Juventus risks exclusion from Italy's top flight if it does not give up its Super League membership, according to the country's soccer chief.
“The laws are unmistakable. If Juventus is still in the Super League next season, it will be unable to compete in Serie A, according to Italian Football Federation President Gabriele Gravina, who spoke to a Naples radio station (via the Associated Press). “I'm sorry for the fans, but rules are rules, and everybody has to follow them.”
Juventus, which had its nine-year winning streak in Serie A ended this season by Inter Milan, is one of three clubs fighting to keep the planned annual tournament for Europe's soccer royalty alive. Barcelona and Real Madrid, two of Spain's biggest clubs, joined Juventus in releasing a statement on Saturday, calling "unacceptable third-party pressures, intimidation, and offenses to abandon the project" "intolerable under the rule of law."
The Super League was first confirmed by twelve clubs, who said at the time that it will bring in three more permanent members and invite five new teams per year to fill out the tournament. Beyond the damage to the Champions League, many soccer fans and even European political leaders were outraged by the danger the Super League posed to the sport's traditional promotion and relegation system, in which teams would earn their way to the top rungs.
Nine teams, including all six would-be entrants from the English Premier League, as well as Atlético Madrid, Inter Milan, and another Italian side, AC Milan, immediately dropped out amid an uproar that seemed to stun Super League clubs in its strength. These clubs signed an agreement with UEFA on Friday, reaffirming their commitment to following the rules of European soccer's governing body. They were also asked to admit that "the Super League project was a mistake," to commit to taking all necessary measures to distance themselves from the company and to pay millions of euros in fines and charitable donations.
In a statement released Friday, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said, "These clubs quickly recognized their mistakes and have taken steps to show their contrition and potential contribution to European football." “The same cannot be said for the clubs who continue to compete in the so-called ‘Super League,' and UEFA will deal with them later.”
The next day, Juventus, Barcelona, and Real Madrid declared it would be "extremely reckless" if they "abandoned such mission to provide successful and sustainable answers to the existential questions that challenge the football industry."
“We reiterate that... we have the responsibility to behave responsibly and persevere in the search of satisfactory solutions, considering the unacceptable and continuing stresses and threats received from UEFA,” the three clubs said, “given that the material problems that led the 12 founding clubs to announce the Super League weeks ago have not gone away.”
On Sunday, Juventus was thrashed 3-0 by AC Milan, dropping to fifth in Serie A and one place short of qualifying for the next Champions League tournament. Juventus has three games left to jump ahead of the competition, but it lacks tiebreaker advantages and could find itself wishing a club of its size didn't have to go through a qualification phase, which the Super League would have included.
Reports that Juventus' resident superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, will want to leave the Turin-based club if it does not qualify for the Champions League are adding to the club's worries. Ronaldo, 36, holds several tournament records, including the most final victories, goals scored, and scoring streaks. If Juventus does not play in Serie A next season, it risks missing the Champions League for the second year in a row, losing out on lucrative payments that help fund contracts for players like Cristiano Ronaldo.
Gravina said Monday, "We are all a little tired of this tug-of-war between UEFA and these three clubs" (via the BBC). “I sincerely hope that this conflict can be resolved as soon as possible.”