European football's governing body UEFA says players from the 12 major clubs could face international exile while calling splinter league "a cynical project... founded on the self-interest of a few clubs".

A giant replica of the UEFA Champions League trophy is displayed at the Rossio square downtown Lisbon, Portugal, on August 21, 2020.
A giant replica of the UEFA Champions League trophy is displayed at the Rossio square downtown Lisbon, Portugal, on August 21, 2020. (AP)

A group of 12 European clubs has split football by announcing plans to walk away from the Champions League to create a breakaway competition, drawing an angry response and the threat of legal action from governing body UEFA. 

"AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Tottenham Hotspur have come together as founding clubs," said a statement by the group late on Sunday.

"Three additional clubs will be invited to join them before the start of the inaugural season which will start as soon as possible."

The breakaway Super League will have 20 football teams and 15 "founding members" and five teams to qualify and Real Madrid head Florentino Perez will be the first chairman of the splinter League, the statement said.

"Women's league will also be launched," the statement added.

The agreement provides that the founding clubs will receive an upfront net grant of approximately $4.19 billion in aggregate.

"By bringing together the world's greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid," said Joel Glazer, co-owner of Manchester United and vice chairman of the Super League.

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How and when?

The 12 clubs did not announce a launch date though previous project documents have said the 2022-23 season. 

The founders are taking control from UEFA and would co-own the Super League company to organise and manage the competition.

JP Morgan on Monday said that it was financing the breakaway league.

A spokesman for JP Morgan said in an email that its involvement with the new league which has been set up as a rival to UEFA's Champions League and includes clubs such as Real Madrid and Manchester United. 

The 15 would share at least $4.2 billion (3.5 billion euros ) each year with graded payments. In previous proposals in January, the top six clubs are set to each get $420 million (350 million euros).

The clubs say they want to continue playing in their domestic leagues at weekends. Juventus said it would be willing to continue playing in UEFA’s club competitions until the Super League is launched. UEFA and the domestic leagues in England, Italy, and Spain are unlikely to let this happen.

What's the universal response?

FIFA on Monday expressed its "disapproval" at the announcement by leading European clubs.

World football's governing body stressed in a statement it was in favour of "solidarity" in the sport and said: "Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles."

Earlier, the twelve clubs were accused by UEFA of greed and cynicism and threatened with international exile.

European football's governing body UEFA said, "The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams."

UEFA is planning to announce its own reforms to the Champions League on Monday, with an expansion to 36 teams from 32 and two "wildcard" slots expected to be among the plans.

"If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we, UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, La Liga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations, 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," read the statement.

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Who is not joining in?

There have been no reports that French or German clubs would be part of the Super League.

"We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this," UEFA added.

"We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced.

"This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough."

Juventus are facing a battle to finish in the Serie A top four this season and seven-time European champions AC Milan have not played in the Champions League since 2014.

The European Club Association also said it "strongly opposes" the Super League, despite its own chairman Andrea Agnelli also being the Juventus club president.

Notably, last season's two Champions League finalists, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are among the big European teams not involved.

"It would be irresponsible to irreparably damage the national leagues, as the basis of European professional football, in this way," German Football League boss Christian Seifert said.

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Are politicians happy?

No. Political leaders slammed the clubs involved, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said they have to "answer to their fans".

"Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action," Johnson said.

"The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps."

French President Emmanuel Macron also criticised the plans.

"The President of the Republic welcomes the position of French clubs to refuse to participate in a European football Super League project threatening the principle of solidarity and sporting merit," the Elysees Palace told AFP news agency.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies