LONDON – The European Super League president has said plans to form a new breakaway elite league are intended to “save” football, resisting widespread criticism by claiming change is necessary because young people “no longer be interested” in sports.
In an interview with the Spanish television show El Chiringuito de Jugones on Monday, Florentino Perez, who is also the president of Spanish club Real Madrid, said: “When something changes, there are always people who are against it…doing this for the sake of it. football at this critical time.”
“The audience is declining and the rights are declining and something had to be done. We are all ruined. The television has to change so we can adapt,” he continued.
“Young people are no longer interested in football. Why not? Because there are a lot of poor quality games and they are not interested, they have other platforms to distract themselves,” said Perez.
Perez provided no evidence that younger football fans were turning away from the sport for lack of interest, nor for the decline in television ratings.
His comments came shortly after it was announced that 12 of Europe’s richest football teams, including Real Madrid, had signed on as founding members of the ESL. The project is backed by $6 billion in debt financing from JPMorgan.
The ESL is designed to rival the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s premier annual club competition, and aims to start “as soon as it is practically possible”.
Teams that have agreed to play in the ESL:
- England: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal.
- Spain: Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid.
- Italy: Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.
The ESL will eventually consist of 20 clubs and 15 of them will be permanent, meaning they cannot be relegated. That’s controversial as teams currently have to qualify for the Champions League every year and can be promoted and relegated from the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A.
The move has sparked outrage among lawmakers, governing bodies, former players, fans, managers and pundits, with many concerned about the implications for the structure of domestic competition.
That’s because the current “pyramid” system allows teams to move up and down their respective leagues based on merit. The 14 Premier League clubs not participating in the ESL are expected to discuss their response to the matter on Tuesday.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has condemned the ESL project, describing the move as “a spit in the face” of all football fans. “We will not let them take it from us,” he added.
In 2018, the Premier League reported a significant drop in money raised from the sale of rights to broadcast football matches in the UK
BT and Sky offered £4.4 billion ($6.1 billion) to televise the lion’s share of 200 matches for each season between 2019 and 2022. That figure had fallen from £5.1 billion in 2015.
In a joint statement on Sunday, the 12 teams that plan to join the ESL said: “The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has reduced instability in the existing economic model of European football. accelerated.”
“The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are needed to increase value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid,” she added.
The organizers claim that the ESL will generate more money than the UEFA Champions League competition and will result in a wider spread of revenues across the sport.
World governing body FIFA has sharply criticized the proposal and called for further consultation with stakeholders.
“In our view, and in accordance with our statutes, any football competition, whether national, regional or global, should always reflect the core principles of solidarity, inclusiveness, integrity and equitable financial distribution,” FIFA said Monday.
“Furthermore, football’s governing bodies must use all legal, sporting and diplomatic means to ensure it stays that way,” she added.
— CNBCs Sam Shead contributed to this report.