European Leagues tired of breakaway threats from big clubs

ZURICH (Reuters) - The umbrella organisation representing Europe’s domestic leagues is tired of breakaway threats, it said on Tuesday in response to a proposal to create a two-division world soccer league.

FILE PHOTO: Chairman Lars-Christer Olsson addresses the media after a general assembly of the EPFL (European Professional Football Leagues), the umbrella organization representing Europe's professional soccer leagues, at the airport in Zurich, Switzerland October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The Financial Times and New York Times have reported that discussions led by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez have taken place over the possibility of setting up the league featuring the world’s richest clubs split into two divisions.

The FT has reported that CVC Capital Partners and Gianni Infantino, president of soccer’s world governing body FIFA, are among those approached by Perez about a new league.

FIFA has said that it always talks to stakeholders about finding the best solutions for the game and that it recently met with Real Madrid and other clubs to discuss the revamped Club World Cup. Real Madrid and CVC have not commented on the reports.

“We are getting very tired of all the threats coming from a few rich clubs in football,” said European Leagues chairman Lars-Christer Olsson in a statement which did not mention Real Madrid by name.

“Threats that they are going to break away from the football ecosystem as we know it and create their own private environment.”

Olsson pointed out that 2019 had been “a year full of discussions around the future of professional club competitions.”

Earlier this year, UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) put forward a plan to turn the Champions League into a semi-closed competition from 2024 onwards. It was eventually dropped amid strong opposition.

In 2016, there were multiple media reports that some big clubs had been discussing a breakaway Super League. Shortly afterwards, the format of the Champions League was changed to give more places to clubs from the biggest five leagues.

Olsson said that the current pyramid system, which gives the smallest of teams a chance to climb their way up through the divisions, should remain intact.

“The dream is alive, for clubs and players, girls and boys, that one day they may reach a professional level and they can even make it all the way to the top,” he said.

“Professional club football is not a private business for a few where only the size of the pockets determines who is welcome.”

“The solution is not a closed league at the top of the pyramid in Europe and certainly not a closed shop on top of the world where only a few of the richest clubs are invited.”

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis