Soccer

European Super League: Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez defends breakaway plan, says it will save the sport

Real Madrid president and Super League chairman Florentino Perez made his first media appearance since Sunday’s bombshell news that 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs announced plans to break away from the established soccer order. Three of those 12 founding members — Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid — come from La Liga.

Perez, who spoke to Spanish TV personality Josep Pedrerol on El Chiringuito TV, said the financial loses from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is part of the chief reason why he chose to team up with other top clubs to break away in a deal that was “years in the making.” Perez also revealed that the Super League would not be “closed” and would eventually have a pyramid format for others to join based on on-field merit. 

“The important clubs in Spain, England and Italy have to find a solution to this very bad situation that football is in,” said Perez on the loss of revenue top clubs in Europe have faced over the years. “We came to a conclusion that by creating a Super League, instead of playing Champions League midweek, we can alleviate lost revenue.”

Joining the three Spanish clubs are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus.

“Football needs to evolve, like life does,” Perez said. “Soccer needs to adapt to the times we live in. Football is losing interest … Something must be done and the pandemic hastened that. We are all ruined.”

Want to hear more about the Super League proposals? Listen below as Luis Miguel Echegaray and Fabrizio Romano break down a stunning 24 hours and follow ¡Qué Golazo! A Daily CBS Soccer Podcast where we take you beyond the pitch and around the globe for commentary, previews, recaps and more.

Perez is joined by Andrea Agnelli of Juventus and Joel Glazer of Manchester United as part of the Super League chair. Their plan would be to invite three additional founding members to reach 15 and then rotate an additional five to reach 20 teams. Those five would join on merit. 

The Real Madrid chief tried to squash any speculation that he’d be forming a closed league during his interview:

“Instead of playing the Champions [League] as it is, which is losing interest, now we must find something enticing which is to play amongst the big clubs. We are at a critical moment.  Fifteen teams generate value, and five other teams will make the Super League through sporting merit. It is not a closed league. We believe in the merit of teams so that they fight to deserve to play in a competition like this.”

UEFA is threatening legal action against those 12 teams and could, in theory, ban them from future competitions. Jesper Møller, Danish FA chairman and UEFA ExCo member said to Danish outlet DR Sport that semifinalists involved in the Super League — Real Madrid, Chelsea and Man City — will be expelled from this season’s competition, along with the remaining breakaway participants, by Friday.

“[Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea] are going out, and I expect that to happen on Friday,” Møller said. “And then you have to see how to finish the Champions League.”  

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin wants to issue a ban at some point this week after meeting with his legal team, sources tell CBS Sports insider Fabrizio Romano.  

Perez said he believes the clubs and players involved cannot be and won’t be banned by UEFA or FIFA.

“The players should remain calm because [not being able to play with national teams] will not happen,” Perez said. “Nobody should threaten anybody. We’ve offered to talk, to negotiate …They won’t kick out Real Madrid, City or anybody. I’m sure of that.”

On the new Champions League format for 2024 that was announced on Monday, Perez said he did not view it as a viable option to produce revenue and prevent financial loss for the top clubs for years to come.

“With all due respect, I didn’t understand the new format,” Perez said. “And it won’t create the necessary revenue to save football … We want to save football so the next 20 years we can be calm and not say we lost $200 million.

“We don’t want the big clubs to be richer and the smaller teams to be more poor. We need to do something. We are in a freefall … our clubs will be dead by 2024.”  

The group of 12 teams responded earlier on Monday by sending a letter to FIFA and UEFA leaders, informing them that the Super League has already taken legal action to protect anyone looking to block their competition. The Associated Press obtained the following letter:

“We are concerned that FIFA and UEFA may respond to this invitation letter by seeking to take punitive measures to exclude any participating club or player from their respective competitions

“Your formal statement does, however, compel us to take protective steps to secure ourselves against such an adverse reaction, which would not only jeopardize the funding commitment under the Grant but, significantly, would be unlawful. For this reason, SLCo (Super League Company) has filed a motion before the relevant courts in order to ensure the seamless establishment and operation of the Competition in accordance with applicable laws.

“It is our duty, as SLCo’s board members, to ensure that all reasonable actions available to protect the interests of the Competition and our stakeholders are duly taken, given the irreparable damage that would be suffered if, for any reason, we were deprived of the opportunity to form promptly the Competition and distribute the proceeds of the Grant.”

Perez would like to come to terms with UEFA on a new structure for European soccer, but has asked for transparency from the governing body. “How is it that I know what LeBron James’ salary is and not what anybody’s salary is at UEFA? We need transparency.”

Both sides are currently at odds, but that has not stopped Perez from revealing that the Super League could start as early as next season or the year after.

“If there is an agreement, we would start next season,” Perez said. “We could wait one more year if there is no agreement with UEFA.”


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