JPMorgan apologises for backing breakaway football Super League

US bank commited to underwrite a €3.25bn grant to fund the move by 12 rebel clubs

JPMorgan is finalising plans to enter the UK’s retail banking market. The group has confirmed that it intends to open a digital-only UK bank this year. Photograph: iStock

JPMorgan is finalising plans to enter the UK’s retail banking market. The group has confirmed that it intends to open a digital-only UK bank this year. Photograph: iStock

 

JPMorgan Chase has apologised for backing the controversial European football Super League that collapsed this week following an outcry from fans, politicians, teams and players.

The US bank was instrumental in the creation of the Super League by committing to underwrite a €3.25 billion (€2.69bn) grant which, in effect, provided the start-up funding to rebel clubs to launch the breakaway contest.

The JPMorgan debt financing deal would have run over 23 years and been secured against future broadcasting rights for the competition.

London-based debt bankers at JPMorgan were central to the planning of the Super League and had been working on the project for several years, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

“We clearly misjudged how this deal would be viewed by the wider football community and how it might impact them in the future,” the bank said in a statement on Friday. “We will learn from this.”

The new competition would have overturned European football’s hierarchy, creating a new league of 15 permanent members including England’s Manchester United, Spain’s Real Madrid and Italy’s Juventus.

The fierce backlash saw almost all the original founding 12 clubs abandon the project within days of its launch on Sunday.

But the widespread anger of football fans across the UK comes just as JPMorgan is finalising plans to enter the country’s retail banking market. The group has confirmed that it intends to open a digital-only UK bank this year.

During the uproar over the Super League, former British prime minister Tony Blair, who chairs JPMorgan’s International Council, which is made up of business executives and former political leaders, told the Telegraph newspaper he did not support the project.

Florentino Pérez, president of Real Madrid, one of the biggest two clubs in Spain, was the architect of the Super League, and pinned his hopes on the project to help the team recover from its €400 million budget shortfall over the past two seasons.

Both Mr Pérez, a billionaire construction tycoon, and the Spanish club have close ties to JPMorgan, which has supported the club’s efforts to finance the renovation of the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. The deal’s importance was such that Jamie Dimon, chief executive of the bank, went to Madrid to meet Pérez in July 2018 during a European trip.

Other members

JPMorgan also has close ties to other founding members of the Super League, including Manchester United. The bank worked on the US billionaire Glazer family’s controversial £790 million (€906 million) leveraged takeover of the club, and former JPMorgan banker Ed Woodward joined the club in 2005, the year the deal completed.

The club said this week that Mr Woodward, who has served as Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman since 2012, would step down from the role and leave at the end of this year.

Manchester United’s involvement in the Super League has reignited calls for the Glazer family to reduce its control over the club.

Jim O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs economist, and Paul Marshall of hedge fund Marshall Wace, whose Red Knights group previously failed to buy the team from the US family, wrote in an open letter to Joel Glazer on Friday, urging the family to cut its majority stake to a maximum of 49.9 per cent. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021