During a press conference, the UEFA president did not mince his words against the 12 clubs which announced the creation of a future Super League, thereby expressing their dissent vis-à-vis of the governing body of European football.
What is your reaction to the announcement of a Super League project?
The plateau of the Champions League is determined by the qualification of each other on merit, and not according to the voracity of a privileged few. It was our decision from the start. Every club, and therefore every football fan, must be able to dream of one day playing this competition based on the results obtained on the lawn. The world of football must therefore remain united in the face of this shameful attempt to appropriate it for purely personal and commercial ends. Some leaders have shown their real faces, dictated only by the pursuit of profit and nothing else. And it is not only the world of football that is united, but all of society, governments… This project is nonsense. All professional leagues, including the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A, oppose this cynical project. This is also the case with Fifa. We believe that our reform of European competitions, starting with that of the Champions League, has everything football needs to develop in the right direction. The new format respects all the values that UEFA has always defended, as well as all the structures that make up football at European level. And for me, this Super League project is a spit in the face of all football lovers, and our society. We will not allow them to take away all of our values.
Can UEFA organize a Champions League without these 12 dissident clubs?
Yes of course. There are a lot of great clubs in Europe, and a lot of fans from other clubs. In 2024, we will organize the Champions League with its new format, with or without these 12 clubs.
What sanctions are these dissident clubs exposed to and from when?
We are continuing to assess the matter with our legal team. It’s a bit early to give you a clear answer because the press release was made public last night and we don’t necessarily have a solution the next day. But we are going to think about all the possible sanctions which fall within our competence. In my opinion, as soon as possible, these teams will have to be excluded from all our competitions, and their players too.
Is an exclusion really possible from a legal point of view?
Already, I want to clarify that this is an exclusion from our competitions. Afterwards, if today there is something that goes against everything that exists, it is the Super League. So I think it’s up to them to resolve their legal issues first. Afterwards, as far as we are concerned, we will see … Perhaps we were very naive. We didn’t know we had liars among us, but now we do and we will take legal action quickly.
“I had never experienced this in my life. Obviously, their greed is so strong that it crushes all human values. “
Two weeks ago, you postponed the announcement of the new format because you are still negotiating with the clubs, in particular the 12 dissidents. Do you feel betrayed, especially by Andrea Agnelli, the president of Juventus Turin and member of the UEFA executive committee?
I have seen many things in my life as a criminal lawyer for 20 years. But I’ve never seen people behave like this. For example, I had Ed Woodward (the managing director of Manchester United) on the phone last Thursday who told me last week that he was very happy with the competition reform, that he was totally in favor of it, and that he just wanted to talk about financial fair play. But obviously he had already signed something else. As for Andrea Agnelli, I must say that this is without doubt my biggest disappointment. I don’t want to make a personal comment, but I’ve never seen a person lie so persistently. It’s amazing, I spoke to him on Saturday afternoon. He told me not to worry, that it was just rumors, that nothing was happening and then he told me that he would call me back later. And the next day, we saw the press release. I had never experienced this in my life. Obviously, their greed is so strong that it crushes all human values. But now I know who is who, and the whole world knows it. These people adhered to our reforms on Friday, and I don’t need to say more about them …
After such a betrayal, do you still think you can trust someone in the world of football?
Please note, I have also met a lot of great people in the world of football. There are people in whom I have complete confidence. For example, I have total confidence in the French and German clubs, which have resisted the financial sirens of this Super League. I have confidence in my team. The world of football is not entirely corrupt and rotten. This is a small part of this community that is driven by greed to the detriment of all other considerations. These people have no interest in the fans, or in the game itself for that matter. Some club owners change management teams just like you and I change shirts. Their eyes are fixed on their turnover, not on their number of points in the standings. It’s a curious world. But again, I also met a lot of great people.
Do you know the position of FIFA President Gianni Infantino?
I spoke to Mr Infantino and he gave his full support to UEFA. He will be there this Tuesday for the UEFA congress and he will publicly affirm his opposition to this Super League project.
“I do not demand that they come back to us on their knees, begging our forgiveness”
What can be the next step from now on? Is the divorce final with these 12 clubs?
We are not going to enter into negotiations with the members of this shadow project. They wanted to discuss with us urgently, but it is not urgent. I am not saying that they are banned from European football forever. The way they acted is totally out of place, and everyone knows it. But if they want to come back fine. I read an interview with Mr Agnelli in the press and he referred to our reform of the Champions League as “a fantastic project”. If he wants to come back to this fantastic project, he is welcome.
What do they need to tell you to make them welcome? What do you want to hear from them?
There is nothing personal, although it is no secret that I am close to Agnelli (he is his daughter’s godfather). I do not demand that they come back to us on their knees, begging our forgiveness. Not at all. I ask that they respect the institution and the others. Personally, I don’t like quarrels, and I don’t want them. But like I said, if they want to come back to “a fantastic project”, they will be welcome.
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How much will the winner of the Champions League win in 2024? And what impact did the health crisis have in your opinion on this Super League project?
I don’t want to talk about numbers, but there is one thing I can tell you: this Super League project started long before the appearance of Covid-19. This project has been simmering for many years. The leaders of these clubs could have talked about it with us. We are always open to dialogue. We even had some interesting discussions. But then, when you come up against the selfishness and narcissism of some, what do you want to do?
How do you respond to those who believe that UEFA pursues the same financial objective as the 12 dissident clubs?
UEFA distributes almost 90% of its revenues to gambling, not only to professionals but also to amateur football, to women’s football, to sports facilities… We have a foundation which carries out great actions. The Super League is a project that is all about money. This is not the case with UEFA. UEFA wants to develop football and wants to finance what needs to be. Some people don’t get it. For some, solidarity does not exist. Unity does not exist. The only thing that exists are their pockets full. Football has become the number 1 sport in the world based on open, honest and merit-based competition. We won’t allow any changes to the subject, ever.