On Tuesday night, FC Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was watching a show in the stands of Munich’s Allianz Arena, not the football match between Bundesliga record holder Bayern Munich and the Bayer Leverkusen, but the messages that appeared on his phone.
Shortly before the start, Rummenigge had received the news that Chelsea FC would withdraw from the Super League, an exclusive elite league with 12 of the most prestigious clubs in Europe, which had only just been announced on Sunday after a covert organization process. Twitter showed photos and videos of London club fans cheering for the decision outside the stadium.
Then came one headline after another. As the clock approached midnight, several founding members announced their retirement: Manchester City, FC Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and FC Arsenal. When Rummenigge went home after the Bundesliga match in Munich, the Superliga project, from which FC Bayern had distanced themselves just in time, was in ruins.
Fans, football federations and politicians, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, had vehemently protested against the new league and had announced drastic countermeasures. The opposition was so great that the initiators of the elite league, including investors from the United States and Abu Dhabi, withdrew out of fear.
The battle for the future of football is not over yet
The events left the world of traditional football celebrating a victory against the turbo capitalists. However, the battle for the future of football is not over. The dream of the football leaders of a Superliga continues to live on. The idea is too tempting: if such a close competition is established, a circle of club elites would get most of the billions won with the world’s most popular sport.
Even FC Bayern Munich, who now pretend to be virtuous custodians of tradition, have previously explored the idea of the Superliga. In 2016, the club discreetly examined the possibility of participating in this league. At the time, Michael Gerlinger, the team’s chief legal adviser, had a law firm examine whether and how the Bundesliga club could be withdrawn.
The main defender of the idea of the Superliga, however, is Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid. During a two-and-a-half-year analysis of Football Leaks team documents, DER SPIEGEL found an October 22, 2018 email to Perez, who is also a construction mogul. It included an attachment, a 13-page draft of a “Binding term sheet”From eleven European clubs to establish a European Super League.
Last Sunday, Pérez joined other club leaders to announce the rumored plan. For UEFA leaders, the governing body of European football, who had been preparing to implement reforms in the Champions League, this amounted to a hostile takeover.
A headquarters for the new league had even been registered on the fifth floor of an office building in central Madrid. Address: 29 José Ortega y Gasset Street. The building houses a Starbucks and a gourmet restaurant on the ground floor. Not without importance, there are many benches around the corner.
A 167-page framework agreement: for the benefit of “all fans in the world”
All the founding members of the Superliga had signed a 167-page framework agreement. The top of the document, which DER SPIEGEL has examined, states that this was being done with the best of intentions, “for the long-term benefit of all world fans.”
This was followed by a similar promise to the Catholic sale of indulgences. He states that the new Superliga “will inject significant new resources into the game”; that 8 percent of television revenue, or at least $ 400 million ($ 483 million), will go to charitable payments and charities each year, and that The Super League “would provide substantial additional benefits to amateur football and basic “.
The founding members only included teams from England, Spain and Italy. According to the plan, more teams from other leagues would be invited to the illustrious circle for a season, such as teammates. Organizers imagined the selected teams would withdraw from UEFA matches that season.
Marketed from a tax haven
The feeling of distance from the planners is clear in the contract. Perez and his organizing colleagues promised themselves unexpectedly in billions thanks to the sale of the television broadcasting rights. This income was to be used to amortize an advance from JP Morgan Chase, the US investment bank.
The bank had to pay 3.525 billion euros in initial funding in exchange for a promise from the clubs to participate for 23 years. Each year, with interest included, 264 million euros would have to be paid to JP Morgan, which means the bank would have finally earned 6.1 billion euros, a lucrative deal.
As befits football superheroes, the founders of the Super League, with the help of Clifford Chance, a commercial law firm, had thought extensively about how to minimize tax payments during business start-ups. A draft 26-page document seen by DER SPIEGEL reveals that the marketing had to be managed by a subsidiary company in a tax haven.
JP Morgen’s initial funding was going to go to a Luxembourg company, which in turn would have been owned by a Dutch foundation through another company. Revenues from television rights would also have reached Luxembourg. A public relations agency working in the Super League confirmed these structures. “You need a vehicle to pay for the equipment centrally,” a Super League spokesman told DER SPIEGEL, noting that Luxembourg is a member of the European Union.
An army of lawyers to protect the project
Of course, the godfather of the project, Pérez, had taken into account the possible resistance in the Superliga. An entire army of lawyers was destined to protect the new entity from the sanctions of UEFA and FIFA, the governing body of world football, or from possible proceedings for damages.
The Superliga had prepared for war against officials from the federations and associations that governed football and refused to be left behind by UEFA President Aleksander Cheferin, who last week disengaged the renegades as ” snakes “and” liars. “
What the group had apparently ignored, however, was the fury of the fans and their own players. Liverpool FC’s professional players and coach Jürgen Klopp immediately distanced themselves from their employers’ Superliga plans. By signing the founding contract, the club had essentially treated the players as a plug-and-play product that could only be inserted into a completely different competition without even telling them or asking for their opinion.
Pep Guardiola, Manchester City’s Spanish coach, also expressed his club’s disdain for the plan to his club’s management. “It’s not a sport if success is guaranteed or if it doesn’t matter when you lose.”
“We made a mistake and apologize.”
If you want to launch a new product, you have to develop a vision and promote it intelligently. Football is marketed through the excitement and charisma of its stars, but Pérez and the people around him didn’t even bother to recruit professionals renowned for their cause. They just wanted to carry out their plan, like a robbery.
In the end, his arrogance and megalomania became his own debauchery. FC Arsenal, for example, withdrew due to outrage among their fans. “We made a mistake and apologize,” the club wrote in a letter to supporters.
Within business circles, the clumsy coup attempt of the 12 clubs is causing many headaches. A marketing expert with a consulting firm says the “acceptance” of a Superliga “should have been better tested in advance”. It also appears that the question of whether the major TV and broadcasting companies, as larger sponsors, would accept the new product was also not sufficiently investigated.
700 million euros per season for each club in the Superliga
Perez still wants to follow his plans and says he wants to “save football” with the Superliga. But it would be more accurate to say he wants to save his own team. With sales falling at Real Madrid, he seems to be afraid of the team He is in mortal danger. Challenging announced that a new attempt will soon follow. The businessman also knows that he has the support of FC Barcelona, which has accumulated about 1 billion euros of debt.
The Superliga wants to save the shockers of the impressive Spanish giants. The foundations were laid, as evidenced by the current contract. The document shows how the clubs intended to divide the income of the competition among themselves according to an elaborate formula. The inmates estimate that each Super League club could have received 700 million euros per season.
An addition appears at the end of a section of the contract: during the first two seasons, Barcelona and Madrid received an additional 30 million euros each year. Only Barça and Real, and no other club.
Will the banks now continue to support Perez? The controversial football deal has already had consequences for JP Morgan. Standard Ethics, one of the agencies that rates companies according to so-called ESG criteria, has downgraded the U.S. bank from “adequate” to “non-compliant.”
It may seem unimportant, but it can be expensive for the bank, as investors are increasingly aware of whether companies meet environmental, social, and regulatory ESG standards when making stock purchase decisions.
In justifying the decision, the rating agency said the bank and clubs’ plans did not meet the sustainability standards set by the United Nations, the OECD and the EU.