LONDON — Secret talks between leading Premier League clubs and an American sports marking marketing company sparked a wave of speculation Wednesday about a European Super League being launched.
Arsenal swiftly responded by insisting: "We are strongly opposed to any breakaway," supporting the current system of playing in the Premier League and UEFA-run Champions League for European clubs.
Executives from Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City also attended the meeting at a London hotel with Relevent Sports, which was exposed by pictures published by The Sun newspaper. Relevent is a division of a company founded by Stephen Ross, owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
Only Arsenal issued a formal response, but the other clubs sought to distance themselves from suggestions it was part of a process to launch a competition to rival the Champions League.
"Not Arsenal, nor any clubs at the meeting, are seeking changes to the Premier League and European landscape and no conversations surrounding displacing the Premier League or starting a European Super League took place," Arsenal said.
The report comes two months after discussion within the European Club Association about changes to continental competitions which could be proposed to UEFA. One of the options being explored by the ECA would see UEFA asked to guarantee places in the Champions League for leading clubs for a set period.
The ECA discussions are taking place to ensure there is a united position to propose to UEFA later this year before the European governing body starts to sell Champions League television rights for the three seasons from 2018-19.
Chelsea, Liverpool and the two Manchester teams have previously played in the Relevent-organized International Champions Cup, which featured matches last year in Australia, China, and the United States.
Relevent used the meeting with the invited Premier League clubs to highlight the merits of an expanded International Champions Cup, potentially running during the season.
But Relevent’s Benjamin Spencer said in an email to The Associated Press: "we are not commenting on the articles or the statement from Arsenal."
Spencer did not reply to a further email asking if Relevent was trying to end the Champions League by establishing its own rival competition for leading clubs.
The chief executive of Relevent Sports is David Tyler, who the company website says spent 15 years at TEAM Marketing "working on the highly successful commercial programs" for the Champions League.
"He is a highly experienced sports executive, lawyer and rights negotiator with particular expertise in the strategic, commercial and legal aspects of international TV rights sales and other commercial programs for major sports events," Tyler’s Relevent Sports profile reads.