Six English clubs have agreed to join a controversial breakaway European Super League which Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer hailed as a "new chapter".
The bombshell plan, announced on Sunday, saw United join Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and six other European clubs in creating a rival competition to the Champions League.
It is anticipated three more clubs will join the breakaway group as founding members with the new competition, which will begin "as soon as practicable" to eventually feature 20 teams.
The new European Super League Company revealed it has already launched legal action to try to prevent retaliatory moves amid widespread condemnation of the plans.
After the plans emerged on Sunday afternoon condemnation was almost instant throughout the game, before the clubs released statements just before midnight.
In announcing the news, Glazer, also vice-chairman of the Super League, said: "By bringing together the world's greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid."
Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan are the other six clubs, with Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain missing from the list.
A joint statement from the clubs read: "Twelve of Europe's leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new midweek competition, the Super League, governed by its founding clubs.
"AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as founding clubs.
"It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable."
The timing of this statement is incendiary coming ahead of an anticipated announcement from UEFA confirming changes to the Champions League format on Monday.
The European governing body is expected to approve an increase from 32 to 36 teams from 2024 with the existing structure of eight groups of four replaced by one league. The format, known as the 'Swiss model', would see all teams play 10 games in the first stage with opponents determined by a seeding system.
The statement from the 12 clubs makes clear they do not believe these proposed changes go far enough.
It added: "The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model.
"Further, for a number of years, the founding clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.
"The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid.
"In recent months extensive dialogue has taken place with football stakeholders regarding the future format of European competitions.
"The founding clubs believe the solutions proposed following these talks do not solve fundamental issues, including the need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid."
Real Madrid's Florentino Perez will chair the Super League, He said: "We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world. Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires."
It is proposed the new competition will be played in midweek with the eventual 15 founding members being joined by five qualifiers. It will be played initially in two groups of 10 with an eight-team knockout stage.
The organisers claim it will generate more money than the Champions League and that will result in a greater distribution of revenue throughout the game.
The statement added: "The new annual tournament will provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues.
"These solidarity payments will be substantially higher than those generated by the current European competition and are expected to be in excess of €10billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the clubs."
Investment bank JP Morgan confirmed to Reuters on Monday that it was financing the new breakaway.
News of the breakaway competition leaked out before it was officially announced and had already provoked a fierce backlash from UEFA and various national leagues and associations.
They pointed out the competition was unsanctioned and clubs and players risked bans by being involved.
World governing body FIFA also issued a strong condemnation after the announcement was made and called for further discussions.
The statement read: "In our view, and in accordance with our statutes, any football competition, whether national, regional or global, should always reflect the core principles of solidarity, inclusivity, integrity and equitable financial distribution.
"Moreover, the governing bodies of football should employ all lawful, sporting and diplomatic means to ensure this remains the case.
"Against this background, FIFA can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures and not respecting the aforementioned principles."
It went on to call for unity and "all parties involved in heated discussions to engage in calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game".
UEFA, along with the Football Associations of England, Spain and Italy, plus the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A, said they would use all available means to stop the "cynical project".
A joint statement, issued before the later Super League announcement, read: "If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.
"We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.
"As previously announced by FIFA and the six federations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.
"We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced.
"This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough."
In a solo statement, the FA added the breakaway plan was "damaging to English and European football at all levels" and would "attack the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are fundamental to competitive sport".
The Premier League also warned it would have a "deeply damaging impact".
The EFL also condemned the Super League as an attack on "open and fair competition" and insists a strong pyramid is fundamental to football's success.
In a statement, the league said: "The EFL stands with the Premier League, The FA, PFA, LMA, the FSA and colleagues across European professional football in condemnation of proposals which attack the foundation of open and fair competition upon which our game is built.
"A strong pyramid based on promotion, relegation and ultimately European qualification, is fundamental to our game's continued success.
"The EFL opposes any reform that doesn't support competition integrity or offer clubs the prospect of one day competing at the highest end of the game.
"Collective reform efforts should be focused on creating conditions that foster long-term sustainability at all levels of the domestic football and remove the current, almost impossible financial pressures created as a result in the huge difference of revenues allocated to the Premier League in comparison to the Championship and Leagues One and Two."
But World players' union FIFPRO says it will "vigorously oppose" any legal actions from any side which block players from competing for their national teams.
They said: "Threats of a breakaway competition and subsequent concessions to reform European football competitions have shaped decision-making for years.
"This dynamic has replaced transparent and inclusive discussions on the opportunities of competition reforms for all players, fans, clubs, leagues and federations.
"Players continue to be used as assets and leverage in these negotiations. This is unacceptable for FIFPRO, our 64 national player associations and the 60,000 players we represent.
"We will vigorously oppose measures by either side that would impede the rights of players, such as exclusion from their national teams."
Borussia Dortmund chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke has said his club are focused on Champions League reform, not a Super League.
"The members of the board of the European Club Association (ECA) got together for a virtual conference on Sunday evening and confirmed that the board decision of last Friday is still valid," said Watzke on his club's website.
"This decision means that the clubs want to implement the planned reform of the UEFA Champions League. It was the clear opinion of the members of the ECA board that the plans to found a Super League were rejected."
Watzke added that "both German clubs that are represented on the ECA board, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, represented 100% compatible views in all discussions".