Der Spiegel has dropped a bombshell investigation into the world of football and the future of the sport. Europe’s biggest clubs fronted by Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester United have been working behind the scenes to move toward a Super League launching as early as 2021, according to the report that was released in coordination with fourteen other major European news organizations.
In 2016, while Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was head of the ECA, he was also secretly working with Bayern’s peers among the game’s elite to devise plans to found a European Super League. Rummenigge kept the smaller clubs in the dark about the creation of the Super League, while at the same time using the threat of it — which he was helping to create — to force UEFA to pass a reform that skewed the competition further in favor of the top clubs.
The revelations about Bayern’s exploration of the idea of joining the Super League are stunning and will undoubtedly draw the ire of many supporters of the club. The head of Bayern’s legal department, Michael Gerlinger, actively explored whether Bayern Munich could withdraw from the Bundesliga and even whether the team would continue to have to allow its players to play for the German national team.
One particular sticking point for Bayern concerned the contracts of its players: in Germany, players’ contracts bind them exclusively to the Bundesliga. If Bayern actually left the league, in theory, the players’ contracts would be void, and they could join a new team on a free transfer. Despite that potential threat, though, Bayern continued to explore the feasibility of the Super League.
Clubs like Bayern are reportedly interested in founding a Super League so as to escape the monotony of successive league championships and, moreover, to ensure that they maintain the extremely high profit margins that broadcasting rights and other forms of commercialization have brought the top clubs in recent years.
Gerlinger accordingly explored the creation of a Swiss company for the Super League much in the same way that FIFA and UEFA themselves are based in Switzerland, but the plan ran into legal obstacles, and UEFA ultimately yielded to the demands for reforming the Champions League, thereby defusing the immediate threat of a breakaway league.
The reform of the Champions League, which guaranteed that clubs, like Bayern, that had recently performed well in the past ten years would receive a much higher percentage of the pool money, led Rummenigge to back off from threats of breaking away from UEFA.
Gerlinger has stated that Bayern explored the option of leaving the Bundesliga because the team “had to be prepared for all eventualities.” He claims it was not seriously considered and now is “completely off the table.” And Rummenigge himself, who was uncomfortable with founding a private company, advised reaching an agreement with UEFA, as eventually happened.
But apparently, the idea of a Super League remains alive. According to Spiegel’s report, and despite Gerlinger’s protestations that it is “as far away as ever,” Football Leaks obtained a 13-page draft of a “binding term sheet,” emailed to Real Madrid by the investing company Key Capital Partners, that outlines the terms for creating a Super League that would indeed include Bayern Munich as a “founder” alongside ten other major clubs.
The following clubs would join the initial Super League as “Founders” and could not be relegated.
- Real Madrid
- Manchester United
- Bayern Munich
- Manchester City
- AC Milan
The following clubs would join the initial Super League but could be relegated into a future second tier:
- Atletico Madrid
- Borussia Dortmund
- Inter Milan
Spiegel has more information on the link here (in German).