Barcelona, one of the world’s top football clubs, has defended the controversial Super League project that collapsed this week, arguing against “rash action” and calling for a review of the proposed competition without “unjustified pressure and intimidation”.
The Spanish club, which is struggling with losses caused by the pandemic, late on Thursday stood by its on-pitch arch-rival Real Madrid in support of the breakaway tournament.
“The decision was made in the conviction that it would have been a historical error to turn down the opportunity to be part of this project as one of its founding members,” said Barcelona.
However, the two Spanish sides face an uphill struggle to make the competition a reality after most of its founding clubs across England, Italy and Spain stated their intention to withdraw as a result of a backlash from supporters, rivals, governing bodies, players and politicians.
Earlier on Thursday, Spain’s La Liga had said the 12 football clubs that sought to create a widely criticised European Super League should control their finances after years of profligate spending on players.
Barcelona has suffered from mounting debts after heavy losses because of lost match-day income. The Super League was designed to give its founding members “welcome bonuses” worth €200m-€300m each to help them recover from the pandemic.
Critics of the now defunct multibillion-euro project accused its backers of trying to create a “closed” competition dominated by the richest clubs, most of which now intend to back out of the project.
Javier Tebas, president of La Liga, which runs the top two domestic divisions in Spain, told a press conference on Thursday that breakaway clubs should rethink their business models to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and that wealth should be divided among more clubs and countries.
“Maybe these clubs should control their expenses more than their revenues,” said Tebas, one of the most powerful executives in European football.
His call for reduced spending would mark a major shift for clubs that have for years increased their transfer and salary budgets for signing and retaining star players, and points to how the collapse of the Super League does not resolve the huge losses suffered by leagues and clubs because of the pandemic.
“Instead of having three or four Ferraris, you just have one Ferrari, and in short, adjust the expenses to what reality is and our reality is now marked by Covid, which has reminded us that income cannot grow indefinitely,” said Fernando Roig, majority-owner and president of La Liga side Villarreal CF.
The breakaway teams had hoped the Super League could attract billions in revenues to replenish their finances following the coronavirus pandemic. The world’s 20 richest clubs stand to miss out on €2bn in revenue over the two seasons hit by the pandemic, according to consultants Deloitte.
Florentino Pérez, president of Real Madrid and mastermind of the Super League, had claimed that the competition would “save football” and that the increase in revenues generated by Europe’s top clubs could have benefited rivals as well.
Tebas accused him of “making up figures that are not real”, dubbing the project a “Super League of Powerpoints”. The La Liga president insisted he would seek to prevent the resurrection of similar breakaway efforts but would not impose sanctions against the clubs.
The repercussions for the 12 clubs behind the Super League are still emerging. In England, the Premier League is pushing to remove from its subcommittees representatives from Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, according to someone close to the English top flight.
Joel Glazer, a member of the US billionaire family and co-owner of Manchester United, has apologised for his club’s role in the Super League, but asserted that football needed “to become more sustainable”.