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European Super League will pour €400m into grassroots football, says new chief

Rupert Neate and Peter Walker
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Spanish banker who created the controversial new European Super League has promised the new JP Morgan-backed competition will pump €400m (£350m) into the national leagues that the elite clubs plan to leave behind.

Anas Laghari, a partner at the Madrid bank Key Capital and the newly appointed general secretary of the Super League, said the new league would reignite younger people’s love of football and end the “madness” of big money transfers.

In his first public comments since announcing the creation of the new league on Sunday night, Laghari said the competition could begin as soon as September and promised that it would “make people dream” about the beautiful game again.

Laghari, a close friend of Real Madrid’s billionaire president and majority-owner Florentino Pérez, told the French newspaper Le Parisien that the new closed league was essential to make elite football profitable for owners.

“Football is a field that does not make money,” Laghari said. Adding that the coronavirus pandemic had “accelerated the problems and the urgency of finding a solution”.

It came as public pressure mounts on the US investment bank JP Morgan Chase over its role helping get the controversial league off the ground by providing €3.25bn (£2.8bn) of debt financing. The owners of the 12 founding clubs – including Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur – are due to each receive a “welcome bonus” of between €200m and €300m.

The bank, which recently signed up the former chancellor Sajid Javid and the former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, was left reeling at the volume of public anger directed at it for threatening the future of the game. It emerged on Tuesday that the financing deal was investigated and approved by the bank’s “public responsibility committee”.

Neither Javid nor Umunna sit on the committee. Both failed to respond to requests for comment about their opinions on the bank’s role in financing the new league, which has been criticised by Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and other world leaders.

Umunna leads the bank’s environmental and social responsibility governance work in Europe. Javid serves on the bank’s European advisory council. It is understood that the decision to fund the European Super League was taken at the bank’s Wall Street headquarters, not in London or Europe.

One senior Labour backbencher questioned Javid’s role with JP Morgan. Andrew Gwynne, the MP for Denton and Reddish, and a former shadow communities secretary, said: “The prime minister is talking a tough game on stopping the European Super League. But meanwhile, one of his senior MPs is advising the money men behind the whole tawdry affair. It’s a classic metaphor for this Conservative government, which seems to never be far away when sleaze is found.”

Javid’s role for JP Morgan is as a part-time adviser on general geo-political issues, with no involvement in specific projects by the bank. The former chancellor only learned about the plan for the league when it was announced in the media on Sunday, a source said.

Laghari denied accusations that the new league was an attempted power grab by the billionaire owners of Europe’s biggest clubs. He claimed that the new league would lead to better financial support grassroots football across the continent.

“We have a solidarity committee that will supervise the distribution of funds and guarantee transparency,” he said. “We are talking about €400m, which is huge.” Laghari said that payment compared with just €130m that Uefa currently distributes.

However, he said the new money would not be handed over until Uefa agreed to the plans. Uefa and Fifa have threatened to ban the breakaway clubs from international competitions. This could also cover players, meaning they could be prevented from representing their countries at the postponed Euro 2020 competition due to start this summer.

Laghari said there was “real frustration” among the billionaire owners of Europe’s biggest clubs over the unpredictability of the games’s current “unstable system” based on a club’s results in the Champions League. “A manager makes a three-year plan but he can have a difference of several hundred million euros depending on his results,” he added.

The Super League is designed as a “closed” competition similar to American sports leagues, without promotion and relegation so that the owners of founding teams can receive consistent revenue and profits. The new league is also expected to cap players’ wages as a percentage of overall revenue to prevent runaway salaries.

Pérez, the president of Real Madrid and the Super League’s chairman, said the new competition was the only option to “save football”, adding that “€5bn has been lost by the clubs; we’re on the edge of ruin”. “We don’t want the rich to be richer and the poor poorer. We have to save football. Everything I do is for the good of football, which is in a critical moment.”