Following documents collected by Der Spiegel, plans for top European clubs to form a breakaway league of their own starting from 2021 have been exposed – with the reality of an elite European 'Super League' becoming more possible.
Reports of such a league forming have been circulating for years but the chances of one actually being created took a step closer to being realised when the German publication released leaked plans for it on November 2.
But what is the European Super League, what teams will be involved, and how will it affect the Champions League? Goal has the full guide.
What is the European Super League?
Based on a report by German publication Der Spiegel, documents published obtained by the paper from Football Leaks – a football whistleblowing website – indicated that a new league independent of UEFA would consist of a 16-team competition with a group stage and knockout round to begin in 2021.
The breakaway league would consist of 11 core founding members and five additional guest teams, with the founder clubs immune to relegation and guaranteed spots in the league for 20 years.
Any such league would potentially doom the Champions League as well as affect the order of their respective domestic leagues.
Who are in the European Super League?
According to the report in Der Spiegel, the term sheet in the leaked email awaited signatures dating 2018 from the 11 'founders' – Spain's Barcelona and Real Madrid; England's Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United; Italy's Juventus and AC Milan; France's Paris Saint-Germain and Germany's Bayern Munich.
The plans outlined in the documents showcased intentions for the clubs to register a company to organise the 'European Super League' of which they would be permanent members for 20 years, ineligible for relegation.
The report also mentions a second league of teams that could play the guest teams in order to win promotion to the Super League.
Will the European Super League really be introduced?
Rumours of a potential new breakaway league reserved only for Europe's most elite clubs have swirled for years, and escalated in 2016 when officials from English clubs met in London with American businessman Charlie Stillitano – the founder of the International Champions' Cup summer tournament.
The Football Leaks documents referenced the meeting in 2016, however nothing substantial ever came from the talks – though the emails show that the idea of a European Super League have been far from axed.
Bayern Munich and chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, however, have recently denied an attempt to lead some of Europe's biggest clubs into a breakaway 'Super League'.
It has also alleged by Der Spiegel that Rummenigge used his position as chairman of the European Club Association (ECA) to secure reform with UEFA that granted greater financial benefits to the richest clubs.
Bayern and Rummenigge, however, have vehemently refuted involvement of any breakaway plan.
Rummenigge said in a Bayern statement: "I absolutely and clearly reject this. The vote in favour of the reform agreed between UEFA and the ECA was unanimous.
"FC Bayern Munich stands by its membership of the Bundesliga and, as long as I am chairman of the board of FC Bayern, also by the club competitions organised jointly by UEFA and the ECA."
A statement from the club read: "FC Bayern is also unaware of recent plans for a so-called Super League, also reported by Der Spiegel, nor has FC Bayern taken part in negotiations relating to such plans. FC Bayern is also unaware of why it is listed in a document quoted in this context by Der Spiegel."
What is the lure of the European Super League?
Participants of the Super League could be granted much more significant financial rewards if they were allowed to play with the most superior clubs in the world on a more regular basis – more so than the Champions League.
Through breaking off of their national competitions and forming a league where only the most elite players were to partake, the Super League would compete with the NFL and NBA and benefit from huge television rights deals.
Football still has a greater appeal worldwide, however, as the Champions League is the most-watched sporting event in the world each year – more so than the Super Bowl.
What will happen to the Champions League?
The plan outlined in the documents leaked by Der Spiegel allegedly make no reference of UEFA, the governing body of football in Europe, which organises the Champions League.
The documents obtained by Der Spiegel, however, claim that this would allow the new league to avoid running afoul of European law by not ending the competition entirely.
It is likely, though, that a Super League would replace the Champions League entirely, though it is not clear how it would affect the participating clubs' domestic and national leagues.