Fans can be convinced to back European Super League – organiser

Fans and clubs can be convinced to back new plans for a breakaway European competition, says the head of the organisation behind the new proposal.

In 2021, 12 teams signed up to the breakaway European Super League (ESL) designed to rival Uefa competitions.

On Thursday, the European Court of Justice ruled that banning clubs from joining the league was unlawful and the revamped ESL was outlined hours later.

However, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin mocked the new proposals.

Speaking in a news conference on Thursday, Ceferin said “football is not for sale” and that he looked forward to watching a two-team tournament.

“We will not try to stop them. They can create whatever they want,” he added.

The new proposal – put forward by A22, the organisation which backed the original ESL – is for a league system which would include 64 men’s clubs and 32 women’s clubs.

A22 chief executive Bernd Reichart told BBC Sport the proposals had “evolved” from the original ESL as it outlines an annual promotion and relegation system with no permanent members.

There was widespread fury and condemnation to the original ESL plan from fans, supporter groups, European domestic leagues and even government, leading to the collapse of the proposal within 72 hours.

“The 99% of the critics [of the original ESL] in the UK were against permanent membership, that you cannot be relegated,” Reichart said.

“They saw that as a betrayal of the tradition of football. We are now talking about an open, accessible, meritocratic league system in Europe side by side with domestic leagues, late mid-week leaving the national leagues untouched.

“If we convince clubs and convince their fans, why wouldn’t fans not join?”

He suggested there are clubs who are interested in the new proposal, but he refused to name them over fears he would “divide football again”.

“We want to make a proposal which is steadily convincing clubs and fans,” he said.

“The most important part is it’s going to be at the daylight – no-one will have to fear sanctions anymore and can actually contribute to a proposal.

“If no club is convinced, no proposal, not even ours, will move forward.”

The A22 chief explained the new format, based on sporting merit only, would prioritise players’ health as it was built around the current football calendar.

“We are not increasing the number of matchdays, but we are filling them with a better, more exciting competition,” he said.

Reichart also said the new proposal could offer opportunities to smaller clubs who are performing well, such as La Liga leaders Girona, where they can play 14 games and “participate in the European dream from the first match to the last match”.

‘We don’t need to threaten or banish anyone’

Domestic leagues across Europe were quick to condemn A22’s new project, including the Premier League, which said in a statement it will “continue to reject any such concept” as the ESL.

“Supporters are of vital importance to the game and they have time and again made clear their opposition to a ‘breakaway’ competition that severs the link between domestic and European football,” the statement added.

Champions League holders Manchester City said their position to a breakaway league “has not changed”, adding: “We remain committed to that values of European football.”

Manchester United and Tottenham also said they remain committed to Uefa competitions while Bayern Munich said “the door for the Super League remains closed”.

United were one of the founding clubs of the original ESL but backed out following widespread condemnation of the plans.

Ceferin said Uefa sees the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling as a “chance to improve some regulations” after the governing body came under fire for changes made to the Champions League format, set to come into effect from the 2024-25 season.

However, he also felt the ECJ decision was based on “old facts”. Uefa says it has made improvements in its rules since the ESL was first proposed which “comply with all relevant European laws and regulations”.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, chairman of the European Clubs Association (ECA), said: “They see it as a victory but it isn’t that at all.”

He added that Uefa is “working on security, medical and reform of competitions” and that clubs still recognise Uefa competitions as the best in the world.

“We don’t need to threaten or banish anyone. Do your own competition, it is fine. But the best club competition in the world is the Champions League,” he said.

“The brand has existed for years and years. The music in itself is a brand.”

‘I hope they start their fantastic competition… with two clubs’

The ESL saga began in April 2021 when news broke that 12 teams – including English teams Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – had signed up to the breakaway competition.

Out of the 12 clubs involved only Barcelona and Real Madrid maintained their interest in the creation of a new European competition.

Emboldened by criticism of the revamped ESL plans from multiple clubs as well as the German, French and English leagues, Ceferin mocked that only two clubs would take part in a new competition.

“I hope they start their fantastic competition as soon as possible, with two clubs,” he said.

“I watched the so-called presentation of A22. It’s hard to decide if you should be shocked or amused by the show. It’s even more closed than 2021 and that was rejected by everyone.”