Madrid chief Perez: New UCL format ‘absurd’

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said on Saturday the European Super League is “more necessary than ever” and called UEFA’s new Champions League format “absurd” in a speech to the club’s members.

In an 80-minute intervention at the club’s Annual General Meeting, Perez reiterated his support for the dormant Super League project, criticised the standard of Spanish refereeing and VAR and hit out at LaLiga over its management of clubs’ income from TV rights.

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Perez has been the Super League’s most vocal advocate since its attempted launch in April 2021.

Later this month the European Court of Justice will rule on whether UEFA’s rules prohibiting the breakaway competition are compatible with EU competition law.

“Football is undergoing an unprecedented institutional crisis at every level, in Spain and in Europe,” Perez said. “The situation is serious. We must change, or football as we know it won’t survive. The main problem is that the organisers aren’t thinking about the fans… European football doesn’t belong to the UEFA president [Aleksander Ceferin], and Spanish football doesn’t belong to the LaLiga president [Javier Tebas].”

Tebas responded later on Saturday in a post on X (formerly Twitter), saying Perez had told “serious lies” about LaLiga, which he said was a “democratic organisation.”

LaLiga followed that up in a statement, saying that Perez had made “serious allegations, littered with falsehoods and without any basis.”

UEFA’s new format for the Champions League — set to be introduced in 2024 — will abandon the group stage system in favour of a new league phase, involving four additional clubs.

“The Super League is more necessary than ever,” Perez said. “We need respect for financial fair play. We need transparent governance structures… The Super League’s main objective is to strengthen European competitions. It would be totally compatible with national leagues. It would be a meritocratic competition.

“UEFA executives are going in the opposite direction. Their new model will have more games and less interest. It’s an absurd competition… They don’t take the demands of fans, players or the needs of clubs into account. UEFA doesn’t innovate. It doesn’t know how to deal with the threat of other sports which keep growing, above all American sports. We’ve seen many examples of large corporations that seemed invincible but ended up going bankrupt because they weren’t able to adapt.

“It would be more comfortable if we hadn’t led this [Super League] project, but [Real Madrid’s] history demands it… I believe in the EU justice system. I believe UEFA shouldn’t have a monopoly on European football. On November 21 we’ll hear the resolution in this [Super League] case. The future of European football depends on it… We hope November 21 marks the beginning of a new era in football.”

Real Madrid have regularly criticised refereeing decisions in their LaLiga games this season via the club’s in-house television channel.

“It’s essential for the wellbeing of Spanish football that things like the quality of refereeing and the use of VAR are dealt with,” Perez said. “Nobody understands who draws the [VAR] lines, nobody understands why we don’t see the whole image for offsides. It’s generating more doubts.

“I believe the Spanish Government will take steps to improve refereeing bodies in this country. This is urgent, more urgent than ever. The credibility of our competition has been damaged.”

Madrid has engaged in a series of legal battles with LaLiga in recent years over the league’s management of TV rights income, which came to a head in the club’s opposition to the CVC investment deal in 2021.

Perez accused LaLiga of “attacking the club’s financial wealth” and said he would “take measures so that Real Madrid and its members, as owners, have the ability to protect our club,” although did not specify how.

He also referred to the ongoing criminal investigation into Barcelona’s payments to companies linked to the former vice-president of Spain’s refereeing committee, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.

“It’s in the hands of the judges, and we respect that,” Perez said. “But it isn’t normal that a club paid €8 million over 20 years to the vice-president of the referees’ committee… Real Madrid were admitted [to the proceedings] as an injured party. This case is seriously damaging the image of Spanish football. We believe in the justice system.”

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