Plans to create a European Premier League involving Europe’s biggest football clubs have caused quite a stir, but what do managers think about the proposal and what could it mean for the English game?
Sky News has learned Liverpool and Manchester United have held discussions about a bombshell plot involving Europe’s largest clubs to join a new FIFA-backed tournament that would reshape football’s global landscape.
More than a dozen teams from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are in negotiations about becoming founder members of the competition, with a provisional start date as early as 2022 said to have been discussed.
- Liverpool & Man Utd in ‘European Premier League’ talks
- FIFA’s Infantino distances himself from European PL
- UEFA ‘strongly opposes’ European Premier League plans
European Premier League – key points
However, the proposals have already been met with fierce opposition, with Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville describing them as “obscene” while UEFA “strongly opposes” the plans, believing the new-look tournament would become boring.
Despite the competition reportedly being backed by FIFA, president Gianni Infantino said on Thursday he is not interested in a European Premier League and distanced himself from the plot.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said he had “no time” to discuss the plans when asked on Tuesday, while Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho was equally coy ahead of Spurs’ Europa League opener.
Arteta asks for unity
Arsenal – part of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ clubs – are among the candidates to join a new European Premier League, but Gunners boss Mikel Arteta wants any potential development to suit all parties.
“It’s like a new format is coming every three or four days,” he said. “There will be more coming out very soon. Again I ask for some unity here, defend the interests of everybody like has been the case in the UK.
“That’s what has made this league so unique – if things have to evolve in one way or another let’s try to do it and find the right solution.”
Wilder: We must preserve unique English pyramid
The plans for a European Premier League are backed by a $6 billion (£4.6 billion) financing package and every founding club is expected to earn fees of hundreds of millions of pounds to participate.
The competition is likely to feature either 16 or 18 teams meaning a likely minimum of 30 matches for each club based on a format of round-robin home and away fixtures, which would effectively usurp the UEFA Champions League.
Such an American-style approach to European football would reflect the sport’s shifting power-base following an influx of US-based owners into the English game during the last 20 years.
According to people close to the latest plans, the European Premier League would not be a breakaway in the sense of ending clubs’ involvement in their domestic leagues, but its creation would have profound implications for the value of domestic broadcasting and sponsorship rights across Europe – at a time when the finances of the entire football pyramid have been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis.
“I think we all have to look at preserving what we’ve got in this country in terms of the pyramid and even outside the 92 Football League clubs,” Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said.
“Obviously these [bigger] clubs have their own agendas and are driven by their owners who have that ability to take their football club where they want to take it.
“But it is a unique, fabulous footballing pyramid that we’re all involved in and I’m sure everybody will do whatever they need to do to make that consistent and improve going forward.”
Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith added: “It will be a world league we are discussing next!
“Football people around the world are envious of the Premier League and how successful it is, how high the quality levels are. They clearly want a piece of that.
“But the structure of English football is a big success, the focus has rightly been on supporting those lower down the pyramid.”
Dyche: Fairness key to European PL plans
Burnley boss Sean Dyche believes every club should be able to cast their vote on what happens but says it is crucial the top clubs do not forget the remainder of the football pyramid.
“The most obvious thing from a manager point of view is too many games so how do you fit those games in? Which competition gets parked? I don’t know,” Dyche said.
- Neville: European PL talks obscene – fans will turn away
- Mourinho on European PL: I’ll leave it to Levy
- Premier League clubs reject Project Big Picture
“I am sure they (‘big six’ clubs) have a different view. We know that we don’t sell the whole league, but we play our part and I think it is healthy for the game if everyone has a say in what happens.
“I think a balanced view is important whilst not being naïve. The superpower teams who have world branding more than play their part in selling the product.
“We all respect the superpower clubs for what they’ve built over the years and what sort of clubs they’ve become, but you can’t forget about the rest of football and certainly not currently the Premier League and the Championship, because obviously they work in tandem in terms of who goes in what divisions.
“You can’t just decide who and what without a bit of fairness because if you don’t have that fairness you’re going to lose the competitive element.”
Bilic: European PL could kill domestic football
According to West Brom head coach Slaven Bilic, plans to replace the Champions League with a European Premier League could work, but the 52-year-old echoed Dyche’s comments about competitiveness.
“It happened in basketball in Europe,” Bilic said. “If it’s going to replace the Champions League then okay, but with Champions League and that new European Premier League, there’s no space for both of them.
“But what happened in basketball is it killed the domestic championships because the clubs were guaranteed to be there – you couldn’t qualify through domestic championships.”
Will European Premier League become reality?
Analysis from Sky Sports News’ chief reporter Bryan Swanson…
Sky News journalist Mark Kleinman’s excellent scoop has reopened old wounds about the threat of Europe’s top clubs breaking free from UEFA.
European football’s governing body takes a predictably dim view of any proposals that threaten its flagship club competition, the Champions League, and Aleksander Ceferin has previously warned that any new super league will become “boring”.
FIFA declined to comment on the Sky News report but has pointedly referred to “topics which come up every now and then”. In other words, it cannot deny that the issue has been under discussion but nothing more substantive at this stage. Tellingly, FIFA has not denied it supports these new proposals.
JP Morgan’s involvement with any funding package is significant. Ed Woodward, Manchester United’s executive vice-president, is a former investment banker with the financial giant.
But if this new league is to kick off as early as 2022, in an already-disrupted World Cup year, there would have to be considerable hurdles to overcome.
UEFA has a format, and lucrative TV contracts, in place until 2024 and companies have paid big money for the rights to broadcast games involving Europe’s top clubs.
A ‘European Premier League’ would also have a considerable impact on the value of the Premier League too. What if finishing in the top four no longer matters? What would happen to the compelling drama if European participation was guaranteed to only a select number of clubs, regardless of where they finish?
UEFA controls the Champions League, Europa League, Nations League and European Championship. Would players who compete in this new competition have to give up their right to play in the Euros, for example? It’s possible.
Why would UEFA want to endorse any player which goes against its other competitions? The Football Association, which grants European licences to its clubs, holds the key to almost every domestic issue but it has declined to comment.
It would be a considerable surprise if this becomes a reality, in its current form, but it will generate further debate and focus minds in the corridors of power.
The timing of leaks, as always, is significant and UEFA has yet to decide its Champions League format from 2024. Talk of a £4 billion investment plan, at a time of a global pandemic, with some smaller clubs in crisis, will not sit comfortably with many in the game.
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