On the evening before UEFA was scheduled to announce its grand plan to reform the Champions League, this is an almighty grenade thrown directly in the path of European football’s governing body.
Any plans they had to head off the threat of a breakaway by some of the world’s biggest and richest clubs with a bells and whistles news conference have been thrown on the bonfire.
The idea of a so-called European super league has been mooted for several years now, with the detail of its latest iteration revealed by Sky News last October, including the crucial information that a multi-billion pound financing package by JP Morgan had already been secured.
But never before have we got to the stage where we could be just hours away from an official announcement that will decimate the structures that have held European football in place for a century.
Make no mistake, this is a seismic moment for the game domestically and on the continent.
That much is obvious from the fast and furious reaction of top leagues and governing bodies alike.
“Enough is enough,” screamed UEFA in its joint statement with the FA and Italy and Spain’s football associations.
“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.”
They also threatened to ban any players involved from World Cup and European Championship football.
The fear is palpable, football is on the brink of all-out civil war.
The Premier League also readied its arsenal of weapons. “Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best,” it said.
“We believe that the concept of a European super league would destroy this dream.”
They are correct that this breakaway league would make European club football something of a closed shop, with only five teams each year able to qualify by virtue of sporting merit.
The other 15 would be a preordained assortment of the very richest and most powerful clubs.
The invention of this European super league is not in the interest of fans – most of whom believe the Champions League, Europe’s premier club football competition, is perfectly adequate and enjoy the unpredictability of the qualification.
Rather, it is something Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez has long agitated for and schemed in the background to put more of the power and money with Europe’s elite.
Now crucially, Perez has gained the support of some of England’s billionaire football club owners – notably the American trio John W Henry of Liverpool, Joel Glazer of Manchester United and Stan Kroenke of Arsenal.
Interestingly, even fans of the clubs involved in the potential breakaway object.
“United and the rest of the Big Six that have signed up to it against the rest of the Premier League should be ashamed of themselves,” Gary Neville said on Sky Sports.
“They should deduct six points off all six teams that have signed up to it. Deduct points off them all. To do it during a season – it’s a joke.”
Micah Richards, former Manchester City defender, agreed. “What happens to the fans? They’re just forgotten about for the sake of money. It’s a disgrace,” he said.
The Premier League is adamant that the English clubs involved with the breakaway – Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City – would need its permission to do so.
It is also adamant that there is no way that would happen. The natural conclusion is that the only way this European breakaway becomes reality is by breaking away from the Premier League itself.
The Premier League will hope that is enough to ward off the mutiny but we may very well be on the edge of a major schism in domestic and European football. It could result in alienating the fans which the modern game seems to take for granted.
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