Clubs sign mega 23-year deals for new Super League
The 12 football clubs forming a breakaway European Super League have signed 23-year contracts for the new format with insiders "categorically" denying that the proposals are simply a negotiating tactic.
On Monday a senior figure close to the new league said that the clubs were determined to push on despite a huge backlash from fans, politicians and players past and present.
The source insisted it was not an effort to press UEFA, the European governing body, to offer the clubs more money and games in the Champions League, the leading club competition.
"There are signed agreements - 23-year contracts", the source said. "This is categorically not a bargaining chip. I can see why people might come to the conclusion but I am happy to correct it. This is proper, it's happening."
JP Morgan, the US investment bank, confirmed that it was financing the new league, which will hand an initial £3 billion to the founding clubs. It declined to elaborate or explain how the deal was structured or funded.
The bank has a longstanding relationship with Ed Woodward, the chief executive of Manchester United, who is understood to be one of the driving forces behind the Super League. Woodward used to work for JP Morgan's mergers and acquisitions team, where he brokered the Glazer family's controversial takeover of United in 2005 before moving to the club.
The news that contracts have been signed appears to rule out the idea that the clubs are bluffing to secure better terms from UEFA. The announcement of the league came a day before UEFA was due to announce reforms to the Champions League after protracted negotiations with the big clubs.
A former director of communications for Theresa May is leading the publicity campaign for the new league. Katie Perrior, who led the press team at No.10 for nearly a year, is one of the founders of iNHouse Communications, which has the contract to conduct PR for the Super League.
The iNHouse website quotes Boris Johnson as saying that the company is the "Fortnum and Mason" of communications. Perrior led Johnson's winning London mayoral campaign in 2008 and has written for The Times.
On Sunday the Prime Minister criticised the Super League plan. The Times understands that Perrior is relaxed about his intervention but the barrage of negative publicity has raised questions about the company's strategy.
James Swan, a senior account director at the PR firm Hope and Glory, said that silence from most club owners had undermined the league's reputation by allowing politicians and sporting bodies a chance to "position themselves on the side of fans against the clubs".
He added: "The backlash is not going to be good news for sponsors either, who don't like to be associated with bad news - there are going to have to be a lot of reassuring calls from clubs to their financial backers to try and keep them on board with promises that weathering the storm the clubs have created will pay off in the long run."
However, other industry figures believe the PR strategy is going to plan. One agency executive who did not want to be named said: "The prize is not the affection of their legacy fanbase, it is the teenage boys at home in Shanghai, Seoul or Sydney who will badger their parents for a pay TV subscription. There are millions more of them than people who go to the stadiums."
He added: "They will think the criticism will be worth it if it drives a huge increase in the value of the assets they own."
On Monday, shares in some of the biggest clubs soared; a handful are run as publicly traded companies. Juventus, the Italian champions, whose shares are traded on the Milan stock exchange, climbed nearly 20 per cent and Manchester United leapt 10 per cent as the opening bell rang on Wall Street. It added the best part of $300 million (£215 million) to United's market value, which now stands at nearly $3 billion.
One source at iNHouse said: "Once we get over the initial hurdle in terms of the news breaking there are good points about solidarity payments to be told and English football will take a lot of that money for the grassroots game."
The Times understands that Perrior's involvement is not making her popular at home; her husband and children support West Ham United.
Originally published as Clubs sign mega 23-year deals for new Super League