Super League clubs net €200m-€300m ‘welcome bonus’

The 12 football clubs that have signed a binding agreement to form a new European “Super League” have been guaranteed a “welcome bonus” worth €200m-€300m each, according to people with direct knowledge of the terms of a deal that will reshape the world’s favourite sport.

The announcement on Sunday of the breakaway league has kicked off an intense power battle within the game, with politicians including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron as well as fans’ groups all expressing fierce opposition. The move also sparked threats of legal action between the sport’s power brokers.

The teams that have declared they plan to join the competition are: Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid; England’s Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur; and Italy’s Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

People briefed on the deal said that the next clubs to be sought as “permanent members” would be Germany’s Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund and France’s Paris Saint-Germain, though they have so far rebuffed any approaches. A further five clubs will be invited to play in the 20-club league each season, though they would need to qualify for the competition.

The money to launch the league will be provided by JPMorgan Chase, which has committed to underwriting a €3.25bn “infrastructure grant” that will be shared among the clubs as a “welcome bonus” on joining the competition. 

The US investment bank has provided a debt financing deal amortised over 23 years and secured against future broadcasting rights for the competition, said people with knowledge of the terms.

The rebel clubs have agreed to pay €264m a year to pay down the debt, a figure that includes the 2-3 per cent interest rate that the borrowing will carry. JPMorgan declined to comment. 

A person close to the Super League said the payment should not be regarded as a “welcome bonus”, but instead was an advance on future revenues which would have to be repaid if any club chose to leave the competition.

The league’s 15 permanent members will jointly own a newly incorporated company in Spain which will share all future media and sponsorship rights derived from the competition, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Anas Laghrari, a banker at Spanish advisory firm Key Capital, has been named general secretary of the Super League. He has close ties to Real Madrid’s billionaire president Florentino Pérez, who was named chair of the competition and is the driving force behind the plans. Key Capital declined to comment.

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The Super League’s organisers have held early discussions with broadcasters about the competition, according to people familiar with the talks, seeking to secure deals with likes of Amazon, Facebook, Disney and Comcast-owned Sky that would raise annual revenues worth €4bn a year. This is roughly double the amount earned by Champions League, the continent’s top annual club competition. 

The belief that such projections are realistic is because the 200 new European games a year will be played midweek and only feature the world’s top sides which have global fanbases.

The Super League clubs will seek to continue to play in their respective national league contests, but would need the approval of groups like England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga to do so. The Super League was not immediately available for comment.

But Super League clubs have vowed to provide about €400m in “solidarity grants” to teams and governing bodies in other competitions, a large increase on the funds provided through existing European competitions and money they hope will convince football authorities to avoid a protracted fight over the project.

On Sunday night, the Super League clubs threatened legal action against football governing bodies that have vowed to block the breakaway competition.

The announcement of the Super League comes as clubs across Europe have suffered steep revenue shortfalls owing to the pandemic, raising concerns over the sustainability of their business models and complicating any plans for new signings. The timing also coincides with a period which has seen the valuations for top-tier franchises grow rapidly, prompting questions over where these clubs would find new sources of revenue. 

Negotiations have been going on for months, with detailed term sheets shared with the founder clubs since November, according to documents seen by the Financial Times. 

But the clubs signed binding contracts to join the project over the weekend, ahead of a Uefa meeting on Monday at which European football’s governing body was set to agree a radical transformation of the Champions League.

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