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Friday, October 23, 1998 Published at 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK

Sport: Football

Top clubs reject Super League

U-turn from last year's European champions Real Madrid

Europe's leading football clubs have rejected controversial plans for an independent Super League.

A dozen of the continent's biggest clubs, including Manchester United and Liverpool have announced they will join forces with governing body Uefa, which has already announced reforms of existing European competitions.

The surprise move appears to rule out the plans of a Milan-based media group for a midweek pay-per-view league with no promotion or relegation, although pay TV is still being considered.

Media Partners is refusing to admit defeat, saying the statement changes nothing.

But it appears the clubs and Uefa intend to work more closely than ever seemed possible when the breakaway plans were first revealed.

The U-turn came as a result of the governing body's positive response to the clubs' request to be fully involved in the future direction of European competition.

Representatives from the two English clubs were joined by officials from Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Inter, Juventus, AC Milan, Olympic Marseille, Porto and Real Madrid in talks with UEFA in Geneva.

AC Milan's vice-president Adriano Galliani said: "The 12 clubs present in Geneva have affirmed their wish to work with Uefa.

"We must make concessions, as must Uefa, but we want to remain within the overall European confederation."

Real change of mind

Real Madrid's chairman Lorenzo Sanz, formerly one of the strongest advocates of the breakaway, said: "Uefa understand perfectly our concerns and have presented a very interesting project of long term collaboration with the clubs."

Mr Sanz insisted that the clubs had not only been looking after their own interests, but those of all European sides.

The clubs are backing Uefa's plans to expand the Champions' League to embrace 32 teams, but whether the restructured competition starts in 1999 or 2000 is still undecided.

The governing body's general secretary Gerhard Aigner hailed the accord as the beginning of a new era.

"Uefa decided to speak directly to the clubs and that's due to the new situation in the world of football," he said.

"We are going to continue this dialogue in the interests of European football."

He also paid a veiled compliment to Media Partners for prompting the improved relationship between the clubs and Uefa.

"Plans for an independent Super League forced us to act quickly and improve our co-operation with the clubs.

"On the other hand big clubs had to realise that Uefa had savoir-faire and ideas and was not just a bureaucratic body."

[ image: Nothing has changed: Media Partners head Rodolfo Hecht]
Nothing has changed: Media Partners head Rodolfo Hecht
Media Partners said nothing had been ruled in or out by Friday's meeting.

In a statement from Milan, the consortium said: "We are happy if Uefa has finally recognized the legitimacy of the clubs' position.

"We will continue to work closely with the clubs in the coming weeks and months to ensure Uefa's words are turned into deeds and the proper reforms of European competitions takes place."

One thing that has certainly not been ruled out is pay-per-view TV coverage, although Uefa insists it will continue to directly sell broadcasting rights.

Mr Sanz said clubs would act as go-betweens with TV companies and Uefa, but refused to be specific about how this would work.

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