European Super League chairman Florentino Perez said: "Whenever there is a change, there are always people who oppose it. We are doing this to save football at this critical moment"; General secretary Anas Laghrari says the aim is to "stage a competition that everybody wants to watch"
Tuesday 20 April 2021 20:38, UK
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez says the European Super League will "save football at this critical moment" and insists players taking part in the competition will not be banned from representing their national teams.
The Spaniard's comments come after 12 leading European clubs committed to join a new tournament that will begin "as soon as is practicable".
Speaking for the first time since the announcement, the chairman of the European Super League said football needed to evolve.
Six English teams are part of a breakaway European Super League, but what do we know so far?
"Whenever there is a change, there are always people who oppose it. We are doing this to save football at this critical moment," Perez said on Spanish TV show El Chiringuito de Jugones.
"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.
"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."
Real Madrid are joined in the competition, which could start as early as August, by La Liga rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, as well as Premier League clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
The founding group of 12 is completed by Italian clubs AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. Another three will be included as guaranteed members and five others will qualify to join them each year.
Perez stressed the top teams were losing money, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that the expanded Champions League announced by UEFA on Monday was not the answer.
"If we continue with the Champions League there is less and less interest and then it's over," he said. The new format, which starts in 2024 is absurd. In 2024 we are all dead.
"Together we have lost €5billion," he said of the top clubs' alleged losses. "In two seasons Madrid have lost €400m.
"When you have no income other than television, you say that the solution is to make more attractive matches that fans from all over the world can see with all the big clubs, and we came to the conclusion that if instead of having a Champions League we have a Super League we would be able to alleviate what we have lost."
Perez criticised UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who earlier in the day had said players featuring in the competition will be banned from the World Cup and European Championship.
"[The players] can remain absolutely calm because that's not going to happen. Very calm, that's not going to happen," Perez said.
According to UEFA executive committee member Jesper Moller, breakaway clubs Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea could also be banned from this season's Champions League semi-finals.
Asked if Real will be kicked out of the competition, Perez added: "No, they won't be expelled from Champions (League), that's for sure.
"Real Madrid won't be, (Manchester) City won't be, none of them will be expelled, that's for sure. I'm completely sure of it. Not from Champions (League), not from La Liga, nothing like that."
The move has plunged the game of football into turmoil and triggered widespread condemnation across both sport and society.
The 14 Premier League clubs not involved in the European Super League will discuss the situation during a virtual meeting on Tuesday chaired by chief executive Richard Masters.
Elsewhere, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will host a round table with representatives from football governing bodies including the FA and the Premier League, as well as fans' representatives later in the day.
The PM promised football fans prior to the meeting he will do everything possible to give the "ludicrous" new league a "straight red".
He spent much of Monday saying he wanted to make sure the new league did not go ahead "in the way it's currently being proposed".
Perez, however, brushed off the criticism and played up the prospect of more big games.
"What's so attractive? That we play among the big teams, the competitiveness, to generate more resources?" he added.
"This is not a league for the rich, it's a league to save football."
Anas Laghrari, a banker at Spanish advisory firm Key Capital and the first general secretary of the European Super League, reiterated Perez's comments.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien, he said: "We want to create the best football. Our wish is to stage a competition that everybody wants to watch, that makes people dream, to renew football which has entered transfer and money madness.
"New generations are much less interested in football. They focus on gaming consoles and will only watch the big games, but these big games rarely occur.
"There's lots of frustration among players that want to play in these big games. Neymar was dreaming of playing against Lionel Messi in the Champions League round of 16 but was injured and maybe will never play against Messi.
"The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the problems and the urgency to find a solution.
"We want to create a stable business thanks to this base made up of 12 great teams. Football is not a profitable activity. There's real frustration with this unstable system, which is purely based on clubs' performances in the Champions League.
"We have a solidarity committee that will preside over the distribution of funds and will guarantee transparency.
"We're talking about €400m - it's huge. Nowadays UEFA distributes €130m between 54 federations. We're ready to distribute more money with UEFA, provided this money will arrive around clubs in Europe."
On Monday Night Football, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he had not changed his opinion since saying in 2019 that he hoped such a competition would "never happen".
Reminded of those quotes by Sky Sports ahead of Liverpool's 1-1 draw at Leeds, Klopp responded: "My opinion didn't change. Obviously I heard for the first time about it yesterday, and trying to prepare a game, a very difficult game against Leeds, and I knew so far we got some information, not a lot to be honest.
"It's a tough one. People are not happy about it, and I can understand that, but I cannot say a lot more about it because we were not involved in any processes, not the players not me, we didn't know about it. We will have to wait to see how it develops."
Reflecting on Klopp's remarks, Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville concluded: "Jurgen Klopp has come out tonight, and done it in a very calm fashion which he has to do from the position he is in, and he has destroyed his club's owners on national television."
Speaking after the match, Liverpool midfielder James Milner also stressed his opposition to the plans.
"I can only give my personal opinion, I don't like it and hopefully it doesn't happen," he told Sky Sports.
"There are a lot of questions. We have tried to prepare for the game, so l can only imagine what has been said about it, but l would probably agree with most of it."
Klopp himself later added: "I don't think it's a great idea."