If a European Super League is to happen, it will apparently have to happen without the two of European soccer's most super teams.
Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, the reigning German and French champions, Champions League finalists just last season, opposed the Super League on Tuesday. Super League founders had "anticipated" them joining. Leaked documents reveal they'd been given 14 and 30 days, respectively, to sign on.
But PSG's Qatari chairman disavowed the project, pledging his support to the UEFA Champions League, the competition that the Super League would usurp. And Bayern Munich's president stated plainly: “Our members and fans reject a Super League."
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, speaking to European soccer leaders in Switzerland – though not directly to the ones who've broken away – stated his firm opposition as well. "We can only strongly disapprove the creation of a super league which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA and from FIFA, which is outside of the system," he said. "There is no doubt whatsoever of FIFA’s disapproval for this."
“If some elect to go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choice," Infantino later continued. “Concretely, this means, either you are in, or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out."
Bayern Munich, it's clear, is out. "I would like to make it explicitly clear," CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said, "that FC Bayern will not be taking part in the Super League."
PSG's opposition was less explicit, and likely more driven by self-interest. Its chairman, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, has extensive ties to UEFA, the European soccer governing body that has fought strongly against the breakaway league. Al-Khelaifi's Tuesday statement referred to the Super League as "any proposal without the support of UEFA," but did not mention it by name, leaving PSG potentially open to future discussions.
At the moment, though, there is only acrimony, and no sense that the current European soccer establishment is willing to negotiate with the defectors. FIFA's "in or out" stance makes it unlikely that the Super League founders' vision – with five non-founding clubs joining 15 founders on a rotating basis – will come to fruition. Who, at this point, would those non-founders be?
In addition to PSG, Bayern and Dortmund, RB Leipzig and other German clubs have rejected the Super League.
The 14 English Premier League clubs not involved have rejected it.
Other clubs across Europe, including Ajax and Sevilla, have rejected it.
Without them all, with only 12 teams, would the Super League really be that Super?
The founders' vision requires overwhelming preeminence. But a Champions League comprising Bayern, PSG, Dortmund, Leipzig, Napoli, Roma, Lazio, Atalanta, Ajax, Porto, Lyon, Sevilla, Villarreal, Monchengladbach, Leverkusen, Leicester, Everton and so on – a group that includes nine of this year's Champions League round of 16 contestants – could absolutely rival a Super League in which clubs 10-12 are the current 7th and 9th place teams in England and an Italian club, AC Milan, that hasn't qualified for the Champions League in seven years.
The first 48 hours of this battle have been filled with anger, government promises and legal threats. The most powerful politicians in Europe have said they will do what they can to stop the Super League.
But Bayern's promise to shun it is the most significant development yet. If PSG and others hold firm, it seems unlikely that a Super League as mooted would get off the ground.
This story is still young, and anger is still fresh, and heads are anything but cool. Complex negotiations still seem the more likely outcome than divorce and all-out legal war. Bayern, in that sense, has given the establishment all sorts of leverage.
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