The Already Apparent Mis-Adventures of the European Super League
Attempting to break down one of the most seismic football developments of the last century
By: Maxwell Argento
World football has been turned upside down over the last 48 hours, after reports came out with news of the formation of a ‘European Super League’, comprised of 12 of the biggest and most influential soccer clubs in Europe.
The teams, coming from England, Italy and Spain respectively are as follows:
Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur from the Premier League
Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan from Serie A
Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid from La Liga
It was reported that the league was going to be played during the middle of the week, as a way of replacing (at least for these clubs) what is currently known as the Europa League and Champions League cup competitions. The teams would play each other frequently, and without the fear of relegation from this league, would more or less play glorified exhibition matches (until some sort of tournament or playoff bracket was eventually constructed to manufacture jeopardy — like they do in every major American sport). The economic windfall experienced by these clubs would be incredibly substantial, and would allow them to consistently acquire the best players in the world at an ever greater rate than they are already, and would all but ruin the currently employed ‘pyramid system’, which is the backbone of soccer on the continent (and is the basis by which the sport is structured geographically in order to even give us leagues like the Premier League in the first place). If these teams were to get removed from the Premier League, for instance, at the expense of being in this new Super League, the entire fabric of the league itself will be inexorably changed in a negative way. The Premier League as a product will suffer and lose out to the Super League when it comes to broadcasting rights (which is where all the money is made), and the disparity between these clubs will only widen, which is unhealthy for the sport and will affect it at the grassroots level in places like England and Italy and Spain.
The backlash received from every angle based off these developments (and the resulting news that has been coming out due to them) has been just as shocking as the initial reports. Pundits, fans, and bystanders have sounded off on the Super League’s plans, citing things like “greed” while voicing their displeasure over what the move does to football everywhere. Governing bodies in the football landscaping like UEFA, FIFA and The FA have come out warning these teams that involving themselves in this competition could endanger their players from being able to participate in things like the World Cup, the Euros, and potentially even their own domestic competitions. The news has been so inflammatory that competitions currently in play (like the Champions League semi-finals, which involve three of the clubs associated with the Super League) are all of a sudden being thrown into question.
The breaking news has been flowing steadily into the afternoon, with reports coming out that Manchester City and Chelsea are formally submitting documentation to release themselves from the Super League after seeing how bad the public backlash has been, and that Atletico Madrid and Barcelona are also looking to move in the same direction. These reports are coupled with news that Ed Woodward has officially stepped down from his role as Executive Vice-Chairman of Manchester United in part of because of the Super League developments. Players from Liverpool have even come out collectively and stated their opposition to the Super League after seeing that Manchester City and Chelsea are trying to leave.
The swift nature in which these choices at the top of these clubs are being made is jarring, and in some ways further harms the already-damaged credibility that the owners have with their fans. The toothpaste can’t be shoved back into the tube no matter how hard you try, and even if these clubs go back on their choice to join the Super League, the relationship may have already been pushed to an unfixable level with their respective fan bases.
Whatever resolution is reached (if any) on this entire state of affairs, this fact should be recognized: The top tier of global football is inevitably looking to transition towards a model that likens itself to American-style sports like the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. The quicker these owners can steer their organizations towards a walled off business-model insulated from dangerous and volatile things like relegation and promotion the better. It may be “anti-sport” and “against the spirit of competition”, but it makes them money, and is in their mind fair compensation for the contribution they make to the market as a whole. While this way of business doesn’t jive with the interests of fans, it is what will improve their bottom line, which is what matters the most to these decision-makers when all is said and done anyways.
We will see in the coming days and weeks if fan influence is something powerful enough to wipe away the Super League faster than it has arrived. Only time will tell if football’s longstanding tradition and historical aura will ultimately trump the chase for wealth and commercial success being had by these team’s owners. If it does, the humble soccer fan will cheer and the ruthless business man will jeer, if only long enough to give him a break from counting his millions.