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'If Infantino can hamstring Ceferin, he will' | Philippe Auclair on the FIFA Premier League

Thom Malone
Thom Malone

20:55 20 Oct 2020

Philippe Auclair joined Off The Ball on Tuesday where he discussed the FIFA-backed European Premier League.

The French journalist noted the timing of the leaks around the possible new elite club competition.

"The story today made a lot of noise because of where it came out. The timing as well, so close on the heels of Project Big Picture," Auclair said.

"You get the feeling for the big players in European football, in a way the pandemic is an ideal landscape in which to assert their new ambitions.

"Which are not so new, it's something that has been on the table for quite some time, for a long time clubs have been talking to each other.

"Clubs from the ECA [European Club Association] the big guys, the really big guys, the ones you would expect to be in the 16 or 18 clubs, whichever shape it takes or doesn't take. They have been talking about it for a very long time."

The obvious candidates are part of the discussions about the FIFA-backed project in Europe, Auclair confirmed.

"There are some leaders and it is true that Liverpool and Manchester United are some of those leaders. It's true that Real Madrid, Atletico and Barcelona are involved and it's true that PSG are involved," said the French football writer.

"It's not a train that can leave the station without Nasser Al-Khelaifi making sure he has a first-class compartment in it."

FIFA Premier League

This new elite competition will not be able to exist without the domestic league support according to Auclair.

"It would be almost impossible [to be totally separate from the domestic leagues]," maintains the French football journalist.

"You've got to see that in the light of the calendars and the way the rights are being sold. What we have here, people are saying it's TV rights but it's not just TV rights it's right across any digital platform. Broadcast rights in the broadest sense of the term.

"When you have one block of these rights coming to an end and you have to organise a 'new batch,' for the next three, four, five year period, which you need to do.

"They [the elite clubs] are already organising for that, the next batch, essentially. This is why you might have seen they are thinking of starting it in 2022.

"This is not purely by chance, this is because there is an opening there. It is also a bargaining chip."

Grand Scheme

The leaks around this possible elite competition are part of a political power-grab in global football, according to Auclair.

"You have to see this not only as a grand scheme, which it probably is for some of those clubs but also as a bargaining chip in the fight. Or rather the negotiation with UEFA.

"And also in the broader context of the conflict between UEFA and FIFA. As you will have seen FIFA is actually quite keen on the proposals because that would enable them to hamstring UEFA.

"If Gianni Infantino can hamstring Ceferin [UEFA President], he will and there's a lot of money to be made there.

"It's not exactly edifying as a sight for us as football fans taken out of the picture. I wouldn't take what has been coming out today and over the last couple of days as something totally new."

While it is not totally new, Auclair maintains the momentum of the news around the FIFA European Premier League is notable.

"What is new is the impetus that it has gained and that all of these stories are leaking at the same time," he said.

"This cannot be by chance that you suddenly have Project Big Picture and then you have this on the heels of it, something is afoot.

"It's an opportunity, every crisis is an opportunity and the bigger you are, the bigger the opportunity is."

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Barcelona Ceferin Champions League FIFA FIFA Premier League Gianni Infantino PSG Premier League Real Madrid UEFA

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