CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in LONDON: Europe’s big clubs are muttering once more about a European Superleague in the latest signal of impatience from the club world with the game’s ruling bodies.
Indications of concern, generated partly by the current financial share-out from UEFA’s Champions League emerged today at Leaders in Football in London.
The issue erupted in a Italo-Turkish exchange between Juventus president Andrea Agnelli and Galatasaray chairman Unal Aysal.
Aysal thought an improved, season-long league system was needed, whether administered by the European federation or by the clubs themselves.
Big club interest
He said: “It’s not yet totally elaborated and prepared and put on the paper. But it is a concept that has been under discussion for a few years. It is not a new concept, but we favour it.
“We have arrived in a stagnant situation in European football, we are not improving too much. This would open a new chapter in European football.”
Unal claimed that the “first 15 to 20 big clubs of Europe” were all in favour with the principle, including the likes of Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.”
He added: “As regards the future for European clubs and the future of football, then nobody can say No to this.
“Every reality starts with a dream. At the moment it looks like a dream, a vision but I am sure that sooner or later, in a maximum of five years time, it will be a reality.”
The clubs’ Memorandum of Understanding with UEFA expires in 2018 and Aysal had no doubt that the clubs would take the football law into their own hands.
He said: “In the end the clubs will always be right because the clubs are the actors and the actors have to decide their fate and their future and their destiny.
“Its not just me, other clubs’ presidents and chairman are looking at this opportunity and talking to each other. I think we will come together and follow it.”
Aysal did not think a European superleague would demand clubs leaving their own domestic competition and it might even expand to take in clubs in Asia and the Middle East.
He said: “If we say these clubs should only play in Europe then we would ruin local leagues and that is not the intention. On the contrary, the intention is to bring more quality to the domestic leagues.”
Juventus president Agnelli was more reticent than Aysal about the prospects of a superleague – long talked of – becoming reality.
He said: “If one wants to break out of the system then probably the best competition is a closed competition with the 20 best European clubs. But do 20 clubs have the discipline to send a letter to UEFA and to organise a competition overnight?”
Agnelli later clarified his comments to reporters by saying he was merely taking an ‘academic’ position.
He said: “If you are part of a system you accept that system and want to improve the system. If you question a system you think about the way forward for the football-business model. We have a system that’s working and we support that system. We’re proud to be part of it.”
Discussions about a possible breakaway by the major clubs will add to the pressure on world federation FIFA not to upset the league structure as it considers how to rearrange the timing of the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
The European Club Association, which represents around 200 of Europe’s leading outfits, distanced itself from Aysal and Agnelli’s comments.
A statement from the ECA, whose chairman if Bayern Munich’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, said: “Our European Super League is the UEFA Champions League! We are very happy with the current competitions and our extremely fruitful collaboration with UEFA. We will continue to work together with UEFA, and this beyond 2018.”