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What is the format of the proposed “new” European Super League? Clubs, divisions, streaming…

The European Court of Justice has ruled FIFA and UEFA cannot block clubs and players from participating in the ESL project.

The European Court of Justice has ruled FIFA and UEFA cannot block clubs and players from participating in the ESL project.

In April 2021, 12 teams opted to go up against UEFA as they signalled their intention to create a rival elite club competition - the European Super League (ESL). Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético de Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal were the players in question and hoped to launch a new tournament in time for the 2021-22 season. The idea was for the 20 best teams in Europe to face off against one another, although 15 would remain the same each year, with only five spots up for grabs per season. There would be no promotion or relegation in what was effectively a closed shop. That original proposal, of course, fell flat on its face, but today’s ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has prompted an immediate ESL relaunch with a new format.

Of the 12 aforementioned clubs, only Inter were legally permitted to abandon the original project without repercussions. The Italians had a special exit clause in their contract due to sharing a sponsor with UEFA, giving them the right to pull out if there was deemed to be a conflict of interests. The rest, other than Madrid and Barça, also withdrew but could theoretically only do so by paying a series of penalties.

How many teams would take part in the European Super League?

A22 Sports, the company in charge of shaping the Super League, has already laid out a new format for the men’s competition, which would have 64 teams across three divisions.

The Star League, the top division, and the Gold League, the second tier, would each consist of 16 clubs split into two groups of eight. There will be 32 in the Blue League, the “bottom” division, which itself will be split into four groups of eight. There would be annual promotion and relegation between the three leagues and no permanent members. Qualification for the Blue League would be decided by performance in the domestic leagues.

According to A22 Sports, “all clubs will play in groups of eight – home and away – resulting in a guaranteed minimum of 14 matches per year”. Once the group stage has been completed, the top four teams from each of the two groups in the Star and Gold Leagues would qualify for the knockout stage in those divisions, while the top two teams from the four Blue League groups would play in the final phase of the third tier.

How would promotion and relegation work in the ESL?

As well as determining the league champions at each level, the knockout rounds would also decide which teams are promoted to the top two divisions. Two teams would be promoted to the Star and Gold Leagues each year, replacing the two worst teams from those tiers. Meanwhile, the bottom 20 teams in the Blue League would be replaced the following season by the best-performing teams in their national leagues.

The new proposal claims there would be no extra European matchdays than at present, with games to be played in midweek, which wouldn’t interfere with domestic championships.

Which clubs would play in the first edition of the ESL?

A22 Sport’s ESL press release revealed clubs would be invited to take part in the first edition of the tournament “based upon an index of transparent, performance-based criteria”, and that “strong Financial Sustainability rules and transparent enforcement processes will be put in place to ensure a level playing field between participating clubs”.

Women’s European Super League

In addition to the men’s European Super League, there would also be a women’s edition, with 32 clubs split into two leagues of 16. The format would be the same, with teams playing 14 matches in the group stage, which would run from September until April, followed by knock-out rounds featuring eight teams in each league.

How much will clubs earn from the ESL?

“To provide stability in the initial phase of the competitions, revenues during the first three years of the new competition will be guaranteed at a level beyond that expected in the next cycle. Solidarity payments would be 8% of League revenues with a minimum payment of €400m, exceeding by more than double the amount distributed from the current pan-European competition,” reads the A22 Sports release.

Free streaming of Super League games

“Billions of fans” would also be able to watch matches for free on a “state-of-the-art digital streaming platform” created by A22 Sports. The platform, called Unify, would “democratise access to live football and connect fans with their clubs (and other fans) at a scale never before achieved”. As well as watching live games, viewers would also have access to highlights, match insights and analysis, club specific content and more.

ESL: “exciting” and “sustainable”

“We believe our proposal will create the most exciting football competition in Europe and at the same time create a better, more sustainable football ecosystem, for both the men’s and women’s game. It would strengthen clubs with storied histories who are struggling to compete internationally while taking a big step forward in support of the football pyramid,” stated A22 Sports CEO Bernt Reichart.