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What is the new, yet controversial, European Super League all about?

The European Super League would be a 20-club football event, slated either from 2021-22 or 2023-24. It would be the top tier of European football. However, the league has not been sanctioned by either UEFA or FIFA and would be a separate tournament altogether.

What is the European Super League all about?-ayh
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Europe, First Published Apr 19, 2021, 1:06 PM IST
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The entire football fraternity, especially in Europe, is abuzz following the formation of the new European elite tournament, the European Super League. Europe's 12 top clubs have principally agreed to shape the new competition, which could be held as early as next season (2021-22) or could be conducted in full swing from the 2023-24 season. Meanwhile, three more founding members are likely to be added.

The current founding members of the European Super League happen to be AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur. However, the tournament does not include the top clubs from Bundesliga and Ligue 1, with the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain missing out.

What is the tournament about?
The formation of the European Super League was long contemplated since 1998. The idea was to create a different competition involving the top European clubs, a breakaway from the regular UEFA Champions League. The plan was brought ahead to make sure that the tops sides continue to feature in a tournament that will have no implications considering their domestic league performance, regardless of the position they finish in.

Also, the tournament would allow the club to gain significantly on the financial front, owing to their regular participation. It would also lead to more fans joining in, watching their favourites club/s and players play regularly in an elite European tournament, leading to more ticket sales, along with more significant revenue from the broadcasters.

Who would finance the competition?
It is being reported that American banking company JP Morgan would be financing a whopping $5 billion for the project, as the amount has already been finalised and is on the verge of approval. The founding club would also receive €3.5 billion to develop the infrastructure and produce investment plans for the tournament to quickly recover from the COVID-19 impact.

The format
According to the Super League website, "The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and five annual qualifiers. There will be two groups of 10 clubs each, playing home and away fixtures within the group each year."

"Following the group stage, eight clubs will qualify for a knockout tournament, playing home and away until the single-match Super League championship, in a dramatic four-week end to the season. Games will be played midweek, and all clubs will remain in their domestic leagues," it added.

As for further insights on the format, a release from the Super League added:

  • 20 participating clubs, with 15 Founding Clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season.
  • Midweek fixtures with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar, which remains at the heart of the club game.
  • An August start with clubs participating in two groups of ten, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.

Note: The basic idea of the tournament is to have the founding members of the tournament in place and would not be relegated, 1.e. the 15 members. The other five members would have to qualify based on their sporting achievement.

What happens to UEFA and FIFA club tournaments?
Both Union of European Football Associations and Federation Internationale de Football Association have disapproved of the newly-formed ESL. However, the founding members are in constant touch with the two to make things work out and work together to better the sport in Europe.

What were the reactions?
UEFA: "We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way. 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."
Premier League: "Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best. We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream."
Boris Johnson (UK Prime Minister): "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. The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps."

What could be the consequences?
As of now, the EPL law states that any club needs approval from the board to play any other competition other than UCL, UEFA Europa League, FA Cup, FA Community Shield, Carabao Cup, etc. Failing to abide by the law could also result in being banned from UEFA and FIFA tournament participation. At the same time, FIFA has also stated that "any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation."

Is ESL really happening?
Following the latest announcement, it does seem like the tournament is likely to go ahead. However, if or not it gains recognition from UEFA and FIFA remains to be seen. Also, it is implausible that the clubs would risk their UEFA and FIFA status just to participate in a lucrative European competition that is to rival the boards. It would be fascinating to see how things work out in the coming months.

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