Sources: 15 clubs in $6bn Super League talks

Fifteen of Europe’s biggest clubs are in talks to launch a European Super League, planned to start in time for the 2023-24 season, with a $6 billion (£4.3 bn) fund backing the project, sources have told ESPN.

If the initiative is successful, it would threaten the existence of the Champions League — football’s biggest club competition — with UEFA due to announce on Monday a new 36-team format for the tournament designed to stave off attempts by the game’s top clubs to break away.

Stream LIVE games and replays on ESPN+ (U.S. only)

As reported by The Times, English top-flight clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are among 11 European teams to have signed up to the Super League plan.

But ESPN has been told by a person familiar with the blueprint that the proposed framework involves a total of 20 teams, with 15 permanent members who cannot be relegated.

A further five teams will be rotated in and out of the competition, based on performance, but the permanent members will include six Premier League clubs, three from La Liga, three from Italy’s Serie A, two from the Bundesliga and one from France’s Ligue 1.

Sources have told ESPN that the New York-based investment bank, JP Morgan, will underwrite the project with $6bn distributed as loans to the teams.

Under pressure from the European Club Association (ECA), UEFA has drawn up plans to re-shape the Champions League format, with the new-look competition due to be unveiled on Monday, ahead of UEFA’s Executive Committee summit in Switzerland this week.

Planned to come into force in 2024, the re-modelled Champions League would involve 36 teams playing 10 group games rather than six. The biggest clubs would also receive an increased share of prize money.

Sources have said that UEFA plan to press ahead with their announcement on Monday, with ESPN being told that any breakaway league remains a distant prospect, with national associations, UEFA and FIFA all needing to sanction the proposal.

Meanwhile, Serie A called an emergency board meeting on Sunday to discuss a newspaper report saying broadcaster DAZN is involved in new plans for the breakaway league, a source told Reuters.

The meeting was called by league president Paolo Dal Pino and Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport reported that DAZN, which is owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, has been working on the formation of the league for some time.

The report claims the meeting is being attended remotely, with the three Serie A clubs who could potentially be part of the new project — Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan.

It caps a tumultuous week for Serie A after seven clubs submitted a written request for Dal Pino to resign over issues including his management of plans to sell a stake in the league’s media business.

The plans are also likely to meet opposition from supporters — presently unable to react to the discussions inside stadiums due to COVID-19 safety protocols — with ESPN reporting last week that fans’ groups have already registered their anger at UEFA’s changes to the Champions League.

Information from Reuters was also included in this report.