Arsenal’s head of football Raul Sanllehi has revealed that Europe’s elite clubs got “the best possible outcome” from behind-closed-doors Super League negotiations, and that the Gunners remain resolutely committed to the Premier League.
Earlier this month, German magazine Der Spiegel claimed that 16 leading European clubs — including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United — had signed a document paving the way for the creation of a Super League in 2021.
According to the leaked draft of a ‘binding team sheet’ sent on 22 October 2018 by the firm Key Capital Partners to Real Madrid’s president, Florentino Perez, the 11 founding teams could not be relegated and would be part of the league for the first 20 years.
Sanllehi, who joined Arsenal in February 2018 from Barcelona, was named by Der Spiegel as having a key role in the covert negotiations surrounding a Super League. And while Sanllehi, who was employed by Barcelona at the time, admits a breakaway league was discussed, he says that the primary ambition of the clubs was to renegotiate and strengthen existing terms with Uefa.
“As part of the European Club Association, we had to look at all the options for the future. And one of them, of course, could have been the possibility of a European Super League,” Sanllehi said.
“We had a working team that participated. I was at Barcelona at the time and [former Arsenal Chief Executive] Ivan Gazidis was there too.
“At the end of the day the outcome was the best possible because we got into a new deal with Uefa, within the system that protects the domestic leagues.
“I think that it was a consensus solution for the football family. I think the [Champions League] became much more interesting because there are tougher teams now playing. The revenues have increased and the proof is the evolution in terms of broadcasting and sponsorship, which is exponential. This cycle has grown from the previous one. So I think the final outcome was the right one.”
Arsenal were one of 11 teams named in the draft of a ‘binding term sheet’ leaked to Der Spiegel, a 13-page document which proposes the creation of a European Super League to replace the Champions League in 2021. The project, the leaked document states, is subject to the utmost secrecy.
However, Sanllehi has claimed that “nobody at Arsenal saw the document”, while maintaining that there was “nothing secret” about the initial negotiations.
“The way it was explained may have seemed as though we were doing secret things, but there is nothing secret,” Sanllehi said.
“The document presented in that article has Arsenal’s name, it also has Barcelona’s. But there is no signature and I can assure you that at Arsenal and Barcelona we did not see the document.
“It is a draft. It was probably drafted in some proposal discussed with one of those clubs in that list. I did not know about it.
“It is a real document — I cannot deny that. But I can assure you that I did not see that document.”
When asked whether he believes a European Super League will eventually be created, Sanllehi replied: “Not in the short term because we have an arrangement with Uefa right now. But I do not know what the future will bring because the future writes itself.”
Managing director Vinai Venkatesham, meanwhile, made clear that Arsenal remain completely committed to the Premier League but stressed that it was essential for the club to play an active part in any negotiations surrounding a split from Uefa.
“Arsenal are not or never have been interested in playing in any competition that weakens the Premier League,” Venkatesham said.
“The Premier League is the world’s leading league in the leading sport, so we don't want to do anything to damage it.
“I see these articles that Arsenal want to breakaway, we never want to do any of that. But we also have to recognise we have to be in these conversations or we wouldn’t be responsible. We have to be in the conversations, it doesn't necessarily mean we support them.”
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