European Super League faces scorn across continent

Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo, Sam Jones in Madrid, Jon Henley in Paris and Kate Connolly in Berlin
·6-min read

Football fans in Italy have called the proposed European Super League the “death of football” as it threatened to push Serie A into crisis, while Spain’s La Liga attacked the move as “a selfish, egotistical proposal designed to further enrich the already super-rich”.

The official statement announcing the Super League led to a torrent of criticism in Italy of one of its greatest advocates, the Juventus chairman, Andrea Agnelli. His club, together with Inter and Milan, has expressed its willingness to join the project.

The front pages of newspapers in Italy described the news as a “crude idea”, while the Serie A League called an urgent meeting.

Giovanni Carnevali, the manager of Serie A team Sassuolo, said the plans “risk killing our league. Unpleasant things are coming and we have probably been misled.” The Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, said Rome backed the Italian and European football authorities to preserve national competitions, meritocratic values and the social function of sport”.

The newspaper Fatto Quotidiano described the proposal as “a league where only the rich play against the rich, to become even richer”.

The Turin-based daily newspaper Tuttosport, which covers Juventus in particular, called the plans “a genuine licence to kill the quintessence of football and the spirit of competition”.

Fans of Serie A teams called it an “abomination”, a “betrayal” and “murder of a passion” on social media.

In the Corriere della Sera, Mario Sconcerti, one of the best-known sports commentators in Italy, said it was a “crude idea that goes against the fans” and blamed Agnelli, who, Sconcerti said, has become one of the least popular characters in European football.

The Juventus chairman said in a statement that the 12 founding clubs “represented millions of fans all over the world” and had joined forces to give “the sport we love a sustainable basis for the future”.

Juventus has left the ECA, the body that represents 246 leading clubs across Europe. The club also said Agnelli had resigned from the role of ECA president and from the Uefa executive.

The former player and Inter legend Sandro Mazzola said: “It was about time to renew football. I think it’s a great thing, and the right thing to do.”

Spain’s La Liga hit out at what it termed “a breakaway, elitist European competition that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit” that sit at the heart of domestic and European football. Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Barcelona are the three Spanish clubs among the 12 founder members.

“The newly proposed top European competition is nothing more than a selfish, egotistical proposal designed to further enrich the already super-rich,” it said in a statement. “It will undermine the appeal of the whole game and have a deeply damaging impact on the immediate and future of La Liga, its member clubs, and all the entire footballing ecosystem.”

The Spanish government said it would not support the new league because it had been “devised and proposed without consultation with the representative organisations both nationally and internationally”. It called for a “return to the path of dialogue” so that a solution could be found that benefitted international bodies, teams, professionals and fans alike.

The former Portugal, Barcelona and Real Madrid player Luís Figo said the proposed league would have tragic consequences.

“This so called ‘Superleague’ is anything but ‘Super’,” he tweeted. “This greedy and callous move would spell disaster for our grassroots, for women’s football, and the wider football community only to serve self-interested owners, who stopped caring about their fans long ago, and complete disregard for sporting merit.”

No French teams are among the 12, but citing sources close to the founding clubs, Agence France-Presse reported that the Super League envisaged “at least two French clubs each season” taking part.

Leading French clubs such as Paris St Germain have, however, so far refused to participate. PSG’s Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera became one of the first high-profile players to speak out against the venture.

“I fell in love with popular football, with the football of the fans, with the dream of seeing the team of my heart compete against the greatest,” Herrera tweeted. “If this European super league advances, those dreams are over.”

The player said he loved football and “cannot remain silent about this. I believe in an improved Champions league, not in the rich stealing what the people created, which is nothing other than the most beautiful sport on the planet”.

France’s junior sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, told France Info radio on Monday the plan amounted to a “VIP club” aimed at “dominating in a world based solely on marketing and commerce, not on sport.”

Education and sports minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, echoed the Élysée Palace in congratulating French teams on not taking part, saying the government was “opposed to the creation of a closed European super league reserved for a clan of clubs”.

Sporting criteria must prevail, Blanquer said. “France will support the French football federation and the French professional football league in the interest of France’s clubs and of sporting equality.”

Germany, which has no clubs among the 12 founders, also saw widespread condemnation. “The Super League is only the tip of the iceberg. For far too long, the federations have stood by and watched the actions of some officials and European clubs,” said Unsere Kurve, (Our Curve), a fan group of German supporters across all clubs. “We say: Stop it now! The behaviour of these clubs must finally be stopped!”

Germany’s leading sports monthly, 11 Freunde (11 Friends), called the proposal“nothing less than the death of football as we know it […] an attempt to turn a sport which millions love, into a weekly circus show in order to squeeze the last shitty cent into the pockets of the superrich.” Leading TV football commentator and presenter for Sky Sport Germany, Florian Schmidt-Sommerfeld tweeted: “I’m speechless right now.... I’m fearful this might split a sport I love into two camps.”

Strict rules governing the ownership would however make it extremely difficult for German clubs to sign up to the plan. The 50+1 rule, according to which a German club must hold a majority of its own voting rights if it is to compete in the Bundesliga, prevents takeovers by foreign investors such as those which are now usual in the UK. Leading German clubs have rejected the idea of joining and the Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick called the proposal “not good for football”.

Christian Seifert, head of the German Football Federation, told German media: “The economic interests of a few of the top clubs in England, Italy and Spain should not be allowed to prompt the abolition of established structures in European football. It would be especially irresponsible if the national leagues as the basis of European professional football were to be irreparably damaged as a result.”