on Monday Manchester United quit the ECA and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward had stepped down from his role at UEFA.

He had previously described the plans proposed by UEFA for the new-look Champions League as “ideal” but has now signed up to the Super League.

The letter to FIFA and UEFA also said SLCo had secured a commitment to underwrite funding for the competition in the range of four billion euros (approximately £3.5billion), and JP Morgan confirmed to PA that it is financing the deal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the European Super League was not “good news for fans” and he would work with the football authorities “to make sure this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed”.

The chair and chief executive of the public relations firm handling UK queries related to the Super League, Katie Perrior and Jo Tanner, worked on Johnson’s campaign to be London Mayor in 2008.

Perrior is also a former director of communications at Downing Street when Theresa May was Prime Minister.

The Premier League released a separate statement condemning the proposals on Sunday.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp – who has previously criticised the concept of a Super League – is sure to face questions about his club’s involvement before and after their Premier League match against Leeds, while Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is due to address the media on Monday afternoon ahead of side’s match against Brighton on Tuesday.

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow branded the Super League a “grotesque concept”.

He added: “These proposals do away with sporting merit. It would enable a small number of clubs to be in this competition come what may and, for millions of people in football, that goes against everything the sport means and stands for.”

Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, now FIFA’s chief of global football development, told talkSPORT: “I believe as well there’s a more dangerous idea behind (it) that is a big threat for the Premier League.

“When I was still in charge, there was a lot going on from other countries to try to diminish the dominance of the Premier League and a project like that would certainly accelerate that.

“We have to fight to keep football simple, understandable and based on merits, and (so) everyone has the same chance and dream to be successful.”

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