Football: Continental elite ponder the future

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The Independent Online
Some of the leading lights in European football met in London yesterday with the formation of a European super league thought to have come up for discussion.

Representatives of the continent's leading leagues had accepted an invitation from the Premier League to a private meeting just yards from the Football Association's Lancaster Gate headquarters.

Officials from the Italian, German, Spanish, French, Belgium, Portuguese and Dutch leagues were among those who accepted the Premier League chief executive Peter Leaver's invitation.

It is known that the leading leagues feel they have been isolated by what they perceive as the "dictatorial" policy-making procedures of Uefa, the European game's governing body, which have sidelined them from any real input.

Franco Carraro, who is in charge of Serie A, was at the meeting, and he is a keen advocate of a European league. "He [Carraro] has been on the record in the Italian press saying that he thinks the Super League would be a good idea. But that's matter for him," Mike Lee, the Premier League spokesman, said. "People have different issues they want to discuss, which are not on the agenda."

A European super league, which would probably run throughout the season, would almost certainly threaten Uefa's money-spinning Champions' League.

It would see England's top clubs - such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle and Arsenal - involved in a season-long contest against the likes of Juventus, Milan, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Paris St-Germain and Porto.

Significantly the clubs, and not Uefa, would own the highly lucrative broadcasting rights to the new league.

Uefa admitted it was aware of the meeting but it refused to comment further until it knew the details of what was discussed.

Lee denied that the purpose of the meeting was to form a super league - the two main items for discussion were fixture lists and the Bosman ruling.

"The premier leagues in Europe have come together for the first time to compare notes," he said. "The idea that a super league is being formed is nonsense. We want to look at the world after Bosman and the pressures of heavy fixture lists and to see if a dialogue between the top leagues will be useful and worthwhile. This is not a meeting where we will be making big decisions - it's more of a get-together."

Whether or not the issue of a super league was brought up during the meeting the official line from Leaver made no mention of the topic.

The Premier League chief executive said: "We have had a very useful and constructive meeting today. The discussion covered the movement of players, fixtures and agents. We have agreed to meet again and continue to exchange useful information."

While there are a few doubts that there is a degree of contention between the leading European leagues and Uefa Leaver added, diplomatically: "Our discussions are not a challenge to or in competition with Uefa - our aim is to ensure a better exchange and dialogue between the top professional leagues in Europe."