Twelve leading football clubs have officially agreed to establish a new European Super League.
A statement from the new competition said: “AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as founding clubs.
“It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable.”
In exchange for their commitment, founding clubs will receive an amount of €3.5bn (£3bn) to “support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic”, the league’s statement said.
Florentino Pérez, president of Real Madrid and the first chairman of the Super League, added: “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.”
The ESL, which is being launched to rival the UEFA Champions League, will be a “new midweek competition” and the founding teams have agreed to continue to “compete in their respective national leagues”.
Under current proposals, the league will begin in August each year and will have 20 teams – the 12 founding members, the three clubs expected to be announced soon and five sides who qualify annually dependent on their domestic achievements.
The clubs will be split into two groups of 10, playing each other home and away, with the top three in each group qualifying for the quarter finals and the reams in fourth and fifth will play in a two-legged play-off for the two remaining spots.
The ESL will have the same two-leg knockout format used in the Champions League from then on, before a single-leg final takes place in May at a neutral stadium.
The league also has plans to establish a women’s competition as soon as possible after the men’s tournament begins.
Many people and organisations have expressed opposition to the European Super League, with UEFA, the FA and the Premier League saying in a joint statement that they “remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project”, adding: “We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this.
“This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”
The English FA said: “We would not provide permission to any competition that would be damaging to English football, and will take any legal and/or regulatory action necessary to protect the broader interests of the game.”