By Robson Sharuko
As the European Super League imploded last night amid a furious backlash, it’s easy to forget a similar project was proposed by FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, for African football last year.
And, that proposal by the most powerful man in world football, somehow, just passed away without provoking any reaction.
Yesterday, Infantino set the tone, for global football’s fierce rejection of the proposed European Super League, culminating in some Chelsea fans converging outside Stamford Bridge, to protest against the Blues’ involvement.
On a dramatic night, both Chelsea and Manchester City, who were part of the founding members, announced they would be leaving the proposed project.
Manchester United executive chairman, Ed Woodward, announced he would be leaving his post, at the end of the season. Some reports also suggested Juventus chairman, Andrea Agnelli, would also quit the Italian giants.
According to reports, each of the founding clubs, of which a dozen had chosen to have their names made public, were set to share a golden pot of US$4.2 billion, without even kicking a ball.
“But, although this has been labelled an “infrastructure grant” and a “welcome bonus” it is in fact a loan against future media rights revenues that will need to be repaid,’’ reported CityAM.
“JP Morgan Chase is underwriting the finance, which will reportedly cost €264m (about US$317,6m) a year to pay down over 23 years at 2-3 per cent interest.
“European Super League organisers are reported to be seeking €4bn (about US$4.8bn) a year for its media rights. Industry analysts believe Amazon and Disney to be the most likely buyers. DAZN has denied reports it is already on board.’’
On another dramatic day for global football, it emerged that:
Infantino “strongly disapproves” of the breakaway ESL and said the 12 clubs, which put their signatures to the project, will have to “live with the consequences” of their decision to join.
According to the most powerful man in world football, “there is a lot to throw away for maybe a short-term financial gain for some,” when it comes to the proposed ESL.
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and said his government would take “whatever action necessary,’’ including legislative options, to ensure the ESL would not be played, under the current proposals.
The other 14 English Premiership clubs, who were not involved in the project, met yesterday and said they “unanimously and vigorously” rejected plans for the new competition.
UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin, called on the English clubs involved, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, to “come to your senses.”
Stung by the protests from their fans, and the severe backlash from many quarters, Chelsea announced they were now preparing documents to be given the permission to leave the ESL as quickly as possible.
Manchester City, whose team manager, Pep Guardiola, and influential midfielder, Kevin De Bruyne, criticised the proposed project, also followed suit and quit the ESL.
Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, remained defiant and said the new league was needed to “save football,’’ and those behind the project were “doing this to save football, which is in a critical moment.’’
Former England captain, David Beckham, said “as a player and now as an owner I know that our sport is nothing without the fans, we need football to be for everyone, we need football to be fair.’’
Manchester United executive chairman, Woodward, one of the key drivers of the project, and one of the most powerful men in world football, announced he would step down from his post, at the end of the current season.
FIFA and UEFA should not prevent clubs from taking part in the European Super League, a Spanish court ruled in a preliminary verdict released yesterday, and none of the players should be banned.
The proposed tournament, which had received the blessing of Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Juventus was set to feature some midweek matches, between the giants of the game, in an American-style model.
However, Infantino said the proposed project would not have the blessing of FIFA.
“It is our task to protect the European sport model. If some elect to go their own way, they must live with the consequences of their choices,” said Infantino.
“They are responsible for their choice completely. This means you are either in or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out.”
But amid the backlash and fury, which has greeted ESL, seasoned observers of African football must be wondering how, a virtual carbon copy of a similar project was announced by Infantino for the game on the continent without even causing a ripple.
In fact, the proposed project for Africa had the same name as the one for European football.
In February last year, Infantino proposed the creation of an African Super League, which would feature the biggest clubs on the continent, which the FIFA boss said would generate an estimated US$200m in revenue.
The proposal came after Infantino met with the International Sports Press Association, in Budapest, where he said the world football governing body were ready to help change the outlook of African football.
“I want to create a real pan-African league that would feature 20-24 clubs with a maximum of maybe two clubs per country that would still play in their national leagues but that would play during the year so we can really crown the club champions of Africa,” Infantino said.
The permanent clubs of that league would be asked to provide an investment of US$20 million annually, over five years, and would also have to meet other participation criteria, such as investment in youth and women’s football.
“We have had some serious problems in Africa and it has to change. It has to change the way of how to do business, it has to take on board the basic elements of good governance.”
“There needs to be proper competition infrastructure. I think it is fair to say that competitions in Africa are 30-to-40 times less successful than in Europe.” There have been concerns that the money set aside for the CAF Champions League, where the winners get US$2.5 million, is insignificant, when compared to the costs of participating in the tournament.
The runners-up receive US$1.5 million with the semi-finalists getting US$875 000 and the quarter-finalists getting US$650 000.
New CAF present presented a “10-point Action Plan for Building African Football to be the Best in The World” as he battled for the right to lead the game.
According to a report released recently, the 10 richest clubs in Africa, who would automatically qualify for the African Super League are MC Alger (US$10 million); Esperance (US$11 million); TP Mazembe (US$11 million); Wydad Casablanca (US$12 million); Orlando Pirates (US$15 million); Zamalek (US$18 million); Club Africain (US$22 million) Pyramids (US$22 million); Kaizer Chiefs (US$23 million) and Al Ahly (US$28 million). The Herald