Twelve of Europe's biggest football clubs have been slammed after announcing plans to launch a breakaway Super League that will turn the world game on its head.
Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus are determined to forge ahead with a new midweek competition despite the threat of being banned from their domestic competitions — and their players being banned from international play.
They've been accused of unadulterated greed after it was revealed the founding clubs would receive a one-time payment of $5.43 billion (AUD).
Three more clubs will be invited to join the founding 12 before the start of the inaugural season and those 15 will never face relegation from the competition.
Five more will be added on a rotating basis "through a system based on their performance from the previous season" to complete a 20-club league that will run from August to May, organisers announced.
UEFA said earlier Sunday that players from the 12 clubs faced international exile and described it as "a cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs".
"The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams," UEFA said in a statement.
However, the 12 insisted the new competition will benefit the game in general. "By bringing together the world's greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid," said Joel Glazer, co-chairman of Manchester United and vice-chairman of the Super League.
'I'm disgusted, absolutely disgusted'
Those ideals have largely fallen on deaf ears, especially in England where the new competition was seen as destroying the ability every club in Europe has of reaching the heights of the Champions League.
"Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best," the English Premier League said in a statement. "We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream."
Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville was incensed, delivering a fiery monologue on Sky Sports.
"I'm a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years of my life but I'm disgusted, absolutely disgusted," he said.
"I'm disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool the most. Liverpool, they pretend – 'You'll Never Walk Alone, (they're) the people's club, the fans' club'.
"Manchester United, 100 years, borne out of workers from around here, and they're breaking away into a league without competition that they can't be relegated from? It's an absolute disgrace.
"Honestly, we have to wrestle back the power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league — and that includes my club."
Even UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson weighed in. "Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action. They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country," Johnson said.
"The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps."
At this stage the Super League does not include any teams from outside England, Spain and Italy, leaving the participation of German giants Bayern Munich and French powerhouse PSG in doubt.
French president Emmanuel Macron indicated French clubs had refused to participate.
The Super League said they hoped to work with UEFA and FIFA to avoid a civil war in the sport.
"Going forward, the Founding Clubs look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole," they said.
Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid and the chairman of the Super League, also insisted that the game as a whole will benefit.
"We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world," he said.
"Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires."
If the figure of a $5.43 billion windfall is confirmed, it will represent a greater revenue than currently generated by UEFA for all of its club competitions — Champions League, Europa League and European Super Cup — which generated $4.96 billions in TV revenue in 2018-2019.
Monday's announcement came just hours before UEFA meets in Switzerland to announce its own reforms to the Champions League, with an expansion to 36 teams from 32 and two wildcard slots expected to be among the plans.
There would be a minimum of 10 games for each team.
How the Super League will work
— Fifteen founding clubs will be joined by five qualifiers each year based on their achievements the prior season.
— Midweek fixtures will be held because the Super League wants all participating clubs to continue to compete in their respective domestic leagues.
— The competition will start in August with clubs split it into two groups of 10 and scheduled to play home and away fixtures (18 games).
— The top three in each group automatically qualify for the quarterfinals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth compete in a two-legged playoff for the remaining two quarterfinal spots.
— A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.