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European Super League, Uefa Champions League, ESL, UCL, EPL, Liverpool FC, Manchester United, statement, rules

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It’s been touted for years, a billionaire boys club for the elitest of the elite, the one per cent of the one per cent.

But on Monday morning (AEST), that money-fuelled fantasy for football’s 12 richest clubs – and the dream-crushing nightmare for the hundreds of other clubs across Europe – became a bleak reality.

The European Super League is here. And this is what it all means…

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Neville SLAMS breakaway clubs | 02:36

THE REBEL ALLIANCE

The seismic shift in the pinnacle of club football has been led by 12 Founding Clubs (yes, they capitalised it like a noun): AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Internazionale, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur.

These are deemed the most elite clubs in the world and yet only eight of the 12 even managed to finish in the top four of their domestic leagues last season to qualify for the Champions League. Of those eight to even make it in, two failed to make it out of the group stage and one didn’t even make it to the Europa League.

If you needed even more context, while half of the breakaway teams are made up from Premier League sides, only Manchester City and Manchester United are even in the top four. Chelsea are currently fifth, Liverpool sixth, Spurs seventh and Arsenal, who sheepishly announced the news on the back of a 1-1 home draw with relegation-tipped Fulham, are ninth.

If each of the domestic leagues were to end their seasons now, only eight of these 12 would reach the Champions League for next season.

They will also be forming a corresponding women’s league, “helping to advance and develop the women’s game”, but only when financially and commercially practical to do so.

BUT, WHY ARE THEY DOING IT?

Money. And lots of it.

According to the Super League’s statement, clubs (or shall we say companies/brands? It feels more accurate now) are set to earn substantially more money than they ever did from the Champions League. “Solidarity payments”, which is a reward for staying in the Super League – after all, they can’t be relegated from it – are expected to be in excess of €10bn ($15.5bn).

Oh, and as reward for the 12 Founding Members bravely taking the first step into the unknown, each will receive an amount of €3.5bn ($5.43bn) to “solely support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic”.

These clubs are unhappy with how the cash is currently divvied up by UEFA, especially during the current COVID pandemic, which they say has “accelerated the instability of the current European economic model”.

WHO’S NOT IN IT?

Basically everyone, who hasn’t been deemed ‘elite’ enough. Apart from three.

This is the crucial part, it was by invitation only and some have so far rejected to join, most notably current European champions Bayern Munich, last year’s runners up and current semi-finalists Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund.

However, “it is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season”, so there is still room for those three clubs to join as additional core members.

The Founding Clubs are hoping that by implementing the plan without these three clubs, they will be devaluing UEFA as an organisation, ruining the Champions League’s market value and effectively force them to join the Super League or risk disappearing from the global football landscape – which is currently just 15 clubs, rather than the hundreds of thousands from grassroots upwards, in case you didn’t know.

HOW WILL IT WORK?

Well, for it to work, the Founding Members will be climbing down from their ivory towers and extending a diamond-encrusted hand to five other plucky try-hards each season and let them live like kings for a year.

The statement says that the 15 Founding Clubs (the current 12 plus the expected three) will automatically qualify every year, obviously, with a further five teams to qualify annually based on “achievements in the prior season”.

It does not reveal what these “achievements” will be, but don’t be surprised if they are achievements in the boardroom, rather than actually on the pitch.

Once this has been worked out, the 20 teams will be drawn into two groups of 10, who will play each other home and away in midweek fixtures – whilst still remaining in their respective domestic leagues – with the top three qualifying for the quarter-finals. A two-legged play-off between the fourth- and fifth-placed teams in each group will then determine the final two spots in the quarters.

A two-legged knockout format will then be used to whittle the competition down to its final two, who will contest a single-fixture final at a neutral venue.

In total, the finalists will play between 23 and 25 Super League games, with the least number a team will play being 18. That’s still five more than the 13 it takes to reach and play in the Champions League final from the group stage onwards.

Greenwood double burns Burnley | 01:33

WHAT HAS UEFA SAID?

UEFA has been vociferous in its condemnation of the knifing in the back from its biggest clubs and released a joint statement with the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Spanish Football Federation, LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation and Serie A.

They all said that any club involved in the Super League will be banned from competing in all competition at domestic, European or world level and that players playing for these clubs could even be banned from representing their national side.

They said: “UEFA, the English Football Association and the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A have learned that a few English, Spanish and Italian clubs may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League.

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we – UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.

“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.

“As previously announced by FIFA and the six Confederations, 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.

“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR DOMESTIC FOOTBALL?

On the surface, it will remain the same. The winners will still be champions, the bottom three teams will still be relegated.

If you’re listening to UEFA, then none of the Founding Clubs will be present in their domestic league, but if you’re listening to football’s new overlords, then the current Premier League season would effectively be over.

Manchester City are uncatchable at the top, and the chase for the Champions League wouldn’t exist because no one is playing it in any more. That means Leicester City and West Ham’s hard work in staying in the top four this year would all be for nothing. That is unless they win one of the Super League’s five golden tickets to play in Willy Wonker’s Football Factory for a season.

It’s clear to see why the Founding Clubs support it so much, and why everyone else despises it.

Late leveller breaks Fulham hearts | 01:28

WHAT ABOUT THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE REFORMS?

Who knows?

UEFA was due to make an announcement for the Champions League reforms in the early hours of Tuesday morning (AEST), but that seems unlikely now.

It was supposed to be expanded in a bid to quench the bigger clubs’ insatiable thirst for more fixtures, and in turn more money, but that will all be up in the air now.

In the most recent call between UEFA’s member clubs, none of the 12 Founding Clubs responded or turned up, while Juventus have already quit the European Club Association (ECA) and owner Andrea Agnelli has resigned his ECA chairmanship and his place on the UEFA Executive Committee.

WHAT IS THE REACTION LIKE?

Vitriolic, to understate it.

Scroll through Twitter and you won’t find a single journalist, former player, pundit or fan who is in favour of it.

Manchester United legend Gary Neville branded it “disowning your own club stuff” and called for English clubs involved to be stripped of their titles and relegated.

“Massive fines, points deductions, take the titles off them – who cares? Give the title to Burnley, Fulham. Let Fulham stay up.

“Relegate United, Liverpool and Arsenal because those three clubs are the history of this country they should be the ones to suffer most.

“Deduct them all points tomorrow – put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously you have got to stamp on this, it’s criminal. It is a criminal act against football fans in this country.

La Liga president Javier Tebas said: “Finally the ‘gurus’ of the superleague PowerPoint are exiting the darkness of the bar at 5AM, intoxicated with selfishness and a lack of solidarity.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

The statement said the Super League will “commence as soon as practicable”, but there are so many more waters to muddy before Frankenstein’s monster truly comes to life.

Expect plenty more statements, behind-closed-door negotiating, the building of a Death Star to host the final, outrage football’s biggest talking heads and more.

This is only just the beginning.

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Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel laments bad luck as Leicester City pip Blues to FA Cup glory

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Chelsea were narrowly beaten by a spirited Leicester City side in Saturday’s FA Cup final.

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Arteta battling with ex-mentor Guardiola to secure Arsenal's first summer transfer

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VAR drama hands Foxes first ever win, Wembley

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Kasper Schmeichel described leading Leicester to the club’s first ever FA Cup as a dream come true after he played a huge role in beating Chelsea 1-0 on Saturday when a late equaliser was ruled out by VAR.

Youri Tielemans’s stunning strike just after the hour mark separated the sides in front of the largest sports attendance in England since the coronavirus pandemic hit, with 22,000 fans at Wembley.

Schmeichel had to rescue his side late on with brilliant saves from Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount.

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“I’ve dreamt about this since I was child,” said Schmeichel, whose father Peter Schmeichel won three FA Cups with Manchester United.

“We have talked about wanting to win trophies. The performance today, the grit and determination, I’m so proud of everybody, everybody contributed to get to the final. Everyone has played and been sensational.”

Even when Schmeichel was eventually beaten, Chilwell’s late equaliser against his former club was ruled out for off-side after a VAR review.

“Thank you VAR! What an amazing technology,” said Tielemans. “What a moment, I’m really happy. I can’t think of a better goal than this. I’ve scored a few but it was a really nice goal to score in the final of the FA Cup.”

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers dedicated the victory to the club’s chairman Aiyawatt ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha.

“It is an amazing feeling. I was not aware before I came into Leicester that they had never won the FA Cup, they had lost in four finals previously,” Rodgers said.

“To be able to give that to the supporters, to Top and his family, it is such a special occasion.

“It was a monumental performance, and what a day for everyone involved with Leicester.” Celebrating his first major trophy in England football after his successful spell at Celtic, Rodgers added: “It’s the FA Cup so it’s truly special. It means so much to us, so proud, but happier for everyone else.

“The success of this team and club is getting to positions like this and competing, the so-called bigger clubs are expected to win.

“But our success is competing and, if we can perform like today, we can go and win.”

Man City prevail in seven goal shootout | 01:29

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