A senior executive of one of the 'Big Six' believed on Saturday morning his club was set to agree to Champions League reforms rather than be part of the proposed European Super League.
In news that illustrates the chaos surrounding the failed launch of the breakaway it can be revealed that momentum for the now-aborted ESL began little more than 24 hours before the first reports of its existence emerged.
Until that stage Juventus president Andrea Agnelli appears to have discussed the proposals directly with club owners and without the knowledge of some of the senior executives involved even though they would have to try and implement it.
Agnelli along with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, Liverpool owner John W Henry and Manchester United’s Joel Glazer were the main driving forces behind the formation of the breakaway. All four took up roles when it was announced on Sunday night.
The rush would help explain how ill-thought through the launch of the ESL was, with a formal announcement after 11pm, and how poorly it was dealt with from a public relations point of view. It was in keeping with its poor conception that it fell apart less than 48 hours after it was announced with clubs relenting under the backlash from fans, players, their own staff, the media and authorities including the UK Government.
Senior figures from the remaining 14 Premier League clubs have called for individuals from the ‘Big Six’ to be punished but it does appear that the decision to become one of the so-called ‘founding fathers’ of the ESL was taken by the club owners who had been talking among themselves.
Clearly the senior executives at the clubs involved were aware of the long-running desire for a breakaway Super League and had infuriated the rest of the Premier League with the veiled threats of it happening over the past few years. But few appear to have been aware until the weekend that it was about to be launched. Some were caught out and have since been accused of misleading the various governing bodies and their club’s supporters.
The timing of the launch was clearly linked to Monday being the day when Uefa’s executive committee was giving its final approval to the expanded Champions League from 2024-25 following a meeting between the board of the European Club Association and Uefa’s club competitions committee last Friday.
The revamp, with a shift away from group stages to a single league stage in which each club will be guaranteed 10 games, was designed to head off a possible revolt and the threat of a separate Super League.
It appeared the owners believed that by springing their announcement on Uefa they could force through what they wanted. Instead it backfired spectacularly.