Football: Uefa calls for talks on super league

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER UNITED and Arsenal executives have been asked to meet European football officials in the next few weeks to discuss whether or not they intend to join a breakaway super league.

Gerhard Aigner, the general secretary of European football's governing body, Uefa, said yesterday he plans to talk to all those clubs approached to form a super league and warn them not to rush into any decisions.

"We shall now meet the clubs face-to-face in order to listen to their points of view on the future of the European club competitions," Aigner said.

His comments came at the end of a week when it emerged that Media Partners, an international sports marketing and promotion group, is behind proposals for the league. United, Arsenal, Ajax and Real Madrid all admitted this week they have been involved in super league talks.

Media Partners has not made public its plans but it is understood to be proposing a 32-team, two-division European league, and a 50-plus team knock-out competition. Details are still being finalised - it is not clear yet, for example, whether the super league would play its matches on Wednesdays or Saturdays - but it is obvious that Media Partners is offering huge financial rewards for clubs that take part.

Estimates of what a side like United could earn - from a minimum pounds 20m per season to an astronomical pounds 500m over five years - vary widely, but, whichever figures are correct, they both dwarf the estimated pounds 7.5m United made from the Champions' League last season.

"Our route to the future is based on consultation and co-operation," said Aigner. "So there is no need for any club to be pushed into signing an agreement which it might regret."

It is believed that Uefa has its own plans for a super league ready to put to Europe's leading clubs at its executive meeting in Lisbon at the start of October. Uefa wants to maintain full control of all European football competitions, but there have been suggestions it might run reorganised tournaments in conjunction with corporate backers.

Media Partners - which yesterday said it had no links to the Italian media magnate, Silvio Berlusconi, thought to be influential in the plan - would not comment on whether it had already had talks with Uefa.