(CBS News) – A group of 12 elite English, Spanish and Italian clubs have split European soccer by announcing the formation of a largely-closed Super League. The clubs are leaving the existing UEFA-run Champions League structure, despite warnings they could be kicked out of their domestic competitions and face legal action.
The move to shake up the world’s biggest sport is partly engineered by the American owners of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, who also run U.S. franchises in closed leagues.
The move came after the rebel clubs reneged on a promise on Friday to back the plan by UEFA — European football’s governing body — to expand the Champions League beginning in 2024. The deal was designed to appease the clubs’ wish for more games, seemingly because they couldn’t control the sale of rights to the existing competition.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would be the founding chairman of the SL, which said it “intended to commence as soon as practicable” as a 20-team competition playing in midweek like the current Champions League and Europa League.
“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” Perez said in a statement. “Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”
No evidence was presented that supporters want a Super League. Fan groups across Europe last week criticized even the current Champions League expansion plan as a “power grab.”