Twelve of Europe’s top football clubs have created a breakaway Super League on Sunday, launching what is certain to be a bitter battle for control of the game and its lucrative revenue.
The seismic move sets up a rival to UEFA’s established Champions League competition and was condemned by football authorities and political leaders.
Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus are among the leading members of the new league, with UEFA threatening to ban them from domestic and international competition and vowing to fight the move.
As well as United, Premier League clubs Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have signed up to the plans.
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid from Spain join Real while AC Milan and Inter Milan make up the trio from Italy along with Juventus.
The Super League said it aimed to have 15 founding members, and a 20-team league with five other clubs qualifying each season.
The clubs would share a fund of 3.5 billion euros ($A5.4 billion) to spend on infrastructure projects and to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, the inaugural chairman of the Super League, said.
“Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”
However, no evidence was presented that supporters want a Super League.
No German or French clubs have yet to be associated with the breakaway league.
World soccer’s governing body FIFA expressed its “disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures”.
The power-play by the Super League clubs came just hours before UEFA was due to sign off on its plans for an expanded and restructured 36-team Champions League on Monday.
While there has been a broad consensus for those reforms, the big clubs made a late push to have changes to the governance and control of the competition before making Sunday’s dramatic move.
UEFA issued a strong statement jointly with English, Spanish and Italian leagues and football federations, saying they were ready to use “all measures” to confront any breakaway and saying any participating clubs would be banned from domestic leagues, such as the Premier League.
“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 said.
“… This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”
The Super League concept was condemned by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, football authorities across Europe and former players such as Manchester United’s Gary Neville who called it “an absolute disgrace” and said the club owners were motivated by “pure greed”.
There have been reports of a breakaway for several years. They returned in January, with media reports of a document outlining the plans.
In October, then Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said the club had accepted a proposal to join a breakaway league.