JPMorgan has broken its silence over its backing of the now scuppered Super League that caused outrage among football fans across Europe and collapsed within days, saying it “misjudged the deal” and will learn lessons from the incident.
The US investment bank was the sole financial backer for the breakaway league, where a select group of 12 big brand name football teams were promised hundreds of millions of pounds to compete. The bank agreed to underwrite the competition with a €3.25bn loan, with each member receiving an initial payment of between €200m-€300m.
“We clearly misjudged how this deal would be viewed by the wider football community and how it might impact them in the future,” a JPMorgan spokesman said in a statement. “We will learn from this.”
The six English clubs – including Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool – that signed up to the league pulled out within hours of each other on 20 April after widespread anger from fans, protests from players, condemnation from governments and UEFA, the sport’s governing body in Europe. Plans for the competition crumbled within two days of being announced on 18 April.
The collapse of the Super League is a reputational black eye for JPMorgan, which is set to launch a new digital bank in the UK in a move away from its home US market. A reputational risk committee at its investment bank that approved potentially controversial transactions reportedly signed off on the loan.
“We were expecting this to be emotional,” Daniel Pinto, JPMorgan’s corporate and investment banking chief executive told Bloomberg on 20 April. “We arranged a loan for a client. It’s not our place to decide the optimal way for football to operate in Europe and the UK.”
In his annual shareholder letter earlier this month, JPMorgan’s chief executive wrote about the bank’s role in engaging with the communities in which it operates. “We have long championed the essential role of banking in a community – a potential for bringing people together, for enabling companies and individuals to reach for their dreams.”
But critics of the Super League said it neglected fans and prioritised profits for the world’s richest clubs.
A leaked plan reported by the Financial Times said that the Super League could generate €4bn a season from global broadcasting and sponsorship rights, the major of which would go to 15 “founding clubs”, which would maintain their position in the competition for at least five years regardless of performance.
This is not the first time JPMorgan has felt the anger of football fans. It advised on the Glazer takeover of Manchester United in 2005, prompting fans of the club to protest outside its UK offices. Edward Woodward was working at the bank when he advised on the deal, and later went on to become chairman of Manchester United. He stepped down from his role this week following criticism of the club’s decision to join the Super League.
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