China’s richest man and head of the Dalian Wanda Group, Wang Jianlin, is pushing forward with plans to form a breakaway tournament to the Uefa Champions League with the promise of more money for competing clubs.
The property and entertainment conglomerate group run by Jianlin has confirmed that it is in talks with some of the sport’s top leagues over the creation of a new competition that would offer more places to Europe’s biggest clubs while also providing a huge boost in revenue from broadcast rights.
Marco Bogarelli, director of Wanda Sports Holding- the privately owned sports arm of the Chinese group- revealed that the company was already in talks with Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A. He also said that plans were in place to begin discussions with the Premier League, Bundesliga and France’s Ligue 1.
Rather than enter into any form of direction competition with Uefa, Wanda hopes to win the backing of European football’s governing body and has reportedly planned for a separate competition entirely in the event Uefa rejects the plans.
The company already has a significant presence in football having recently become a top-tier partner of Fifa, granting it the highest level of sponsorship rights across a cycle which includes the next four editions of the World Cup.
According to the FT, a “handful” of clubs in Spain and Italy were in strong support of the changes, particularly Real Madrid who are the highest earning club in the world.
A senior executive at one of the big five leagues said the proposition was “very well planned. The proposal is realistic.”
Responding to the news of the discussions Theodore Theodoridis, Uefa’s interim general secretary, said: “It is not the first time that there has been speculation regarding the possibility of a breakaway league, and it probably won’t be the last.
“When taking any decisions, we will take into account not only financial rewards to clubs but also the greater good of the game and its development across the continent.”
With the English Premier League beginning to dominate European football’s rich list, thanks to lucrative broadcast deals with Sky Sports and BT Sports, it is unsurprising that big clubs outside of England are in favour of a move which may level the financial playfield.
At the end of the 2015/16 season, 11th placed Stoke City reportedly earned almost the same in TV revenue prize money (£79m) than this year’s champions League winners Real Madrid earned for winning the competition (£80m).