Super League: the 48 hours that (almost) changed football

Announced with great fanfare on Sunday, the big clubs’ project almost died on Tuesday.

Explosion even before takeoff. In the space of 48 hours, this private competition project carried by twelve major dissident clubs set European football on fire and blood … before faltering in the face of a first defection, that of Manchester City.

A story of two days that almost changed the face of European football, before turning into a bad joke.

– Sunday April 18, 5:19 p.m. (Paris time) –

The rumor had been coming back periodically for several months, which had prompted the European Football Union (UEFA) and the International Federation (Fifa) to publish an unusual joint statement in January: the two bodies threatened to sanction any secessionists wishing to develop a Private European competition and competitor of the Champions League, UEFA’s flagship event since 1955.

But on Sunday, the threat becomes clearer as the European body is preparing to adopt the next day a reform of the C1, yet more favorable to the big clubs to whom the body intends to guarantee more matches, therefore income.

At 5.19 p.m., sensing the imminent formalization of the Super League project, UEFA drew a preventive press release threatening to exclude from all national and international competition the clubs which would participate in a private league, as well as their players.

A rare occurrence in sporting matters, an area where the Elysee is usually left behind, the French presidency also denounces to RMC SPORT a project “threatening the principle of solidarity and sporting merit”.

– Monday April 19, 12:01 am –

A three-page press release, with the header “The Super League”, falls into journalists’ mailboxes and has the effect of a bomb: twelve clubs among the richest (Real Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Manchester United, Liverpool …) announce that they are creating their almost closed competition, with 15 full members and five guests each season.

This paradigm shift, in a pyramidal European football built on the principle of sporting merit, calls into question the redistribution of income from C1 to national championships.

This time, the Super League seems concrete and is no longer the argument periodically waved by the big clubs to obtain more concessions.

“If it is a bluff, it is a bluff with incredibly high stakes, with an official website, with formal declarations on their websites,” a good connoisseur of the authorities is surprised to AFP.

– Monday April 19, 1:27 p.m. –

We discover that the rebellious clubs are ready to go into battle: in a letter obtained by AFP, the Super League warns UEFA and Fifa that it “has launched a procedure before the competent courts to ensure the establishment and the smooth running of the competition “.

– Monday April 19, 2:42 p.m. –

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin appears at a press conference, dark suit and closed face, after an executive committee of the instance.

The Slovenian lawyer does not mince his words: the Super League is “a shameful proposition” of a few “snakes” only “guided by greed”, “a spit in the face of all football lovers”.

On a more personal level, the betrayal is immensely painful for him: he is the godfather of one of the children of Andrea Agnelli, the boss of Juventus, one of the dissident clubs! The latter, after having assured him at the beginning of the weekend that the rumors of secession should not be believed, turned his jacket over, suddenly becoming unreachable by his former friend.

Ceferin then promises a response and announces in passing the adoption of the reform of the Champions League, as if nothing had happened.

– Monday April 19, 5:30 p.m. –

Faced with the miraculous revenues promised by the promoters of the Super League, in particular an initial payment of 3.5 billion euros to be shared between founding clubs, the financial markets are rubbing their hands.

The action of Juventus Turin closes sharply on Monday late afternoon (+ 17%) while that of Manchester United is progressing significantly in New York.

– Tuesday April 20, 12:03 am –

Florentino Pérez, all-powerful boss of Real Madrid and new president of the Super League, appears on the set of the Spanish talk show El Chiringuito.

Smooth ways and calm voice, the business manager considers “impossible” that the rebellious clubs are excluded and defends his project.

“The new Champions League is supposed to start in 2024”; by then, with the pandemic, “all the clubs will be dead!” pleads Pérez.

– Tuesday April 20, 10:38 a.m. –

Gianni Infantino, FIFA president often at odds with Ceferin in recent years, provides notable support to UEFA: before the congress of the European body and its 55 member federations, the leader castigates the rebels who “will have to suffer the consequences “of their breakup.

In the process, the member federations unanimously adopt a resolution condemning the Super League and its instigators, even if Ceferin assures the rebel clubs that there is “still time to change their mind”.

– Tuesday April 20, 5:42 p.m. –

The legal battle is becoming clearer: in a summary decision, a Madrid commercial court bans UEFA and Fifa from any measure against the launch of the Super League, pending a decision on the merits of the case .

This first victory in the courtroom seems to augur a long legal standoff between two apparently irreconcilable camps.

– Tuesday April 20, 7:45 p.m. –

Incredible turnaround: several British media, including the BBC, are starting to talk about the hesitations of certain rebellious clubs, or even their desire to withdraw.

At the same time, hundreds of angry supporters from different English clubs gather on the outskirts of Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea, one of the rebels.

– Tuesday April 20, 9:19 p.m. –

Under pressure, Manchester City are the first to give in, announcing in a statement that they have “formally launched the procedure to withdraw from the group responsible for developing the European Super League project”.

A turnaround that UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin immediately said was “delighted”.

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