European Super League: What clubs are involved, how will it work and why is it so controversial?

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent

Six of England's top football clubs have confirmed their involvement in a breakaway European Super League, prompting fierce criticism from politicians, former players and football authorities.

Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City - together with the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus from other leagues - are among the leading members of the new competition that has been established as a rival to UEFA's Champions League.

But what will this new European Super League look like? And what impact will it have on domestic competitions such as the Premier League and FA Cup, as well as the Champions League? Could it signal the end of the beautiful game as we know it?

Manchester United and Tottenham are among the clubs supporting the European Super League. Credit: PA

Which clubs are involved?AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid CF and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as founding clubs.

The Super League said in addition to the 15 founding members (three have yet to be confirmed), they aim to have a 20-team league with five other clubs qualifying each season.

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the UEFA Champions League match at Anfield. Credit: PA

How will it work?Three other teams are expected to join the 12 clubs announced on Sunday. A further five teams will qualify annually "based on achievements in the prior season".The format will see two groups of 10 clubs who play home and away, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final.

In a statement, the Super League said matches will be mid-week and clubs will still play in domestic leagues.

Under current proposals, there would be no relegation from the league.

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany lifts the Premier League Trophy in 2019. Credit: PA

Why has the Super League been set up?

The move follows UEFA plans for major changes to its Champions League which would, among other reforms, see the competition increase from 32 to 36 clubs.

Under the proposals, which would have come into effect from 2024, each team would play 10 games. A knockout stage would then follow.

The decision to go public on the Super League follows a disagreement among some clubs over the level of commercial control they would have over the new-look Champions League.

There had been broad consensus for the changes, but the big clubs did not feel the reforms went far enough.

The organisers claim the new tournament will generate “significantly greater economic growth and support for European football”.

In a statement, the Super League said: “The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid."

The Super League is also highly lucrative for the clubs involved and critics argue money is the motivating factor behind the split.

The clubs involved would share a €3.5 billion (£3 billion) fund to spend on infrastructure projects and to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the game.

The League said they will make "solidarity payments" to European football which will exceed those currently offered by UEFA.

Investment bank JP Morgan confirmed it will be financing the new League. It is understood that it will underwrite around 6 billion US dollars (£4.3 billion) in loans for teams involved.

A Tottenham Hotspur fan protests against the clubs decision to be included amongst the clubs attempting to form a new European Super League, Credit: PA

What has been the reaction?

The move has been widely condemned in and outside of football.

The Liverpool fans’ group Spion Kop 1906, who are responsible for organising the vast majority of flags and banners which are waved on the Kop prior to matches, announced they are withdrawing their support for "a club which puts financial greed above integrity of the game”.As a result, they are to remove all flags which are currently decorating the Kop at Anfield with supporters still locked out of games.

Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said it would demand answers to the “unforgivable” proposals and said it was a “decision of greed to line the pockets of those at the top”. Manchester United Supporters’ Trust and Arsenal Supporters’ Trust also called for the plans to be scrapped.

Prime minister Boris Johnson denounced the plans as "very damaging". French president Emmanuel Macron said the "project that threatens the principle of solidarity and sporting merit".

Liverpool and Fulham players line up in front of the Kop. Credit: PA

Mr Johnson said football clubs were more than “great global brands”, they needed to have a link with their fans and communities.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin strongly condemned the proposals and reiterated that players who competed in the breakaway league would be banned from representing their national teams.

The body issued a strong statement jointly with English, Spanish and Italian leagues and football federations, saying they were ready to use "all measures" to confront any breakaway and saying any participating clubs would be banned from domestic leagues, such as the Premier League

FIFA expressed its "disapproval to a "closed European breakaway league outside of the international football structures".

Gary Neville denounced the Super League as "an absolute disgrace". Credit: PA

Manchester United's ex-captain Gary Neville called it "an absolute disgrace" and said the club owners were motivated by "pure greed".Former Spurs striker Gary Lineker wrote on Twitter: "Football is nothing without its fans. We’ve seen that clearly over the last 12 months. If fans stand as one against this anti-football pyramid scheme, it can be stopped in its tracks."

Former Barcelona and Real Madrid winger Luis Figo tweeted: “This so called ‘Superleague’ is anything but ‘Super’.

Julian Knight, chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, described it as "a dark day for football".

The Premier League released a separate statement condemning the proposals on Sunday.

When will it kick off?The clubs involved said the season will commence "as soon as practicable" which looks likely to be August.