Super League soccer company gets new CEO to revive plan

October 19, 2022 GMT
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Barcelona's Sergi Roberto and Ansu Fati, right, fall to the ground in front of Real Madrid's Ferland Mendy during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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Barcelona's Sergi Roberto and Ansu Fati, right, fall to the ground in front of Real Madrid's Ferland Mendy during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

GENEVA (AP) — The Super League project that aims to revolutionize European soccer has hired a new top executive to steer a revived plan after a failed launch last year.

German former television boss Bernd Reichart is the new CEO of A22 Sports Management, the Madrid-based company said Wednesday. The company worked with 12 elite clubs from Spain, England and Italy to create a breakaway league in April 2021.

Reichart said a new league with no permanent membership could be up and running by the 2024-25 season.

“That might be the first reasonable and realistic call, but there are so many variables that I can’t actually foresee,” he told the PA news agency. “That is probably the first realistic call.”

Reichart’s hiring comes as A22 and Super League holdouts Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus await a European Court of Justice ruling in their challenge to the alleged monopoly control they say Champions League organizer UEFA has over international competitions.

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A revamped Super League plan — likely involving more clubs from more countries in a multi-tier competition with promotion and relegation — is expected regardless of the Luxembourg court’s final ruling next year.

The “Super League” brand that proved so toxic last year would likely also change, Reichart said Wednesday in an interview with reporters from German news agency DPA.

“The name Super League is not set,” Reichart said.

His role was described by A22 as “to initiate an active and extended dialogue with a comprehensive group of football stakeholders including clubs, players, coaches, fans, media and policy makers.”

“First, yes, there has been an important reassessment and the concept is spreading out about openness and taking the permanent membership off the table,” Reichart told PA. “I can say the three clubs have credibly reassessed and taken some learnings from the first approach. I believe there is no reason not to engage in an open dialogue but we shall see.”

Reichart worked in commercial rights in the sports industry with the Sportfive agency and was CEO of German commercial broadcaster RTL from 2019 through 2021.

The Super League was first planned as a 20-team breakaway with 15 founding members given protected places and guaranteed extra income. The top Champions League teams currently earn up to about 130 million euros ($127 million) per season in prize money from UEFA.

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The breakaway league launched despite failing to persuade German powers Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund to sign up, nor influential Paris Saint-Germain whose Qatari ownership has close ties to UEFA.

“I am looking forward to talks in every European territory and obviously in Germany too,” Reichart told DPA.

The original project collapsed within 48 hours amid a fierce backlash from UEFA, plus fans and lawmakers in England where clubs that were key to its success pulled out.

The Super League was perceived then as an elitist power and money grab that would deny or limit chances for teams in other countries to join, potentially in breach of European Union competition laws.

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“The clubs involved have taken the concept of a permanent membership off the table,” Reichart said.

Reichart earlier said in a statement he supported the presidents of Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.

“I believe they are asking the right questions and am personally keen to listen to many diverse voices so that the European football community can jointly find the right answers,” Reichart said of club leaders including Madrid’s Florentino Pérez and Andrea Agnelli at Juventus.

They became the public faces of trying to move away from the traditional pyramid structure of European soccer that can allow clubs from the grass roots to rise through domestic leagues to compete in the Champions League.

That so-called European sports model and UEFA’s authority have been protected by the European Union, which views soccer and its clubs as having a key role in their communities and wider society.

A22 has reached out to UEFA.

“We can confirm receipt of a letter from A22 addressed to the UEFA president,” a UEFA spokesperson said. “UEFA is always open to constructive dialogue and, therefore, will consider the request for a meeting in due course.”

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Madrid has flourished during the turmoil of the past 18 months, winning a record 13th European title and another Spanish league trophy last season.

However, Barcelona and Juventus have seen their financial and sporting success decline and both now risk failing next month to reach the knockout rounds of the Champions League. Both have reported record losses since the failed Super League launch, though they also blamed the COVID-19 pandemic.

The European court in Luxembourg set a Dec. 15 target to give a non-binding opinion on the Super League case that was heard by 15 judges over two days in July. The full ruling is due next year.

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AP Sports Writer James Ellingworth in Düsseldorf, Germany contributed to this report

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