The president of one of the clubs involved in widely-criticised plans for a breakaway European Super League has said they are acting “for the sake of football.”
Real Madrid’s president, Fiorentino Perez, defended the proposal – which brings together the world’s richest clubs into a league from which they can’t be relegated – as “the greatest show in the world.”
Backlash to the plans has even reached Downing Street, where Boris Johnson hosted a round table with representatives from football governing bodies, having vowed to give a "straight red" to the "ludicrous" new league.
Speaking on Spanish talk show El Chiringuito de Jugones de Mega, Perez became the first from the boards of any of the 12 clubs involved to speak publicly since the announcement on Sunday.
“This is for the sake of football,” he said, amid growing anger at the proposal.
Real Madrid’s finances, like many clubs at every level, have been hit hard during the Covid pandemic – particularly as their stadium undergoes major renovation works.
The 12 clubs to declare their participation so far – six of which are from England – reportedly stand to make up to £300 million each from the plans from the outset.
And Perez did not shy away from conceding money was a motivation behind the plans, which would replace the UEFA-run and merit-based Champions League.
“Today, with the incomes of the Champions League like it is now, we are dying. There is less and less audience and less and less money.
“We're all dying – the big ones, the medium sized ones and the small ones.”
He went on to say money will “come for us all” because “this is like a pyramid.”
“If the ones on top have money and we don't lose any money, then it will flow down and will reach everybody, because we will buy players, because we will be supportive,” he said.
He added: “It's going to be the 15 clubs who will play against each other every week, that's going to bring the money in. That's the greatest show in the world.
“There's nothing like that. And there's no other sport that can gather 400 million people watching a few teams play.”
What clubs are involved?
There are 12 clubs so far, with another eight potentially joining:
Perez's comments came as more within the game weighed in with their concerns.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who also used to manage Barcelona, said on Tuesday: “It is not a sport where the relation between effort and success does not exist.
"It is not a sport where success is already guaranteed, it is not a sport where it doesn’t matter when you lose.”
He added: “It is a little uncomfortable for us. We don’t have all the information. Once we have all the information, I will give my opinion.
“It is a statement, and no more than that.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Tuesday his organisation - the highest governing body of association football - strongly disapproved of the plans.
He told the UEFA Congress: “We can only strongly disapprove the creation of the Super League, a Super League which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA and from FIFA.
“There is a lot to throw away for the short-term financial gain of some. They need to reflect, and they need to assume responsibility.”
On Monday night, Perez dismissed threats from footballing bodies that Super League clubs could be banned from other competitions and their players forbidden to represent their countries.
"They (players who could be banned from national squads) can remain absolutely calm because that's not going to happen," he said.
"Very calm, that's not going to happen. That's the confusion created by those managing the monopolies."
Everton Football Club, whose stadium is just a short walk form Liverpool's, issued a strong statement accusing the six English clubs involved of "preposterous arrogance."
A statement from the club read: “At this time of national and international crisis – and a defining period for our game – clubs should be working together collaboratively with the ideals of our game and its supporters uppermost.
“Instead, these clubs have been secretly conspiring to break away from a football pyramid that has served them so well.
“The self-proclaimed ‘super six’ appear intent on disenfranchising supporters across the game – including their own – by putting the very structure that underpins the game we love under threat.
“The backlash is understandable and deserved – and has to be listened to.
“This preposterous arrogance is not wanted anywhere in football outside of the clubs that have drafted this plan."
The club also wrote the six clubs are acting "entirely in their own interests", disrespecting every other club in the Premier League and "betraying" football supporters.
Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford, meanwhile, shared an image on Twitter of one of the banners which covers the stands at Old Trafford.
Many have condemned the perceived anti-competitive nature of the league, which guarantees the founding clubs a place every year.
Former England captain David Beckham posted on Instagram that football competitions “based on merit” and that the game is “nothing without the fans.”
Beckham, now owner of MLS side Inter Miami, wrote: “I’m someone who loves football. It has been my life for as long as I can remember.
“I loved it from when I was a young child as a fan, and I’m still a fan now.
“As a player and now as an owner I know that our sport is nothing without the fans. We need football to be for everyone. We need football to be fair and we need competitions based on merit.
“Unless we protect these values the game we love is in danger.”
Following Liverpool’s match with Leeds United on Monday night, captain for the night James Milner was unequivocal when asked for his views on the competition.
“I can only say my personal opinion, I don’t like it and hopefully it doesn’t happen. I can only imagine what has been said about it and I probably agree with most of it,” he told Sky Sports.
Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp has previously spoken against the idea of a breakaway European league and told Sky Sports his views have not altered.
“It didn’t change. My opinion didn’t change,” he said ahead of the game at Leeds.
“I heard the first time about it yesterday and when you are trying to prepare for a difficult game against Leeds, we got some information, not a lot, most of things you can read in newspapers or wherever.
“It is a tough one, people are not happy with that. I can understand that, but I cannot say a lot more about it because we were not involved in any processes – not the players, not me.
“We didn’t know about it. The facts are out there and we will have to see how it develops.”