The documents unveiled last week offer, in all kinds of detail, how and when the project of a European League was born, and its evolution until everything is ready for its execution, plus how the so-called Big Four (Bayern, Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid) used it as a weapon against UEFA to reform the Champions League.
A real threat exists that the most powerful clubs will blow up the current competition. The documents reveal a labyrinth of interests in search of the best business.
As an example, suffice it to say that the European League that Javier Tebas detests so much because he is attentive to the interests of LaLiga Santander, was born three years ago from a proposal by the Relevant Sports Company to Real Madrid.
According to the documents analysed by Mediapart, in 2016 the big players imposed their conditions on the European footballing body.
Spain, Italy, Germany and England thus secured four seats for the Champions League while the distribution of prizes also changes from this 2018.
Football Leaks suggest that the new European League was designed through a secret entente formed by Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.
Everything starts in 2015 with a weakened UEFA In this entente, a crucial role would have been played by Karl Heinz Rummenigge, a strong man in this group of four.
In addition, in 2016 the clubs took advantage of the political vacuum at UEFA, with Platini out because of the corruption scandal and with Infantino on the way to FIFA.
Despite UEFA’s efforts, all the steps were taken in the opposite direction; the project of the new European League wouldn’t stop even though UEFA gave in.
Charlie Stillitano, whose company, Relevent Sports, is responsible for organising the Champions Cup, has sufficient arguments to sell the European Super League as big business.
On December 17, 2015, Stillitano sent a confidential email to Jose Angel Sanchez, in which he presented the project for a private European League that would bring together 17 clubs from Spain, Germany, England, Italy and France – plus another guest club that could be Russian, Dutch, Turkish or Portuguese.
The winner could pocket up to 500 million euros per year, six times more than the champion of the Champions League (Madrid earned 80m euros this year).
In January 2016, Stillitano presented his project to United, City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, but The Sun newspaper discovered the secret meeting.
“In the future, we have to be more attentive and they can’t know that we are working on this agreement,” they said.
In the meantime, Barcelona, Madrid, Bayern and Juve were focusing on forcing UEFA to change the Champions League prize money from 2,200 million euros to 3,200.
That same month, the general secretary of Bayern, Michael Gerlinger, met with Giorgio Marchetti, of UEFA.
“It has gone well, UEFA are concerned about the Super League and interested in collaborating,” said the Bayern leader, according to the documents.
Then another meeting was held in February to study the legal obstacles of this European League. If, for example, the Bayern players could be penalised for not playing with their national teams, could they stop playing in the German League? And a Spanish League without El Clasico?
The report from the English lawyers, Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton said that neither UEFA nor FIFA could go against the clubs because it would be against European competition law, nor is the collaboration agreement between UEFA and ECA an obstacle.
From the Big Four to the first meeting of the Big Seven According to this information, the Bayern general secretary and his Juve counterpart received both a bonus of 20,000 euros from the ECA for negotiating a collaboration agreement with UEFA while Rummenigge tried to calm the spirits of the 150 members of the ECA, meeting in Paris on February 9, 2016.
The former German player is silent on the plan of the European League. In March, Milan, Manchester United and Arsenal join forces. Stillitano, according to the documents, baptises them as the “big seven,” who meet for the first time in secret in March 2016 in a hotel in Zurich, with a room reserved in the name of a travel agency.
The new rich, Chelsea, PSG and City remained uninvited. Football Leaks have shown the document that was exposed in that meeting with the title; “A Super League Scenario for Top European Football.
“It showed 24 and not 32 participants in that Super League. There was talk that 16 of the teams were always assured of their presence regardless of their results and that they would play on Saturday’s because there is more of an audience.
Initially, Ajax and Lyon, with representation on the board of the ECA, were to be on this list of 16, but they were discarded.
The entente proposed two options: to convert the Champions League into a European League or a revolution if negotiations with UEFA failed.
In the first set of negotiations, Gerlinguer celebrates in an email on April 13 to the big seven that UEFA has accepted a commitment for automatically qualified clubs.
In another email, he adds that UEFA accepts another demand, that of the joint management of the Champions League. On April 19, the presidents of the big seven meet in Amsterdam, just before the ECA meeting, in which the small clubs ask that the reform of the Champions League be put on the table.
Barcelona general secretary Raul Sanllehi says UEFA are planning to create a new competition and Rummenigge adds that the big clubs have some ideas about this format.
First threat after UEFA refusal on May 2 there is another meeting with UEFA with Rummenigge and Agnelli, Juve’s president, in which the reform has to be validated, but there is no agreement and Bayern maintains in an email to UEFA that none of their claims has been met especially that of a competition with 24 teams and 16 qualified automatically.
UEFA responds that they must preserve the values of football and sporting merits. “In fact, we would like to know which group of clubs you were representing,” they write by mail.
In their response, Agnelli and Rummenigge conceal the existence of the big seven but admit that they’re not acting under the mandate of the ECA.
“We are not willing to delay the changes. After the departures of Infantino and Platini, the Super League becomes more powerful and in mid-May, Gerlinguer will make its existence public. Only then will you take us seriously,” one of the emails reads.
Failure of the project On July 14, 2016, the heads of the big seven meet at the Camp Nou to evaluate the latest version of the project.
There will be 16 permanent clubs, with only one French team, PSG, and eight guests.
Several parts of the distribution of income have already been studied.
All that remains is to specify “a public relations plan” to present the project, manage the divorce with UEFA and shield the group of 16. But the project doesn’t come together.
Rummenigge himself would make clear at the meeting that it would end the national Leagues and that would not interest him.
The last three clubs to join the big seven no longer appear among the group’s emails and have distanced themselves (Mediapart notes that they do not know the reasons).
A new scenario opens up. According to the documents, although the hardcore knows that the Super League is almost dead, UEFA does not, and the remaining four of the big seven continue with their demands.
For the teams that play in the Europa League, UEFA offer another 60 million euros per year, for the national leagues less than 20m, while for the clubs that play the Champions League, they have 150m euros more income from television rights.
In addition, until that moment, 40 percent of the income for the clubs of the Champions League depended on the amount paid for rights in their countries.
That is reduced to 15 percent while the other 25 percent would depend on the results in the competition. Football Leaks even shows a document submitted by UEFA only to the big four about the benefits of this agreement for them.
The Champions League would now be managed by a jointly controlled company by UEFA and ECA. Secretary Generals of Bayern, Juve and Barcelona will now have access to all the secrets of the Champions League: offers of television rights, costs, organisation…
The only defeat of the big four was not to lower the Champions League to 24 teams in exchange for the four places insured for Spain, Italy, England and Germany.
“The goal is to improve the quality of the group stage,” says Gerlinger in an email.
The agreement closes in early August at a meeting at the Genoa airport between UEFA general secretary Theodoridis, the general director of ECA, Centenaro, and the representatives of Bayern, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
There is a need for the administrators of the ECA to accept an agreement that has been negotiated behind their backs and that happens on August 25, 2016 in Monaco.
They are presented with the global figures but not the detailed simulation that UEFA would’ve sent to the big four.
UEFA are weak
Rummenigge is responsible for giving explanations. “The communication between the clubs has not been ideal but UEFA have demanded absolute confidentiality.
“Big clubs have had huge offers to create a league European Union and UEFA has called them immediately to try to maintain the unity of European football.”
Mediapart contacted Aulas, the only French administrator of the ECA, and said he was “surprised and disappointed” because they were informed at the last moment.
Talk about “lack of transparency.”
They think that the Europa League is damaged.
Duncan Fraser, of Aberdeen, denounces a reform “dictated by the threat of a rupture,” and emphasises that the ECA must “represent the whole of its 220 members and not only the big clubs.”It’s already too late.
Christer Olsson, president of the union that regroups the 28 Leagues of European football (EPFL), denounces that the reform is “a big mistake from UEFA” and calls a meeting of all of the national leagues on September 7.
Its purposes are for the resistance of “the pressure and intimidation of the big clubs to impose their reforms.”
But UEFA have already given in.
This article was originally written by MARCA.