Perez not ready to give up on Super League; Al-Khelaifi named ECA chairman
Florentino Perez, the president of Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid, still holds out hope for the controversial European Super League, having defiantly insisted it is “not dead” despite most of the 12 founding clubs withdrawing from the proposed breakaway competition over the last two days.
Perez, who was named as the founding president of the competition, claimed yesterday that the project is on “standby”, and that efforts will continue to seek a way to make it work.
In an interview with Spanish radio programme El Larguero, he said: "If anyone thinks the Super League is dead, are they wrong? Absolutely. We are going to keep working.
“We are looking for ways of getting this done. It would be a shame not to get it done. The project is on standby. The Super League still exists."
Perez made the assertion despite the big six clubs from England – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham – as well as Atletico Madrid of Spain and AC Milan and Inter Milan of Italy pulling out of the breakaway league.
That left Real Madrid, their LaLiga rivals Barcelona and Italy's Juventus as the only clubs left involved.
The English teams had come under significant pressure from the soccer authorities, fans, players and the UK government to withdraw after the divisive proposal was confirmed late on Sunday.
Perez was unhappy with the decision made by the English clubs after planning the competition for several years.
He said: "I'm a bit sad and disappointed because we've been working on this project for three years. There was someone in the group of six English teams who wasn't that interested and I think that started to become contagious among the others.
"There are people of a certain age involved and maybe they were scared because they didn't understand anything that was going on. We all signed a binding contract, but I don't think that one of them was ever convinced.
"In the end, there was an onslaught from the leagues and the Premier League got fired up, so they said, 'we'll leave it for now'.
He added: “Each president was prepared to speak, but then the next day we got killed. We weren’t expecting it. It was like we had launched an atomic bomb. It looked like that they already knew about it and were waiting for us.”
Perez admitted that the parties involved should have done a better job of explaining the project better.
The plans announced last weekend envisaged a 20-club competition in which 15 of the teams would qualify by right and share an upfront sum of €3.5 billion ($4.2 billion), with US investment bank JPMorgan Chase driving the financing.
However, the Super League would have supplanted the existing Uefa Champions League as the top European clubs competition, and the stakeholders swiftly came under attack, with Aleksander Ceferin, the president of Uefa, accusing them of devising “self-serving proposals… fuelled purely be greed”.
Fifa head Gianni Infantino and International Olympic Committee counterpart Thomas Bach added to the criticism at yesterday’s Uefa congress.
The breakaway had been announced ahead of the approval on Monday of plans for the restructuring of the Champions League, to take effect in 2024-25, which Andrea Agnelli, a leading driver of the Super League, had contributed to as chairman of the European Club Association, a role he has now vacated.
The Super League clubs were warned they faced exclusion from existing European and domestic competitions and that their players could be banned from international tournaments such as the European Championships and World Cup.
Perez remains determined to make the competition work but Agnelli, the president of Juventus and a key ally of the Real Madrid chief who was named as Super League vice-chairman, yesterday admitted that it cannot proceed after the nine teams pulled out.
As well as relinquishing his role with the ECA, Agnelli also stepped down as a member of Uefa executive committee.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of French giants Paris Saint-Germain, has now been installed as his replacement as ECA chairman.
PSG notably rejected a proposal to join the Super League.
Aleksander Ceferin welcomed the appointment of Al-Khelaifi, who is also chairman of pay-TV giant BeIN Sports, saying he is “capable of looking after the interests of more clubs than just his own”, as well as describing him as “a man I can trust".
Meanwhile, England’s Premier League is reported to be seeking to remove representatives of the six clubs that were set to join the Super League from its sub-committees.
According to Sky News, chief executive Richard Masters contacted leading figures from the teams yesterday to request that they relinquish their roles on the working groups.
That included Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, who is a member of the Premier League's audit and remuneration committee, and Arsenal and Manchester City chief executives Vinai Venkatesham and Feran Soriano, respectively, who sit on the Club Strategic Advisory Group.
In addition, Sky also reported that the other 14 Premier League clubs are deliberating on whether their six rival teams should face sanctions despite ultimately bailing on their plan to join the Super League.
Some clubs are keen to see punishments handed down as they feel the six clubs breached Premier League rules and want a precedent to be set to avoid a similar scenario in the future.
Premier League Rule L9 states any member club needs prior written approval from the board to enter a new competition.
However, it is claimed some clubs feel that points deductions or fines would unfairly affect players and managers who were not involved in the process, while there is a sense that it is important to build bridges with the 'big six' as they are key to the commercial success of the league.
The 14 clubs are expected to meet again before the end of the week to discuss the matter.