Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said Saturday the founding clubs of the European Super League signed binding contracts that keep them linked to the project despite public statements declaring their intention to leave.
Perez told AS' Joaquin Maroto he's confident the ESL or a similar idea will come to fruition soon despite the intense backlash from fans.
"I'm not going to take my time to explain what a binding contract is here. But the fact is, the clubs can't leave," he said. "Some, because of the pressure, have had to say they'll leave. But this project, or something very similar, will happen, and I hope it's in the near future."
The Super League announced Tuesday it suspended operations after five of the 12 founding members stated their intention to withdraw from the proposed 20-team tournament.
Plans called for 15 permanent members—six Premier League, three La Liga and three Serie A clubs eventually joined by three other high-profile sides—and five spots available via qualification.
Although the idea was pitched as a way to infuse money into European football amid extreme financial concerns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, supporters lambasted the greed of the owners of the clubs that signed on to the project.
Premier League side Liverpool was among those to drop out, and owner John Henry released a statement apologizing for the "disruption" the owners caused for announcing the tournament without more input:
While the hasty exit by several clubs made it appear the Super League was dead on arrival, Perez said that type of plan is necessary or many teams won't survive for much longer financially.
"Not long at all, and what's more, the teams will have to sell their best players and it'll be less and less interesting," he told Maroto. "The pandemic is not just what we've suffered so far, but the economic effects it will cause."
He added the new league must be created and implemented "as soon as possible."
"We need to do it before it's too late," Perez said. "We can't endure four years, because if things carry on like this... I'll tell you the report from KPMG, for all the clubs, is devastating for football."
UEFA—which threatened players whose clubs took part in the ESL would be banned from FIFA international competitions, including the World Cup—introduced a new Champions League format that would increase the guaranteed number of matches for clubs from six to 10, but it's also faced criticism.
Perez warned that one way or another the clubs "need to find solutions" for the financial issues brought on by the pandemic in order to avoid a bleak future.