The heavily-criticised European Super League (ESL) will begin "as soon as practicable" after it was backed by 12 founding clubs.
AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham have all put their names to the plans that threaten to rip apart football as we know it.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez will be the first chairman of the league, supported by two vice-chairmen: Andrea Agnelli (Juventus) and Joel Glazer (Manchester United).
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"We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world. Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires," said Perez.
The founding clubs will be handed 3.5 billion euros (£3.03 billion) "to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the Covid pandemic", read an ESL statement.
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The competition is slated to take place in midweek, effectively gazumping the Champions League, although if UEFA and their allies keep their word it means all 12 will be booted out of their domestic leagues too.
"Every club and player participating in the Super League could be banned from all UEFA and FIFA competitions, European or international level," claimed UEFA.
FIFA later released their own statement: "Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures."
The Premier League were among those to condemn the plans first reported by the Sunday Times, saying it "will undermine the appeal of the whole game".
Gary Neville led the chorus of dismay, calling for United, Liverpool and Arsenal to be relegated as punishment.
While there were only 12 teams mentioned in the statement, there is space for three more founding clubs – with most assuming that work will continue to convince Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain to also join.
The bombshell news comes a day before UEFA was scheduled to meet to discuss a revamped and expanded Champions League. A women's Super League competition is also in the pipeline.
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How will the ESL work?
- 20 teams will participate, including 15 founding clubs. Five further teams can qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season
- A group phase will start in August, featuring two groups of 10 teams playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will compete in a play-off over two legs for the remaining knockout spots
- The quarter-finals and semi-final will take place over two legs before the final in May, which will be staged at a neutral venue
- Midweek fixtures with the ESL claiming clubs can continue to compete in their respective national leagues
- While unsurprisingly glossed over in the statement, there is no relegation - meaning Tottenham and Arsenal, the Premier League's 7th and 9th best teams currently, have a ticket for life along with the other founding clubs
'What an embarrassment'
The reaction was unforgiving, with social media awash with heavy criticism as football's individuals rallied against the superpowers.
Jamie Carragher called out his former team Liverpool, branding them an "embarrassment".
Gary Neville lambasted United and the other clubs in various statements and called for heavy punishments for those involved.
Rio Ferdinand called the move a "war on football" and "a disgrace" in a strongly-worded rant.
And they weren't alone. As most teams hid behind a generic statement on social media, the abuse rolled in from all angles.
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