The European Super League is back in the headlines.
It was initially launched 32 months ago but then dumped almost immediately by nine of its 12 founder members.
That followed widespread opposition, which in England went as far as then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Royal Family through Football Association president Prince William.
But the concept has been given fresh impetus. BBC Sport’s Simon Stone assesses a seismic day for European football and looks at what may come next.
What happened on Thursday?
A ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg stated world and European governing bodies Fifa and Uefa had “abused a dominant position” by threatening the Super League clubs and their players with sanctions and exclusion from major competitions.
It also said rules that demand prior approval for “interclub football projects” were “unlawful” and that their exclusive control in negotiating commercial rights for competitions was a restriction of trade.
The ECJ called Fifa and Uefa’s rules relating to the exploitation of media rights “harmful” to clubs, media companies, and fans.
Within hours, a new European Super League (ESL) proposal had been released.
It was major stuff, capturing attention in much the same way as the launch had done.
If anything, the reaction this time has been swifter and more extensive.
Should Uefa be worried?
There are a couple of elements to this. Firstly, when they digested the initial release, Uefa officials were shocked.
However, when they started to read the detail within the case, it did not quite chime with the damning words on the ECJ press release.
Within the case, it seemed as though Uefa’s status as Europe’s footballing powerhouse was being confirmed.
It also soon became apparent that some of the issues it has been accused of ignoring, specifically rules around authorization for launching new competitions, have been dealt with since the initial Super League launch – but it was the old details that were used by the ECJ in reaching its conclusions.
In short, Uefa felt it had nothing to beat itself up over. As Fifa president Gianni Infantino put it in his own statement: “Today’s judgment does not change anything, really.”
Except it had. The press release was music to the ears of A22 – the group backing the Super League project and standing with Real Madrid and Barcelona, its two remaining members given Juventus had signaled their intention to quit.
And, unlike the initial ‘launch’, which was limited to one late-night interview – in Spanish by Real president Florentino Perez – this time, A22, the management organization brought in to sponsor and assist in the creation of the Super League, was on the front foot.
What would a new European Super League look like?
A statement from A22 was issued half an hour after the ECJ press release was sent out. In it, chief executive Bernd Reichart declared: “The Uefa monopoly is over. Football is free.”
Just over an hour after that came A22’s revamped Super League proposals. Sixty-four men’s teams split across three divisions, 32 women’s teams split across two. No clubs were mentioned, but “guaranteed revenues” were promised, plus solidarity payments and a free state-of-the-art digital streaming platform.
Speaking to BBC Sport a couple of hours after that, Reichart was bullish about what had changed on the football landscape as far as A22 and its supporters were concerned.
“The ruling was pretty clear,” he said. “It talks about abuse of competition. There is little room for doubt. It is a clear ruling and a great day for football.”
At 13:00 GMT, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin fronted a news conference that also included European Club Association (ECA) chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who doubles as chairman of non-Super League Paris St-Germain. The pair are now established as the two most powerful football administrators in Europe.
Also on the Zoom call were representatives of leagues, players, and fans. The counter-offensive was about to begin.
“What they are proposing is even more closed than the 2021 plan that was rejected by everyone,” said Ceferin.
“We will not try to stop them. They can create whatever they want. I hope they start their fantastic competition as soon as possible, with two clubs. I hope they know what they are doing, but I am not so sure about that. Football is not for sale.”
Al-Khelaifi delivered a similar message.
“Who are A22?” he said. “Where have they come from? What is their history? What is their profile? We want to talk to serious people.
“There are two or three clubs, not with us today. We didn’t banish them. We have not threatened them. If they want to join us, they are welcome. ECA has never limited ambition. That is the truth.
“We want to represent all the clubs. We all have the same interests. We have an eco-system. Nobody can touch it.
“If they want to do their own competition, it is fine. But the best club competition in the world is the Champions League. The brand has existed for years and years. You hear the music. We as stakeholders are sticking together to protect football.”z z z z z z z z z z z z
What have Premier League clubs said?
Manchester United were the first English club to confirm their support for the status quo, stating: “Our position has not changed. We remain fully committed to participation in Uefa competitions, and to positive co-operation with Uefa, the Premier League, and fellow clubs through the ECA on the continued development of the European game.”
In the space of 15 minutes later in the day, Manchester City, Tottenham, and Chelsea all released similar messages, adding to the numerous statements issued across Europe. Arsenal and Liverpool added their names to the list of clubs standing against the ESL on Friday.
Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, clubs it had been felt would sign up to the initial Super League project if it was launched successfully, backed away from the new plan. Inter Milan, one of the initial 12, did the same.
Other than Real Madrid and Barcelona, the clubs whose idea Super League was in the first place and have remained wedded to the concept when everyone else distanced themselves, no-one stepped forward to say they were up for joining.
On the face of it, A22, Real, and Barca are not in a strong position.