What is European Super League? Criticised football competition explained - and the Premier League teams involved

Europe’s football elite from England, Spain and Italy signed up as the 12 founding member clubs of the ESL competition set up to rival the UEFA Champions League

Six English football clubs were among 12 teams across the continent who had initially agreed to join a European Super League which would have rivaled the Champions League.

A breakaway European football competition has long been speculated but only on the evening of 18 April did an official announcement materialise - rocking the game’s roots.

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The proposals were thrown into disarray within 48 hours, however, with all six Premier League clubs withdrawing from the widely criticised ESL amid a public backlash.

Two of world football's biggest stars - Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi - could be set to feature in a new European Super League competition proposed by 12 founding clubs from across the continent. (Pic: Getty Images)

What is the European Super League?

A three-page statement from the European Super League (ESL) proposed a new midweek competition governed by its founding clubs.

The ESL was seen as an alternative and separate competition to the current UEFA-ran Champions League and Europa League tournaments.

The statement read: “The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model.

The European Super League in numbers. (Graphic: Mark Hall / NationalWorld)

“Further, for a number of years, the Founding Clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.”

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Teams intended to still compete in national domestic competitions, which it said “remains at the heart of the club game”, and there were plans for the launch of a women’s league.

Who were the teams involved in the European Super League?

The big six English clubs which joined the ESL as founding members were Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

They were joined by six other clubs from Spain - Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, and Real Madrid - and Italy - AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus - in becoming founding members.

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Three more clubs, yet to be officially named, were expected to join, with the ESL looking to attract a further five clubs to form a 20-team league each season.

Clubs from Germany - notably Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund - and France - notably Paris Saint-Germain - have not been named under the initial plan.

When will the European Super League start?

There is no start date confirmed as yet for the inaugural season of the ESL, with the statement outlining its intention to “commence as soon as practicable”.

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It goes on to say that the tournament will follow the traditional football season across the most part of Europe, with August signalling the start of the ESL campaign.

Yet the withdrawal of clubs has thrown the controversial plans into disarray, for the time being.

What was the European Super League format?

The 12 founding clubs and three yet to be named clubs were to be involved each year, with an additional five clubs to qualify annually based on successes.

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The 20 teams would have been split into two groups of 10, with home and away fixtures, before a knockout phase begins similar to the current Champions League format.

The top three teams from each group would qualify automatically for the quarter final stage, with teams finishing fourth and fifth to compete in a two-legged play-off to advance.

A two-legged knockout format would have been used for the quarter finals, semi finals before a single match final at the end of May to be held at a neutral venue.

Why did the clubs form the European Super League?

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The clubs said the Covid pandemic had “accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model” - forcing their hand to breakaway from UEFA.

The announcement came just 24 hours before discussions were meant to take place over Champions League reforms in an attempt to appease the bigger clubs.

But it appears the clubs have not been satisfied with attempts to expand the Champions League to 36 teams, increasing the number of matches and subsequent revenue.

The clubs stand to benefit financially.

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The ESL stated: “Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.”

The founding clubs have signalled their intention to speak with UEFA and FIFA to “work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole”.