- Breaching charter would prompt disqualification under Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test
- Updated rulebook for club owners came into effect this season
A new charter for Premier League owners, which includes a commitment for clubs to listen to their fans, has come into effect this season, seemingly scuppering any chances of English top-flight teams joining a revived European Super League (ESL).
The details of the owners’ charter was not formally announced after it was agreed during the 20 clubs’ summer meeting, but it features in the league’s 2022/23 handbook.
The charter includes ten commitments that owners and directors ‘will upload the spirit of’. Among them are a commitment to listening to fan views and protecting their club’s heritage.
There is also a declaration of loyalty to the English soccer pyramid and a commitment to only qualify for other competitions ‘by current sporting merit’.
A further point also asks that owners do not ‘engage in the creation of new competition formats’ outside of the Premier League’s rules, which would effectively outlaw involvement in the ESL.
The 12-team breakaway ESL was unveiled in April 2021, featuring six Premier League clubs, but collapsed following backlash from supporters.
While the English sides swiftly withdrew, Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Italian heavyweights Juventus, have refused to abandon the project. Earlier this month, Real’s president Florentino Perez reiterated his support for the ESL, believing soccer is “sick” and that the new league will help restore its health.
Last week also saw Bernd Reichart, chief executive of A22 Sports Management, the company behind the ESL, state that the league could start as early as the 2024/25 campaign.
Reichart added that discussions with soccer stakeholders across Europe could continue without input from England’s ‘big six’ – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – but was hopeful they would engage.
“I am aware of what the English clubs stated a year and a half ago but I hope the whole football community is appreciating the approach to continue to care and try to come up with solutions,” said Reichart.
“Initially the dialogue can work without them [English clubs]. I will talk to clubs in other countries but this is not an exclusive initiative at all, it is an inclusive initiative.”
The charter is another barrier to the ESL’s revival. Those who breach it face disqualification under the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test, though it is unclear who determines whether they are listening to fans or not.
It would be easy to say ‘that is that’ with regards to English clubs’ involvement. Yet, the ESL retains a lingering presence due to Real, Barca and Juve’s refusal to abandon the project.
There is also the impending European Court of Justice (ECJ) date. In its legal filing, A22 is arguing that Uefa and Fifa abused a dominant position under European competition law in first blocking the league’s formation and then in their effects to sanction the clubs involved. A resolution is expected by the first quarter of 2023.
The charter, in theory, makes it harder for Premier League club owners to return to the ESL. But, where there is a will, there is often a way. Even so, given the scathing response from supporters in England last time, things will have to change significantly on the fan front before teams can even entertain the thought of redeclaring their interest.