European football chiefs have denounced talks between Real Madrid, Fifa and private equity over the creation of new global football competitions that threaten to undermine the biggest leagues in the world’s favourite sport.
Aleksander Ceferin, president of Uefa, European football’s governing body, led an outcry on Friday against a proposal from Florentino Pérez, president of Spain’s Real Madrid, the world’s richest club by revenues.
Buyout group CVC Capital Partners and Gianni Infantino, president of Fifa, football’s governing body, are among those to have been approached by Mr Pérez about creating a new league featuring top clubs from around the world, according to several people with knowledge of the talks.
CVC is separately holding discussions with Fifa about acquiring the commercial rights to the revamped Club World Cup, a tournament that will feature some of the biggest teams in international football.
Discussions between Real, Fifa and CVC, first reported by the Financial Times on Thursday, sparked a furious response from some of the game’s power brokers — in particular against Mr Pérez’s concept of a breakaway global league that would upend the structure of the game in Europe.
“I have read about this insane plan,” said Mr Ceferin. “It would be hard to think of a more selfish and egotistical scheme. It would clearly ruin football around the world; for the players, for the fans and for everyone connected with the game — all for the benefit of a tiny number of people.”
Executives at big European leagues, such as the English Premier League, the world’s most valuable domestic football competition, echoed the criticism.
One leading English football executive said it was a “mad idea that needs to be treated with disdain”, while a top official at a leading Italian team said: “If you keep challenging the way clubs are playing, you will have a backlash.”
The recent moves by private equity signal how leading investors are increasingly looking to invest in football, while the sport’s leaders seek new ways to profit from growing corporate interest in the game.
The talks come after US-based Silver Lake last week reached a $500m deal to acquire about 10 per cent in City Football Group, the parent company of Manchester City and affiliated clubs around the world.
CVC has a long history in sports, having acquired and sold Formula One and Moto GP.
One person briefed on Mr Pérez’s plans said an option under consideration was the creation of two leagues of 20 teams each. Eight of those teams could be taken from the founding clubs behind the World Football Club Association, a newly created body of which he was named president last month.
Those founder members include Real Madrid, AC Milan, Auckland City in New Zealand, Boca Juniors and River Plate in Argentina, Club America in Mexico, Guangzhou Evergrande in China and Mazembe in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to official announcements at the time, the World Football Club Association was set up in November to lobby Fifa on its revamp of the Club World Cup.
CVC is holding discussions with Fifa about acquiring the commercial rights, such as the ability to broker broadcast deals, to the revamped Club World Cup, according to people close to the talks.
Uefa previously attacked the expansion of the Club World Cup, wanting to defend the prestige of the Champions League, Europe’s top club tournament, which has a €2bn pot of prize money shared among participating teams.
Fifa said that it had “met with football clubs from around the world in order to discuss how to make the new Club World Cup an outstanding success, in particular, from a sporting point of view”.
CVC declined to comment. Representatives of Mr Pérez and Real Madrid did not respond to requests for comment.