Tebas: Pérez behind Bartomeu announcement on Super League
MADRID (AP) — The head of the Spanish soccer league accused Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez on Wednesday of being behind the surprising announcement that Barcelona is pushing forward with the idea of a European Super League.
Javier Tebas told The Associated Press it was Pérez who prodded outgoing Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu to talk about the proposed new league in an effort to give it more credibility.
“Bartomeu was directed by Florentino, that is what I believe,” Tebas said in a telephone interview. “This (league) has been a dream by the Real Madrid president. ... He has worked for this for a long time, this is nothing new. But it is a big mistake because he doesn’t understand its financial consequences.”
Tebas has been one of the more outspoken critics of the much talked-about Europe-wide competition for only elite teams, saying a Super League would be disastrous because it would hurt the local leagues and the majority of European clubs.
The league president said Bartomeu, who resigned along with his board of directors on Tuesday in the fallout from his feud with Lionel Messi, has been following the ideas of Real Madrid in recent years.
“Barcelona used to have its own voice when dealing with the league, with UEFA and with FIFA,” Tebas said. “But for the last three years it only repeats what Real Madrid says.”
He said Bartomeu served as a “spokesperson” for Pérez, whom he calls the mastermind of the Super League idea.
Tebas did not elaborate on how or why he said Barcelona and Bartomeu were echoing Madrid’s ideas, only saying that maybe they have been showing too much respect for their rivals.
Tebas said Bartomeu has “zero” authority in the soccer industry and that the Super League announcement on his last day on the job was just the latest of his recent mistakes.
Neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona responded to requests for comment following Tebas’ charge.
Tebas said Barcelona’s intention to participate in a Super League would do little to help the new competition get started, adding the will of a few clubs wouldn’t outweigh the rest of the soccer industry.
“In the medium term this tournament would be a failure,” the Spanish league president said. “Professional soccer is not only about the decision of four, five or six clubs who want to play in a competition to win more money.”
Rumors of a Super League often materialize ahead of UEFA talks to consider changes to the Champions League format, which are expected for the 2024-25 season.
FIFA said it was “not aware of any agreement” related to the Super League.
“The topic of a so-called ‘European Super League’ comes up every now and then and FIFA has no wish to comment further on this since there are already well established football institutional structures to deal with it,” the governing body said in a statement.
But Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager who is now FIFA’s head of global football development, has been more direct in criticizing any new Super League because of the effect it would have on domestic competitions. Wenger believes European clubs are trying to negate the financial advantage of the English Premier League.
“The other leagues tried to destroy the advantage the Premier League has,” Wenger told the AP before Bartomeu’s announcement. “For them, the best thing to attain that is to create a European league. So that means to destroy the Premier League, basically. So if they get the agreement from the English big clubs, it will happen.”
The president of the Portuguese soccer federation, who is a UEFA vice president, said the new league “violates all principles of sporting merit.”
“The world is currently experiencing its greatest challenge, at least for the last century, and the last thing it needs is the exacerbation of selfishness and greed,” Fernando Gomes said in a statement. “The Super League will have no possible path of support in Portugal, and in my opinion all governing bodies should refuse it in a very clear way.”
Rainer Koch, a German member of the UEFA executive committee, said a Super League with 18-20 clubs without promotion and relegation rules “would rip into the heart of European football and must therefore be strictly rejected.”
“It would massively jeopardize the balance of interests between national associations, leagues and clubs in all 55 UEFA member associations,” he said.
Tebas said that the Super League plan remains “very clandestine” and noted that that there was no real public support from other clubs after Bartomeu’s announcement.
“If they were so sure of it, they would be more transparent about it,” Tebas said. “They know that it is an impossible project. The clubs need the national leagues and they need the Champions League in this current configuration.”
AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris in London contributed to this report.
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