Qatari FA denies any knowledge of 'Dream League'
The Qatar Football Association has issued a statement in response to a report in The Times which detailed plans for a 'Dream League'.
An incredible 24-team tournament was mooted involving the biggest teams in Europe, backed by the Qatari Royal Family, and offering clubs as much as £175m each just to take part.
Oliver Kay's story was spread across three pages, and was quickly picked up around the world - including in a report on this website - with the world of football assuming that the Times's sources must have been impeccable to justify such a large report.
The Qatar Football Association issued a statement saying: "With regard to the story published in today's edition of The Times newspaper concerning a 'Dreams Football League,' the Qatar Football Association and other Qatari football entities can categorically confirm that we have no involvement in any such initiative and has heard nothing to suggest such a concept is genuine."
Jerome Latta, who wrote the article for Cahiers du Football, subsequently explained to French online publication Rue89 that he believed the story had been spread because it had an air of plausibility.
"I swear it's come entirely out of my imagination," Latta said. "I don't have a source. I don't know whether the project is plausible, because fans and governments might block it from happening. But in any case you can imagine it.
"The football industry has evolved so much in these last few years and as it comes in the context of a European financial crisis (as my made-up Qatari source says in the article), it seemed possible."
Amongst the details common to both stories were that the organisers aim to begin the tournament in 2015, and stage it every two years. It would be held in the summer at six cities across the Gulf.
Kay took to Twitter to defend his scoop, saying Cahiers du Football "was 100% not the source of my story, as I suspect Cahiers (with their 'DFL' imagery) know."
But in response, Cahiers du Football said: "What do you 'suspect'? We made it all up, including the picture... We know nothing about your source, if it exists."
Picture: The imagery for the Dream Football League appeared on both Cahier du Football and The Times' stories - the former claims to have made the picture up themselves.
The DFL would have featured 16 permanent members of Europe’s elite in the competition, with a further eight places to be designated by invitation, and the hope was that the tournament would come to have the same kind of prestige as the Champions League - or perhaps even exceed it.
Eurosport France's Benoit Vittek dismissed the story as nothing more than make-believe.
"Everything in this article screams: 'This is fantasy", Vittek said.
"It seems like The Times totally misinterpreted it and then tried to claim those fake news were theirs. Terrible. The details we read from English websites match the ones in Cahiers du Football."
The Times report adds that approaches to top flight clubs and governing bodies had revealed little.
"The Premier League declined to comment on the DFL proposals last night. The ECA did not respond to inquiries.
"Leading figures from Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester CIty and Manchester United also declined to respond, although some privately expressed full support for the existing competition structure in club football while saying they had not heard of the DFL proposals."
Kay, promoting the story last night on his Twitter feed, said: "Often when you write a big story, you're desperate for it to come off so you 'look good'. Not so sure this time."
Tony Evans, football editor of The Times, said the speculation was wide of the mark.
"As far as we are concerned the story is true and we stand by it," he told Reuters. "Oliver Kay is an exceptionally good journalist who is unlikely to have fallen for a hoax story on a spoof website.
"He obtained the information after speaking to powerful people in football and after doing his groundwork. He has been working on it for quite a while and there is no reason to doubt he will be fully vindicated."