English Premier League giants Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal have reportedly held talks to break away from the top division of domestic football and join a proposed European Super League.
UK newspaper The Sun said the clubs met with American billionaire Stephen Ross at London’s Dorchester hotel on Tuesday. United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis, City’s chief executive Ferran Soriano and Liverpool’s Ian Ayre all reportedly took part in the meeting.
Responding to the report, Arsenal said it is “strongly opposed” to any breakaway. A club spokesman told the Press Association news agency: “Not Arsenal, nor any clubs at the meeting, are seeking changes to the Premier League and European landscape and no conversations surrounding displacing the Premier League or starting a European Super League took place. Discussions were primarily around the ICC (International Champions Cup) and formats of European competitions that would complement the existing Premier League.”
American real estate developer Ross has a major presence in the sports market. Along with being the principal owner of NFL American football franchise the Miami Dolphins, he played a key role in the formation of the pre-season ICC competition.
The tournament gathers some of Europe’s leading clubs and expanded from its established North American base to include new events in Australia and China last year. International Champions Cup organisers Relevent Sports and Catalyst Media Group are both part of sports investment group RSE Ventures, of which Ross is co-founder and chairman.
The Sun said Ross hopes to secure a deal to launch the European Super League shortly. Talk of such a competition is not new. European football’s governing body Uefa has come under pressure from the European Club Association (ECA) to reform the Champions League in a bid to ensure teams with the greatest television appeal have a guaranteed place.
Uefa said in a statement reported by The Telegraph newspaper: “Uefa constantly reviews the format of its competitions in close consultation with stakeholders, including the European Club Association. There are no concrete proposals on the table at this stage as we have just begun a new three-year cycle (2015-18) for club competitions. There is therefore no further comment to be made at this stage.”
An ECA spokesperson added: “There’s a lot of discussion around the future of European competitions at the moment, as always ahead of a new competition cycle. Discussions are taking place at different levels but, for the moment, nothing concrete was brought up at ECA. However, there’s an agreement that, once an idea or proposal gets more concrete, it will be shared with the entire executive board.”