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12 Of Europe's Top Soccer Teams Create New 'Super League'


Some big soccer teams, including Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid, are planning to break away from their existing league to form what they are calling a, quote, "super league." This is like if the Patriots, the Bears and the Cowboys decided they were going to form a league where they only play each other. Grant Wahl is a reporter with Sports Illustrated. He's here to explain. Good morning, Grant.

GRANT WAHL: Good morning.

KING: OK. So every European country has its own domestic league - France, Italy, etc. There is a yearly European tournament called the Champions League where clubs from different countries play. These teams are now saying, no, we're not going to play in Champions. We're going to do our own thing. Why?

WAHL: Well, there's much less risk, basically no risk by starting this breakaway league. In Europe, you have to qualify every year for the Champions League. Every team does by finishing, usually, in the top four of your domestic league the previous season. That and only that gets you into Champions League. But this breakaway group - 12 of the biggest clubs in Europe are going to form their own super league in which they don't ever have to qualify for it. They know they will be in it every single year. And they will get all the revenues, which are just fantastically large, that come with that.

KING: OK. Let's pick apart what you said there. So it is not about qualifying for the Champions League. These are really good teams anyway. They would qualify, most likely. You mentioned revenue. It sounds like this is about money and who is making the money. Explain that.

WAHL: Yeah. I mean, I would say this, that qualifying is still a challenge for some teams, like...


WAHL: ...Some teams in this group. Like, Arsenal is not going to make Champions League for next year. Tottenham Hotspur is not going to. Juventus is probably not going to. So it really does take away a sense of risk that these clubs obviously want. Now, the - from a money perspective, the money for this - we still don't know exactly where the money source is coming from.

KING: Huh.

WAHL: But we do know that JPMorgan's involved in potential managing of that. And there's a lot more questions that still need to be answered. But the bottom line is that these clubs feel like they can make a heck of a lot more money in this super league and make it every single year and know they will and that that is much more than they currently are making in the Champions League situation, which is run by an organization called UEFA, which is a governing body for European soccer.

KING: There has been a huge amount of backlash in Europe. The existing leagues are upset about it. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the U.K. is upset about it. France's president is upset about it. Why are there such strong feelings?

WAHL: Well, this is not how European sports have ever been run. You know, it's very different in Europe from the United States. The NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, they're what are called closed shops, you know? There's no promotion and relegation based on how they perform on the sporting field. And in Europe, that's part and parcel of how sports have always been organized, that everyone has a chance in the pyramid to go up and down and succeed based on how well you play on the field. But this is a closed shop, this proposal for a super league.

KING: OK. Grant Wahl, a reporter with Sports Illustrated who covers soccer - thanks, Grant. We appreciate it.

WAHL: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF STAGE KIDS' "WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.