Manchester United (MANU) - Get Report shares surged higher Monday, with similar gains for listed clubs in Italy, after Europe's biggest soccer teams unveiled plans to form a multi-billion 'Super League' for the world's most popular sport.
Twelve clubs, including Manchester United, Juventus of Turin, Real Madrid and Barcelona agreed Sunday to form a breakaway league that would play mid-week home and away matches alongside their regular domestic league fixtures, starting in August. The league is expected to expand to fifteen teams, and ultimately 20, in subsequent seasons, the so-called founding clubs said.
“Going forward, the founding clubs look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole," the founding clubs said in a statement late Sunday. "The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model."
"Further, for a number of years, the founding clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis,” the statement added.
Manchester United's U.S.-listed shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange and are the sport's most-valuable, were marked 6.1% higher in pre-market dealing at $17.15%.
The club is majority-owned by the surviving children of Malcolm Glazer, who also purchased the National Football League's Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- and current Super Bowl champions -- in 1995.
Comcast (CMCSA) - Get Report shares were marked modestly lower at $55.07 each amid speculation that the new Super League would usurp the current structure of the Champions League, an annual competition among the region's top clubs that generates billions in ad revenues and has become increasingly popular with American viewers since Comcast purchased Britain's Sky Plc for $40 billion in 2019.
Soccer officials across Europe, as well as politicians such as France's President, Emmanuel Macron, condemned the plans, with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowing to "look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed."
Six British clubs -- Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool, as well as London-based clubs Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham -- pledged to join the breakaway league, with three teams each from Spain and Italy.
The Premier League, which broke from Britain's venerable Football League in order to negotiate lucrative television rights in 1992, called the Super League plans a “cynical project founded on the self-interest of a few clubs”.