Fifteen of Europe's biggest clubs are in talks to launch a European Super League, planned to start in time for the 2023-24 season, with a $6 billion (£4.3 billion) fund backing the project, sources have told ESPN.
If the initiative is successful, it would threaten the existence of the Champions League -- football's biggest club competition -- with UEFA due to announce on Monday a new 36-team format for the tournament designed to stave off attempts by the game's top clubs to break away.
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As reported by UK newspaper The Times, English top-flight clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are among 11 European teams to have signed up to the Super League plan.
ESPN has been told by a person familiar with the blueprint that the proposed framework involves a total of 20 teams, with 15 permanent members who cannot be relegated.
A further five teams will be rotated in and out of the competition, based on performance, but the permanent members will include six Premier League clubs, three from La Liga, three from Italy's Serie A, two from the Bundesliga and one from France's Ligue 1.
Sources have told ESPN that New York-based investment bank JP Morgan will underwrite the project, with $6 billion distributed as loans to the teams.
Under pressure from the European Club Association, UEFA has drawn up plans to reshape the Champions League format, with the new-look competition due to be unveiled Monday, ahead of UEFA's executive committee summit in Switzerland this week.
UEFA criticised the plans in a statement and said: "UEFA, the English Football Association and the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A have learned that a few English, Spanish and Italian clubs may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League.
"If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we - UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations - will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.
"We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.
"As previously announced by FIFA and the six Federations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.
"We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough."
Planned to come into force in 2024, the remodelled Champions League would involve 36 teams playing 10 group games rather than six. The biggest clubs would also receive an increased share of prize money.
Sources told ESPN that UEFA plan to press ahead with their announcement Monday, and that any breakaway league remains a distant prospect, with national associations UEFA and FIFA both needing to sanction the proposal.
Meanwhile, the European Clubs' Association issued a statement in which it reiterated commitment to working with UEFA on competition reform, adding that a "closed super league model ... would be strongly opposed."
Serie A called an emergency board meeting on Sunday to discuss a newspaper report saying broadcaster DAZN is involved in new plans for the breakaway league, a source told Reuters.
The meeting was called by league president Paolo Dal Pino, and Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport reported that DAZN, which is owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik's Access Industries, has been working on the formation of the league for some time.
The report claims the meeting is being attended remotely, with the three Serie A clubs who could potentially be part of the new project: Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan.
FIFA has earlier said that players who feature in any breakaway European Super League would be banned from playing in FIFA competitions, including the World Cup.
It caps a tumultuous week for Serie A after seven clubs submitted a written request for Dal Pino to resign over issues that include his management of plans to sell a stake in the league's media business.
The plans to expand the Champions League are also likely to meet opposition from supporters; ESPN reported last week that fans' groups have already registered their anger over UEFA's proposed changes.
On Sunday, a statement from the Premier League condemned the breakaway plans.
It read: "The Premier League condemns any proposal that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid.
Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best. We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.
"The Premier League is proud to run a competitive and compelling football competition that has made it the most widely watched league in the world. Our success has enabled us to make an unrivalled financial contribution to the domestic football pyramid.
"A European Super League will undermine the appeal of the whole game, and have a deeply damaging impact on the immediate and future prospects of the Premier League and its member clubs, and all those in football who rely on our funding and solidarity to prosper.
"We will work with fans, The FA, EFL, PFA and LMA, as well as other stakeholders, at home and abroad, to defend the integrity and future prospects of English football in the best interests of the game."
Information from Reuters was also included in this report.