October 20, 2020

Manchester United and Liverpool FC are among more than a dozen European soccer teams that are in discussions to join a new FIFA-backed competition, Sky News reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

A financing package worth $6 billion is being prepared to assist in the making of the new league, the report said. JPMorgan Chase & Co. is in talks to provide that debt financing, Sky said, citing an unidentified soccer executive familiar with the matter.

Teams from France, England, Germany, Italy and Spain are involved in the talks, which include discussions about a provisional start as soon as 2022, according to the publication. Milan-listed Juventus Football Club SpA is among the clubs likely to have been approached. The new tournament would include as many as 18 teams, involve games played during the regular European season and expected prize money worth several hundreds of millions of pounds for the winners.

While a formal announcement may happen as soon as at the end of this month, details including the list of participating clubs have yet to be finalized and the plans could still fall apart, Sky said.

Any new tournament would compete with the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s top club soccer competition.

The Champions League has been among the most-watched sporting events on TV worldwide, with the 2014 final drawing an estimated 380 million viewers -- more than three times the Super Bowl’s audience the following year. The tournament is sponsored by brands including Gazprom, Sony and Adidas and means big money for clubs: UEFA awarded more than 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) to clubs during this year’s competition that ended in August, including for the UEFA Super Cup.

Talks of a European super league involving the region’s biggest clubs have repeatedly popped up in recent years, but have usually been met with opposition from politicians, fan groups and national soccer bodies, which are concerned that their domestic leagues would suffer as a result.

“The authors of that idea - if they really exist, because there is nobody actually defending it - not only show a total ignorance of the organization and customs of European and world football, but also a serious ignorance of the audiovisual rights markets,” said Spain’s La Liga President Javier Tebas. “A project of this type will mean serious economic damage to the organizers themselves and to those entities that finance it, if they exist, because they´re never official.”

FIFA said through a spokesman that it “does not wish to comment and participate in any speculation about topics which come up every now and then and, for which, institutional structures and regulatory frameworks are well in place at national, European and global level.”

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