Raul Sanllehi, Arsenal’s head of football, has said the club must be in the “driving seat” behind any potential changes in European football as he spoke publicly for the first time about the possibility of the continent’s leading clubs forming a breakaway Super League.
Sanllehi was this month named by Der Spiegel, the German publication behind the Football Leaks series, as one of the leading figures behind the proposed breakaway.
But the former Barcelona director of football said it is “misleading” to claim that Arsenal have signed up to the proposed Super League, adding that he does not foresee any “radical change” in the short or medium term.
Sanllehi, who was appointed by Arsenal in November last year, was promoted to role of head of football following the recent departure of chief executive Ivan Gazidis to AC Milan.
Sanllehi said there was “nothing new” in the Der Spiegel report and denied that historic discussions about the Super League were held in secret. He added that the breakaway option was raised in part because it helped with the European Club Association’s negotiations of new terms with UEFA.
Asked if a change to the structure of European football was inevitable, Sanllehi said: “I do not think there is going to be a major revolution in the near future, definitely not.
“We know the competition we have here in England. It is extremely exciting, extremely competitive and it is something we will always value.
“But we have to be responsible. We have an incredible jewel that is Arsenal Football Club and we need to make sure Arsenal is always in any driving seat of anything that may happen in the future. We need to at least be aware and decide in a responsible way whether that is the direction to take or not.”
Der Spiegel claimed earlier this month that a collection of Europe’s top clubs – including Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea – could form the breakaway league within three years.
It was reported that a leaked document showed plans had been made for the league’s founding 11 clubs to be immune from relegation for 20 years. Arsenal are listed on the document as one of the Super League’s founders, but Sanllehi said he has never been aware of any such contract.
“There is one document that has been presented in that article that has Arsenal’s name, it also has Barcelona’s name,” Sanllehi said. “But there is no signature and I can assure you in Arsenal and Barcelona we have not seen the document.
“It is a draft, probably drafted by some proposal discussed with one of those clubs in that list that I don’t know about.”
Sanllehi added that the discussions over a potential Super League were not “hidden from anybody”.
He said: “We knew that [a Super League] could be an option and we explored that option out of our own responsibility as managers of the top clubs. We looked into that in two ways: a way of exploring the real possibility, and also how it would help us to negotiate with UEFA under the new terms.
“At the end of the day the outcome was the best possible because we got into a new deal with UEFA within the system that protected the domestic leagues.”
Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal’s managing director, added: “Arsenal are not or never have been interested in playing in any competition that weakens the Premier League. I see these articles that Arsenal want to breakaway – we never want to do any of that. But we also have to recognise we have to be in these conversations or we would not be responsible. We have to be in the conversations – it does not necessarily mean we support them.”