The Super League (organised by the European Super League Company, S.L.), commonly referred to as the European Super League (ESL), was a proposed annual club football competition to be contested by twenty European football clubs.

The competition was to consist of fifteen “founding clubs” – who would be permanent participants in the competition – alongside five other European clubs who would qualify based on their performance in their domestic league’s most recent season. These 15 founding clubs would also govern the league.

It is planned as a breakaway competition to rival/replace the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by the UEFA.

Plans for the formation of a “European Super League” were attempted since 1998 but were unsuccessful.

The Super League

In April 2021, the Super League was established by twelve clubs (the famed “Big 6” in England, the Big 3 of Spain and the three most successful clubs from Italy), with three more founding members anticipated to join.

Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez was appointed as the first chairman of the organisation. Plans for designating the competition’s first tournament were underway in hopes of commencing “as soon as practicable” and they were targeting August 2021 as the start.

The announcement of the Super League drew widespread opposition from fans, players, coaches, other clubs, FIFA, the UEFA and even national governments. Much of the criticism against the ESL focused on the fact that club owners were considered greedy and wanted to maintain their stranglehold in the power hierarchy by getting rid of a relegation system so as to ensure that they would play against the best teams year in, year out without the “headache” of qualifying for continental football.

Backlash against the announcement of the league’s formation led to all six of the English clubs announcing their intention to withdraw. The Super League subsequently announced they would “reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project” following the departure of the English clubs.

On 21st April 2021, three days after being officially announced, The Super League announced it was suspending its operations given that 3 more clubs followed suit in the exiting of the league – AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan – leaving only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus among the remaining members.

The league was announced on 18th April 2021, via a press release sent out by the founding clubs. The announcement came on the eve of a meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee, which intended to revamp and expand the UEFA Champions League from the 2024–25 season in order to increase the number of matches and revenues, following pressure from elite European clubs.

The press release stated an intention to “provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid” while also “provid[ing] significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues”.

Super League chairman Florentino Pérez said that the Super League would help clubs recover lost earnings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said that the Super League would also eventually have a system of promotion and relegation and will appeal to a new younger generation of football fans while also improving VAR and refereeing.

In addition to the men’s competition, the organisation also announced plans to launch a corresponding women’s competition “as soon as practicable”.

Of course, all of this has been shelved now.

Super League Dirty Dozen


The Founding Members that came to be known as the “Dirty Dozen”

Twelve clubs were announced as the founding members of the competition.

The founding members were to be permanent participants in the competition, and to govern the organisation.

At the time of the announcement, 10 of the founding clubs were in the top 14 of the UEFA club coefficient rankings, with only Italian clubs Inter Milan (26th) and AC Milan (53rd) falling outside.

All 12 clubs were in the top 16 of the 2021 Forbes’ list of the most valuable football clubs. Their combined value was US$34.4 billion!

Original founding clubs

  • England Arsenal (withdrew on 20th April 2021)
  • England Chelsea (withdrew on 20th April 2021)
  • England Liverpool (withdrew on 20th April 2021)
  • England Manchester City (withdrew on 20th April 2021)
  • England Manchester United (withdrew on 20th April 2021)
  • England Tottenham Hotspur (withdrew on 20th April 2021)
  • Italy Inter Milan (withdrew on 21st April 2021)
  • Italy Juventus
  • Italy AC Milan (withdrew on 21st April 2021)
  • Spain Atlético Madrid (withdrew on 21st April 2021)
  • Spain Barcelona
  • Spain Real Madrid

Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) were not initial members of the Super League during the official announcement, but rumours have it that the Super League wanted them to be added to the League, even though all three publicly condemned the competition.

Apparently, Bayern and Dortmund were given 30 days, while PSG were given 14 days, to sign up for the Super League.

Chelsea were the first English club to signal their withdrawal after chairman Bruce Buck met with players.

Money – the Driving Force for the Club Owners

The competition was set to feature uncapped solidarity payments to its clubs, which could increase in line with league revenues.

The organisation stated that the solidarity payments would be higher than those of existing European competitions, expected to be “in excess of €10 billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the clubs”, and that founding clubs would receive €3.5 billion to support infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

American investment banking giant JPMorgan Chase was the major financial backer of the planned Super League, pledging $5 billion towards the competition.

According to leaked documents, the 15 founding clubs of the Super League would share 32.5 percent of commercial revenues.

With a further 32.5 percent being distributed between all 20 participating teams, including the five invited teams. 20 percent of the revenues would be allocated based on “merit” basis performance in the Super League.

Another 15 percent would be shared based on broadcast audience size. Clubs would also be allowed to retain all revenues from gate receipts and club sponsorship deals.


The men who were responsible.

Position Name Nationality Other positions
Chairman Florentino Pérez  Spain President of Real Madrid
Vice-chairman Andrea Agnelli  Italy Chairman of Juventus
Vice-chairman Joel Glazer  United States Co-chairman of Manchester United
Vice-chairman John W. Henry  United States Owner of Liverpool
Vice-chairman Stan Kroenke  United States Owner of Arsenal