World football could be about to experience a major shake-up with the potential introduction of the "Dream Football League" (DFL), according to The Times.
The report on Wednesday morning said that plans were afoot to launch a 'Dream Football League', a summer tournament which would host 24 teams every two years in an audacious attempt to rival the Champions League and the Club World Cup and, in the process, offer enormous financial rewards for the participating teams.
However, the story has since been claimed as a hoax, with satirical French website Les Cahiers du Football taking the credit for the hoax following a very similar - and entirely bogus - story it published earlier in the week.
Les Cahiers du Football said via its Twitter account on Wednesday: "We published this on the night of Monday to Tuesday at around one in the morning - all of it came from my imagination."
@julienpretotrtr ? On a publié ça dans la nuit de lundi à mardi vers 1h du matin... Tout est sorti de mon imagination.— Cahiers du football (@cahiersdufoot) March 13, 2013
The writer of The Times' story, Oliver Kay, responded later by claiming that Les Cahiers du Sport was "100% not the source of my story".
Kay then wrote on his Times webchat on Wednesday: "Cahiers du Football was absolutely not the source of my story -- 100 per cent, 1,000 per cent, 175 million per cent. I have copious amounts of handwritten notes, as well as e-mails and texts, that would confirm this. Would I really risk my reputation on something like this? No.
"I've spoken to the original source again twice today and to several other important figures who are keen to add their input. Still nothing on the record, which is a frustration. But there is more where this came from, which should tell you that, no, this didn't come from some "satirical" French website."
The report said that the burgeoning competition could potentially entice a number of clubs to participate, with organisers expected to offer in the region of £175 million for elite clubs such as Barcelona and Manchester United to compete every two-year cycle.
The amounts of money mentioned as being on offer in the DFL would cast a long shadow over the world's top competitions - the Champions League has an annual prize fund of £595 million, with last season's winner Chelsea netting £47.3 million - and would also help many of Europe's wealthiest clubs overcome UEFA's new "financial fair play" regulations.
Officials for UEFA, the Premier League and clubs likely to be involved have so far not commented on the reports, but The Times quotes a source close to the proposed project as saying: "These people have already shown that, if they want something to happen, they will throw enough money at it to make it happen. And the football industry has shown that everything can be bought for the right price."