Agnelli opens up: Need for Super League, EPL dominance and Juventus return
Andrea Agnelli did not hold back in a recent interview, giving his detailed thoughts on everything from the Super League to the Premier League’s financial dominance to his possible return to Juventus
Agnelli spent 13 years as the president of the Old Lady from 2010 to 2023, officially resigning in recent months in the midst of the ongoing Prisma investigation, which is closely examining the club’s financial behaviour in recent years.
A divisive figure, the former Juventus president was once the head of the European Clubs Association before breaking away to try and form the Super League, working closely with Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez and Barcelona’s Joan Laporta.
Speaking to De Telegraaf, Agnelli first discussed why he believes so strongly in the Super League project.
“UEFA’s monopoly must be broken in order to give clubs a financially stable future. A future in which clubs do not fall if they do not qualify once for European competitions. This is a problem for any club.
“With such uncertainty, it’s not possible as a club to make long-term sustainable and sound decisions. That is why I am in favour of a league system in top European football, with more financial and sporting opportunities for everyone.”
He reflected on his previous work with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and why he split off to work on the Super League project.
“In 2019 we were ready, Aleksander and I. The top clubs from all ECA sub-divisions (then around 130 European professional clubs, ed.) had agreed on a new format.
“The medium-sized clubs in the big leagues, the managers of the big leagues and some national associations saw the new format as a threat and so Ceferin withdrew. When UEFA decided to block the project, plans emerged from outside UEFA to organise a new league with all the clubs in the ECA.
“Whether the project gets off the ground will depend on the European Court of Justice. Internally it was a war that I could not win.
“Although I know that the current system does not offer a future to Ajax, Anderlecht, Celtic, Benfica, Panathinaikos and Red Star Belgrade. So you don’t stand still, but take other paths to what you want to do for European club football.”
The former Juventus president underlined where things have gone wrong in modern European football.
“Apart from the lack of financial stability, in many competitions, national and international, the winners are known in advance. Mainly because of the income clubs get from the domestic market.
“England leads in this respect and one can see how the Premier League is generously represented in the final stages of European cup tournaments. Spain is right behind along with clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.
“But in a sports competition, it is important that every participant has a chance to win. So also Ajax, Feyenoord and Juventus. As a football fan, I strongly support such an international competition. Contrary to the international federations. They have no regard for the problems of the clubs.
“As rulers, they want to keep everything as it is. They oppose any change. A Super League is necessary, because if everything remains as predictable as it is now, the public will turn away from football.
“Will they continue to follow international football in the Netherlands if Ajax, Feyenoord or PSV never have a chance to win or compete? Hence the idea of a European league with several divisions with a promotion and relegation system.”
Agnelli suggested that many clubs are in favour of a new type of European competition and explained why the Premier League is ‘a glorified Super League’.
“I have spoken to many clubs, and many are in favour of a different football scene. But if you talk to me, agree with me or follow me, you get banned by UEFA. As a club, openly proclaiming that you want a better and fairer European league model does not make you sympathetic.
“So, clubs defend their position and comply with UEFA. My successor at ECA is Nasser Al-Khelaifi, President of Paris Saint-Germain. A nice guy. He didn’t follow the Super League. He supported UEFA because another league is not in the interest of Qatar, the owner of PSG.
“No change can be expected from him. But underneath, there is enough enthusiasm for the new leagues’ initiatives among many clubs, but also among players, the public, TV companies, commercial parties and investors. Only, UEFA has a monopoly and is holding everything back.
“As long as the European Court allows it. The ruling is expected in the spring. I am very curious to know if the Court will confirm the monopolistic position of UEFA associations in a free European market.
“If it does, the Court will not consider the football industry, with an annual turnover of around €50 billion euro and 700,000 jobs involved, as an economic activity, but as a small game, an activity based on volunteers playing a game of football on a part-time basis…
“If the Super League were to see the light of day, the clubs would remain loyal to the national leagues. Of course, Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV need the Eredivisie and vice versa. It is necessary to qualify for the Super League through the national league.
“A strong and equal national league is in everyone’s interest. If one makes a comparison with Europe, one notices the tendency of national leagues to become less and less popular in the current system. There is a lack of excitement, the champions are fixed.
“What is the value of the French league with PSG as the eternal champion? Or the Italian one, even the German and Spanish leagues are declining. Only the Premier League is growing more and more and is a glorified Super League.
“The Premier League collects about €4 billion euros per year, Spain about half, Germany €1.5 billion and the Netherlands €100m. English dominance also threatens European football.
“In the Champions League, starting with the quarter-finals, it is all about English clubs and three or four others such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, PSG and Bayern Munich, with an occasional outsider like Ajax in 2019.
“This predictability is the death knell for any league. On the other hand, it is necessary to create the economic and financial conditions for clubs so that they do not lose all their revenue in one fell swoop after a bad season.
“The Premier League uses the parachute system for this purpose. Relegated clubs receive financial compensation for a number of years.”
He also questioned why Ceferin and FIFA president Gianni Infantino seemingly face no competition for their spots at the top of these ruling bodies.
“I’m 47 years old, so I am too young to do nothing. As a committed European I have full confidence in the court, but I don’t want to speculate on the outcome, although I hope the ruling will change the status quo. You know, this is football and Juventus’ motto is ‘fino alle fine’.
“In other words, we have to wait for the court before we can complete the work on the new European league model. In our plans, the interests of all stakeholders – clubs, fans, players – come first. Not like now, where UEFA is first in everything. Without owning anything.
“It controls everything, all financial, commercial, legal and sporting conditions. While UEFA is in fact only responsible for setting the date and duels in the European context. It is the clubs that are responsible for the actual organisation of the matches. They do all the work.
“I don’t think the 2019 solution, where clubs and UEFA were aligned, is possible with Ceferin & co at the helm. Also, isn’t it strange that there is only one candidate for the presidency of both UEFA and FIFA? Especially those who are already there: Ceferin and Gianni Infantino.
“Is this healthy? Can change be expected from these people? Ceferin and Infantino will do anything to remain at the centre of power. To secure their privileges.
“Have you seen what Ceferin says in the Apple documentary? As UEFA president, he feels as powerful as a king and speaks like a prime minister of competition organisation.”
Finally, Agnelli discussed his possible return to Juventus and the club’s ongoing legal issues.
“What the future holds, only the future knows. We’ll see. For now, I’m a normal football fan. The suspension was imposed on me by the Italian FA after studying the Justice Department investigation. But I was not heard and could not defend myself.
“I resigned as president of Juventus because of a criminal investigation that concerns me personally. I cannot say much about this because the case is ongoing. The first preliminary hearing is on March 27, that’s when it will be decided whether the case stops or not.
“I don’t want Juventus to carry this burden for so long. A new board that has nothing to do with the charges can better represent the club. Then I am free to defend myself in court against any accusation.”