Uefa under pressure to block rebel plotters from taking up extra Champions League places

Ben Rumsby
·5-min read
There was a furious backlash to the Super League plans - GETTY IMAGES
There was a furious backlash to the Super League plans - GETTY IMAGES

Manchester United, Liverpool and the other Super League plotters are in danger of being stripped of their right to enter the revamped Champions League through the back door.

Following the stunning collapse of the largely-reviled tournament, Uefa is under pressure to scrap plans that could see places in its own elite club competition awarded to the likes of United and Liverpool if they finish outside the top four of the Premier League.

The new Champions League format ratified on Monday in a show of defiance against The Super League includes two spots reserved for the highest-ranked teams who fail to get into the competition on merit provided they qualify for one of its other tournaments.

The new entry criteria will not come into effect until 2024-25 but, had it been in place last season, it would have seen Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur qualify despite finishing eighth and sixth, respectively, in the Premier League.

The plan faced strong opposition even before this week’s furious backlash against The Super League and its plot to install 15 clubs as permanent members.

Uefa is now facing fresh calls to scrap it and reallocate the two spots to the champions of countries from smaller leagues.

Watch: Super League website advertises failed football project as fans show cautious relief

Claus Thomsen, the incoming chair of the European Leagues, which has a seat on Uefa’s ruling executive committee, told Telegraph Sport: “We’ve travelled down that road of letting clubs in not based on sporting merit. It’s time to put an end or not go any further down that road than we are now. I honestly believe that is what should come from this.”

Thomsen said the last 48 hours had shown there was “a unity around sustaining the European football model, where it is all based on sporting performance and the football pyramid”.

He also called on Uefa and its president Aleksander Ceferin to seize the opportunity to impose stricter “cost control” measures on clubs and to redistribute Champions League revenues in a “more fair” way to teams not participating in the competition, saying the collapse of the Super League had to spell “an end to handing over control of the tournaments to the biggest clubs”.

Those sentiments were echoed by Steve Parish, the chairman of Crystal Palace, who told BBC Breakfast: “This has got to be the end of special voting rights, people at clubs who sit next to Mr Ceferin on committees that they shouldn’t be on; all of the privileges, coefficients that award them extra money based on an arbitrary view of history.

“What Uefa need to do now is start looking after the game, and stop pandering to these people and trying desperately to keep them inside the tent – because they’re going to be inside the tent now, whatever happens.

“And the Ajaxs and the Warsaws shouldn’t be playing qualification tournaments in the summer when they’ve won their leagues in favour of an Arsenal or Tottenham, who leapfrog an Aston Villa or a Leicester into the Champions League, because it’s better to get those teams in for one year’s TV revenue.

“This is a fantastic day for football, but let’s not rest here, and allow them to bank the gains that they’ve got before. Football fans, they want to win, and they want to win fairly and they want to win well.”

One Uefa executive committee member said the deal clubs had been offered over the running of the Champions League should also now be revisited.

He said: “Do the clubs need to get involved in the operational side? I don’t think they do.

“We’ve got to show here that the governance model needs to work for all clubs: small, medium and large.”

The legal view: A route is there for the Premier League to charge six breakaway clubs

By Dan Chapman, solicitor and Head of Sports Law at Leathes Prior

Rule L9 of the Premier League handbook states that clubs cannot “enter or play” in other competitions, which makes it the inevitable starting point if the six rebel clubs are to be charged by the league.

Under that rule, though, these six clubs will be able to mount a robust legal defence. They clearly have not played in any competition, and the question of whether they have officially entered a new competition is highly arguable either way.

Watch: Tottenham Hotspur supporters spark protest denouncing European Super League

Without us knowing the precise details of the contracts that were signed with the Super League, it is hard to tell whether these clubs entered the new tournament or merely expressed an intent to proceed.

The Super League was clearly contingent on the founding clubs finding three more teams to join them. The 12 founders were unable to do so, so the legal response from the six rebels in England would likely be that they have joined a consortium to explore the idea of entering a competition, once they had found three further members, without actually entering that competition yet.

The Premier League’s legal team would therefore not be certain to succeed under rule L9. More interesting, then, are rules B15 and B16. B15 states: “In all matters and transactions relating to the league each club shall behave towards each other club and the league with the utmost good faith.”

If it transpires that the six rebel clubs were having talks with European sides and plotting this breakaway, while still attending Premier League meetings and not mentioning it to their fellow clubs, then they could fall in breach of that rule.

Rule B16 will be even more convincing for the Premier League’s lawyers. It states that no club shall “commit any act or make any statement that brings the league… into disrepute”.

The act of saying they are joining a Super League, which would ultimately breach rule L9, must bring the competition into disrepute. In making their statements on Sunday night, these clubs were indicating a clear intent to breach L9, if not now then in the future. By doing that, they are clearly bringing the league into disrepute.

The Premier League has many options, ranging from possible fines to sporting decisions. The challenge for them is to come up with a punishment that is proportionate. If they wanted to charge the six clubs and impose a sanction, then the route is certainly there for them to do so.