Plans for a breakaway European Super League are a “spit in the face of all football lovers”, the president of UEFA has said.
Aleksandr Ceferin said players at the 12 clubs setting up their own competition, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham, could be banned from this year’s European Championship and next year’s World Cup.
Speaking after an emergency meeting of European football’s governing body, Ceferin launched a scathing attack on the plans, which have been widely condemned across the game and beyond.
“We’re still assessing with our legal team but we will take all the sanctions that we can and we will inform you as soon we can,” he said.
“My opinion is that as soon as possible they have to be banned from all our competitions and the players from all our competitions.”
He told a news conference: “I cannot stress more strongly, UEFA and the football world are united against this disgraceful, self serving from a select few clubs in Europe, fuelled by greed and nothing else.
“It is not just football, societies and governments across Europe are united, we are all united against this nonsense of a project.
“We have English FA, Spanish and Italian federations, FIFA, all 55 member associations unanimous in opposition against these cynical plans.
“Our sport has become greatest based on sporting merit and we cannot allow that to change, we will not ever.”
Twelve of the leading clubs in Europe last night announced their intention to form a new breakaway league.
A statement from the new competition said: “AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as founding clubs.
“It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable.”
There has been widespread criticism of the plans from fans, former players, managers and governing bodies, who have warned it will “devalue” existing club leagues and competitions and have a devastating impact on grassroots football.
And Boris Johnson says the government will do everything it can to make sure the new European Super League “doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed”, calling the plans “very damaging for football”.
The prime minister said he would work with football authorities opposed to the move, adding: “I don’t think that it’s good news for fans, I don’t think it’s good news for football in this country.”
He said: “These clubs are not just great global brands – of course they’re great global brands – they’re also clubs that have originated historically from their towns, from their cities, from their local communities, they should have a link with those fans, and with the fan base in their community.”
Mr Johnson said the six Premier League clubs involved “must answer to their fans” before deciding to launch the breakaway competition.
The project is being launched to rival UEFA’s Champions League format which currently dominates European football – and the announcement came a day before UEFA was due to sign off on plans for an expanded and restructured tournament.
The Super League has also been criticised by Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, who said the plans had ignored the fans – and urged a rethink.
The competition will see 20 participating clubs – 15 founding clubs and a further five teams able to qualify annually based on their achievements during the previous season.
The Super League will begin in August with clubs participating in two groups of 10, playing home and away fixtures, some during the week, with the top three in each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Teams finishing fourth and fifth will compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final spots before a knockout format is used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.
In exchange for their commitment, founding clubs will receive an amount of €3.5bn (£3bn) to “support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic”, the league’s statement said.