Super League rebels’ talks head for penalties


Six English clubs which sparked uproar by secretly agreeing to play in a European Super League (ESL) are braced for showdown talks with the Premier League next week over a punishment that could include forfeiting part of next season’s broadcast income.

Sky News has learnt that the clubs and English football’s top flight will hold talks in the coming days about fines totalling tens of millions of pounds.

A source at one of the clubs said they understood that the Premier League was debating penalties ranging from a single one-off fine to a smaller immediate fine combined with a share of next season’s broadcast income.

An initial proposal from the Premier League made earlier this month is said to have comprised a £15m fine per club and a substantial – albeit suspended – points deduction, the club insider said.

It was unclear this weekend whether any such points penalty could be part of an eventual settlement, although the clubs are expected to vigorously oppose any such attempt.

The club source added that negotiations were ongoing and were subject to “meaningful change” before an agreement was reached.

Further talks are expected next week ahead of the Champions League Final in Portugal between Chelsea and Manchester City – two of the rebel clubs which rapidly abandoned the ESL amid a huge backlash from rivals, fans and politicians.

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Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur made up the English contingent, with three clubs from Italy and Spain also withdrawing from the project.

One idea that is expected to be discussed next week would involve an immediate £1m fine and 5% share of next season’s Premier League income – the same model agreed by European football’s governing body with the rebel clubs.

If the fines are agreed according to that blueprint, they could equate to between £6m and £7.5m per club based on this season’s expected broadcast income at Manchester City, the Premier League champions.

In total, the pool of Premier League fines could exceed £40m, although the final tally will depend on the structure and scale of the eventual settlement, which could still be some weeks away.

That figure would increase if it also included a share of the additional broadcast fees awarded to clubs this season because all games have been shown live, and still further if the financial penalty included a share of the league’s central sponsorship income.

The Premier League announced earlier this month that it had reached agreement with broadcast partners including Sky, the immediate parent of Sky News, to renew its existing £4.7bn television rights deal for a further three years.

Ministers have approved the move in principle because of the pandemic’s impact on clubs’ finances.

The Premier League-imposed fines are likely to be larger in aggregate for the English clubs than those levied by UEFA earlier this month.

European football’s governing body announced a package of “reintegration measures” for the nine clubs which agreed to pull out of the ESL during a torrid 48-hour period at the end of April.

Including AC Milan, Internazionale and Atletico Madrid, they agreed to pay a collective €15m (£12.9m) to be invested in children’s, youth and grassroots football, with 5% of their revenues from UEFA club competitions being withheld for one season.

They also agreed to far larger future fines – totalling €150m – if they breached commitments in UEFA’s Club Commitments Declaration or signed up to any similar breakaway format.

Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid have refused to abandon the ESL, raising the prospect of their exclusion from next season’s Champions’ League.

Arsenal and Manchester United will have received relatively modest European income this season as the Gunners failed to qualify for the Champions’ League, while United qualified but did not make it to the knockout stage and had to join Arsenal in the Europa League.

UEFA has yet to say which season the 5% revenue penalty will apply to.

In an attempt to prevent future breakaway bids, the Premier League has announced the creation of an ‘Owners’ Charter’, which it said had the Football Association’s backing.

It added recently that the six clubs’ participation in the ESL “had challenged the foundations and resolve of English football”.

The government is likely to welcome the move to punish the six, although it is unclear whether the financial penalties imposed on them will simply be redistributed among the other 14 top-flight clubs.

Confirmation of the ESL’s existence, which came six months after Sky News revealed key details of the project, sparked unprecedented protests against the owners of many of the participating English clubs.

Arsenal has since received an unsolicited takeover bid from the Spotify billionaire Daniel Ek, while Manchester United’s largest shareholders, the Glazer family, are facing increasingly vocal demands to relinquish control.

Executives from the six clubs have been removed from several Premier League sub-committees – a move that could be reversed if they agree a financial settlement.

A fan-led review of football governance has been commissioned by the government under the leadership of Tracey Crouch, the former sports minister.

Its panellists will include the chief executives of Everton FC and the Football Supporters Association.

The Premier League refused to comment on Saturday.

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