Der Spiegel, with data from Football Leaks and in tandem with the European Investigative Collaborations, has recently released several articles detailing the corruption of Gianni Infantino and the ways in which Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain dodged Financial Fair Play Rules with Infantino’s help. They have also promised to release a trove of new pieces revealing everything from the abuse of underage talent to a positive doping test of a “multiple Champions League winner.”
Among these stories, details of a secret plan to create a European Super League (ESL) is most relevant to Madridistas.
On the night of Oct. 22, Real Madrid received an email with the subject line: “Draft of an Agreement of the 16.” It was addressed to club president Florentino Pérez. The message was from Madrid-based Key Capital Partners, which advises corporations working on huge projects.
In the email, there are explicit plans to break away from UEFA to create a European Super League involving eleven elite clubs.
These eleven clubs — Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Liverpool, AC Milan, and Bayern Munich — would not face the prospect of relegation and would be guaranteed membership for 20 years. There would also be five “initial guests” — Atlético Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Olympique Marseille, Inter Milan, and AS Roma.
The consequence of such a league — a cartel of elite clubs who face guaranteed financial success regardless of sporting failure — would provide Real Madrid and co. with millions upon millions of revenue.
Beyond this, Der Spiegel also finds concrete evidence that the leaders of this venture demonstrated a complete disregard for transparency when dealing with UEFA and other clubs not privy to the secret agreement. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was unsurprisingly a key figure in this calculated misinformation campaign, as he is the CEO of Bayern Munich and was the chairman of the European Club Association (“the world’s largest club alliance, representing the interests of more than 220 teams”) at the time. He deliberately withheld information about the European Super League while simultaneously seeking to bully UEFA into a more favorable Champions League format as an alternate route to the ESL.
The initial demands were as follows:
- The league would only include 24 teams in the future;
- Clubs that had been extremely successful in the past should be rewarded with additional spots in the tournament;
- Some European competition matches should be held on weekends and more matches must be scheduled for time slots convenient for broadcast in more TV markets worldwide;
- And the clubs had to be given the power to organize and control the competition together with UEFA.
The objective was clear; the rich and the powerful wanted to become even richer and more powerful by bending the rules further in their favor.
UEFA initially resisted but eventually came up with a proposal that was amicable to Rummenigge, Real Madrid, and the rest.
The solution found with UEFA will be beneficial primarily to the top clubs. Thanks to the new regulations, they will receive more money than ever before. The tradition clause alone, which allots greater revenues to those clubs that have found success in the last 10 years in the Champions League and Europa League, will generate over 30 million euros for FC Bayern starting with the 2018/19 Champions League season — money that is guaranteed even before the club had even played its first game.
Furthermore, the reform will increase the monetary prize owed to the winner of each Champions League match, which also only benefits the top teams. It translates into less money available to the second-tier Europa League and less money in the revenue-sharing pot -- and a growing gap between top clubs and the rest. The impact will be even greater in the national leagues, where real competition will become virtually impossible with such a vast financial gap between the top and bottom teams.
As stated in the quoted sections above, these changes have taken place starting this season and yet, there is still a plan to create a European Super League in 2021. In other words, the most elite clubs in the world callously changed the rules of the Champions League to benefit themselves further even though they still plan to abandon the competition in a couple years.
The aforementioned lack of transparency and the sheer greed on display is enough to make anyone shake their head in disgust, but the situation simply becomes harder to stomach when one takes into account two things: the fact that the destruction of the Champions League means the destruction of UEFA’s revenue sharing that helps so many smaller clubs stay afloat, and the fact that the fans have been treated as an afterthought — neither consulted nor considered in this venture.
While every club involved benefits hugely, Real Madrid probably gains the most.
The document also lists the possible ownership stakes that would be held by the individual clubs in the joint European Super League company, with Real Madrid holding 18.77 percent, Barcelona 17.61 percent and Manchester United 12.58 percent. Bayern Munich would be the fourth largest shareholder at 8.29 percent.
They will likely hold the highest ownership stakes and will utilize their world class marketing infrastructure to the maximum to squeeze every last penny out of the biggest fanbase in world football.
This revelation is neither a revelation and nor is it truly shocking, for Der Spiegel’s exhaustive reporting revealed a simple truth that we have always known — the rich will ruthlessly plunder football for their own sake, regardless of what it means for the fans and the integrity of the sport as a whole.