European Super League chief Perez says project is on ‘standby’

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Manu Fernandez/AP

The European Super League is far from dead and its clubs have not given up on the idea of the breakaway competition, Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez has said.

Pérez, who would have been the new league’s founding chairman, said clubs would continue working on a way to make the competition work, even if changes have to be made to its format.

He said the controversial league is on “standby” and the group is open to discussing ideas with UEFA and other entities to help the game amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Pérez said he was certain that a “very similar” competition would soon be created.

“We are going to keep working,” Pérez told Spanish radio network SER in an interview, “we are looking for ways of getting this done. It would be a shame not to get it done.”

Plans for the proposed Super League had to be shelved, just a few days after it was announced on Sunday.

The project essentially folded on Tuesday after the English clubs involved pulled out amid escalating backlash from their supporters and warnings from the British government that legislation could be introduced to thwart them.

On Wednesday, Atlético Madrid and two Italian clubs in the project — AC Milan and Inter Milan — also opted out. That left Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus as the only clubs still officially in the new league.

Barcelona’s president Joan Laporta has also maintained his support for the league on Thursday.

“It is absolutely necessary,” Laporta said on Catalan public television in his first public comments on the project.

“The biggest clubs create the most financial resources and we must have our say in deciding how the earnings are shared.”

Barcelona’s finances have been hard hit by the pandemic, which has compounded problems in a budget that was already loaded by the highest payroll in football last season.

There was some internal pressure on the Catalan club, however, after outspoken captain Gerard Piqué made his view clear.

“Football belongs to the fans. Today more than ever,” he wrote on Twitter early Wednesday.

Twelve elite European clubs had wanted to boost their revenues by cutting UEFA out of the equation and replacing the Champions League with the new tournament of 20 teams.

“There have been pressures placed on some clubs, but the proposal is still standing,” Laporta said.

“We have very important investments, our salaries are very high, and those must be taken into consideration, along with sporting merits.”

But the two Spanish teams have been criticised by the President of Spain’s La Liga, Javier Tebas, for the project.

“If they say that the Super League will save football, they are lying or they are mistaken,” Tebas said.

Pérez admitted that teams and should have explained the Super League better, and said he was “sad and disappointed” with the “avalanche of aggressive” and “orchestrated” criticism that surfaced.

The English clubs initially involved in the project were Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham.

There were protests against the Super League during Wednesday’s Spanish league matches, with players entering the field wearing T-shirts condemning the new competition.

On Monday, UEFA threatened to ban players from the participating teams from playing in this year’s European Championship and next year’s World Cup.

A Madrid court later issued a preliminary ruling stopping UEFA, FIFA, and its members from acting against the creation of the new league.

The Super League was intended to be a 20-team competition with 15 founding members guaranteed a spot every season and five other teams rotating in and out. The lack of relegation for the founding members raised concerns about the consequences for smaller clubs in the domestic leagues around the continent.

Pérez said the group was ready to discuss changes.

“We will keep working and talking to everyone,” he said. “We are open to whatever is best for football.”

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