Football fan groups have reacted angrily to the prospect of the European Super League, calling it the “ultimate betrayal” and “cynical greed.”
The breakaway league, which has been announced by 12 of Europe’s most prominent clubs, would involve 15 founding clubs and five other teams who would qualify each year based on achievements from the previous season.
That means the 15 founding clubs – which currently includes Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid – would be permanent members of the Super League.
But fans of those clubs are fiercely against the format, which would see a clutch of Europe’s wealthiest teams compete against each other in midweek games throughout the season.
“Our members and football supporters across the world have experienced the ultimate betrayal,” said a statement from the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, one of six Premier League clubs to sign up to the competition.
The statement continued: “This is a decision of greed to line the pockets of those at the top and it has been made with no consideration for the loyal supporters, our history, our future or the future of football in this country.”
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According to a statement from the founding clubs, the new tournament will provide “greater economic growth” within the game and generate more income than the current European competition. American investment bank JP Morgan confirmed to CNN on Monday that it will be financing the new league.
In the current format of European football, clubs qualify to compete in Europe based on performances from the previous season.
The majority of the clubs in the Super League would be permanent members, despite the fact that some did not qualify for this season’s Champions League and may not qualify for European football next season.
That includes the likes of Arsenal, for example, which is ninth in the Premier League with six games remaining.
“The motivation behind this so-called superleague (sic) is not furthering sporting merit or nurturing the world’s game – it is motivated by nothing but cynical greed,” read a statement from the Footballer Supporters’ Association, the representative body for football fans in England and Wales.
“This competition is being created behind our backs by billionaire club owners who have zero regard for the game’s traditions and continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom.”
The resounding response from fans has been negative – a sense that they have been forgotten as clubs look to increase profits via the Super League.
Jere Virtanen, a lifelong Manchester United fan who owns a museum dedicated to the club in Helsinki, Finland, has traveled across Europe to watch his team play, but says he wouldn’t attend Super League games if the tournament goes ahead.
“The Manchester United Football Club I’m supporting would not join this kind of elite circle,” Virtanen told CNN Sport.
“To attend matches in that kind of elitist league, I would be part of the problem. Of course I want my team to succeed in all the competitions they are in, but that does not include this kind of league.”
As the influence of billionaire owners continues to change football in Europe, Virtanen believes that the patience of loyal fans is being tested.
“I just hope this is a bad dream and the decision makers would start understanding what football really means to us fans,” he added.
“Our boundaries and tolerance have been constantly stretched as the sport has become more commercialized year after year. I think now we are reaching the limits big time.”
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The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust said the concept of a “closed shop of self-selected wealthy clubs goes against everything football, and Manchester United, should stand for,” while the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust (THST) said it was “deeply concerned” by a concept “driven by avarice and self-interest.”
“We feel very let down. We feel betrayed with a plan like this to be hatched without any consultation whatsoever with supporters,” Martin Buhagiar, a board member of the THST, told CNN’s Becky Anderson.
“Probably because they (the club’s owners) knew this would be the reaction. They knew it would have the look and feel of a deal done in dark quarters, behind closed doors, with no regard whatsoever for the largest stakeholders in the game, the most important people in football – and that is the supporters.”
The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust called the Super League plans “the death of Arsenal as a sporting institution,” while banners were also put up around Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium displaying the words “LFC fans against European Super League” and “shame on you R.I.P LFC 1892-2021.”
What would appeal to some is the prospect of the biggest clubs in football playing against each other on a more regular basis, but domestic leagues have voiced concerns about how the new format would disrupt the footballing pyramid.
“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,” read a statement from the English Premier League.
“We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.”
That sentiment was echoed by Spain’s La Liga, which said the elitist nature of the Super League “attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid.”
It added: “Football fans across Europe can dream that their club, no matter the size, may excel, climb to the top and compete at the pinnacle of European football … The concept proposed by 12 European clubs destroys that dream, shutting the door to the top of European football, allowing in just an elite few.”