European Super League chairman defends breakaway soccer competition

Florentino Perez, President of Real Madrid pictured on February 18, 2020 in Madrid, Spain.

Mateo Villalba | Quality Sport Images | Getty Images

LONDON — The chairman of the European Super League has said plans to form a new breakaway elite competition are designed “to save” soccer, pushing back against widespread criticism by claiming that change is necessary because young people “are no longer interested” in the sport.

In an interview with Spanish television show El Chiringuito de Jugones on Monday, Florentino Perez, who is also the president of Spanish club Real Madrid, said: “Whenever there is a change, there are always people who oppose it … and we are doing this to save football at this critical moment.”

“Audiences are decreasing, and rights are decreasing and something had to be done. We are all ruined. Television has to change so we can adapt,” he continued.

“Young people are no longer interested in football. Why not? Because there are a lot of poor-quality games and they are not interested, they have other platforms on which to distract themselves,” Perez said.

His comments come shortly after it was announced 12 of Europe’s wealthiest soccer teams, including Real Madrid, had signed up as founding members of the ESL. The project has been backed with $6 billion in debt financing from JPMorgan.

The ESL is designed to rival the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s top annual club competition, and is intended to commence “as soon as it is practicable.”

Teams that have agreed to play in the ESL:

  • England: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal.
  • Spain: Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
  • Italy: Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

The ESL will eventually comprise of 20 clubs and 15 of those will be permanent, meaning they can’t be relegated. That’s controversial because teams currently must qualify for the Champions League each year and they can be promoted and relegated from England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, and Italy’s Serie A.

The move has sparked outrage among lawmakers, governing bodies, former players, pundits and fans.

UEFA Aleksander Ceferin has condemned the ESL project, describing the move as “a spit in the face” of all soccer lovers. “We will not allow them to take it away from us,” he added.

— CNBC’s Sam Shead contributed to this report.

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