The European soccer Superleague project finally has come to life. This is what three private equity firms (Advent International, CVC Capital Partners and FSI) feared so much as they have been negotiating for months with Lega Calcio Serie A the purchase of a 10% stake of a media company into which the TV rights of the Italian league should be transferred.
This night, in fact, after rumors that have chased each other all weekend, on the eve of the Uefa Executive Committee that will launch the reform of the Champions League starting from 2024, the official announcement has arrived published on the new website of the Super League, established as European Super League Company SL (see the press release here): “Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new mid-week competition, the Super League, governed by its Founding Clubs. 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. It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable”. First chairman of the Superlega is Florentino Pérez, chairman of Real Madrid CF, while vice-chairmen are Joel Glazer, co-chairman of Manchester United, and Andrea Agnelli, chairman of Juventus, who said: “Our 12 Founder clubs represent billions of fans across the globe and 99 European trophies. We have come together at this critical moment, enabling European competition to be transformed, putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future, substantially increasing solidarity, and giving fans and amateur players a regular flow of headline fixtures that will feed their passion for the game while providing them with engaging role models”.
We recall that the offer of 1.7 billion euro by the private equity funds for the 10% of the media company for tje Italian Lega calcio Serie A included a so-called Superlega clause, not surprisingly disliked in particular by Juventus, Inter and Milan. The fear of the funds was that the clubs would join, as it later happened, the new European tournament or other competitions that could devalue the Serie A product. For this reason funds asked as compensation a proportional increase in the profit sharing of MediaCo, with a symmetrical reduction for clubs. On the subject, in order to try to close the deal, the funds had tried to sweeten the pill, providing that, in the event of joining a Super League or similar, the club presidents could take over up to 1% of the media company (see here a previous article by BeBeez).
As for the economic model of the Super League, the note explains that “the new annual tournament will provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues. These solidarity payments will be substantially higher than those generated by the current European competition and are expected to be in excess of 10 billion euros during the course of the initial commitment period of the Clubs. In addition, the competition will be built on a sustainable financial foundation with all Founding Clubs signing up to a spending framework. In exchange for their commitment, Founding Clubs will receive an amount of 3.5 billion euros solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic”. It should be noted that the figure of 3.5 billion euros corresponds to around 290 million euros for each of the 12 clubs or over 230 million if it goes up to 15 founding clubs, which means much more than what UEFA has distributed in 2020.
Obviously yesterday afternoon there was an outcry trying to block the project. UEFA, the English Football Federation and Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Association (RFEF) and LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and the Lega Serie A have issued a joint statement: “We will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever. We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way”.
The note from the 12 clubs of the Super League replies: “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. The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model. Further, for a number of years, the Founding Clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis”.
Returning to the most Italian events, the establishment of the Superleague, as it was said, makes the road of funds even more uphill towards closing a deal with Lega Calcio Serie A. Moreover, last week already the tensions between the various clubs members of the League Calcio had exploded in a letter of no more trust to the chairman Paolo Dal Pino signed by Inter, Juventus, Naples, Lazio, Atalanta, Hellas Verona and Fiorentina. The 7 clubs signed and forwarded the letter with a formal request for resignation, asking with another separate letter for compensation for any damages suffered for the months of delay on the assignment of tv rights packages to Dazn due to an alleged intention of Mr. Dal Pino to influence the procedure of assignment, pushing instead for an agreement with the private equity funds, a solution that the seven signatory clubs do not share (see here a previous article by BeBeez). Mr. Dal Pino, however, has no intention of resigning and has turned to his lawyers, also thanks to the support shown by the other 13 presidents of the Lega clubs, including Urbano Cairo (Torino) and Paolo Scaroni (Milan).