Opinion – Why European Super League spells the death of football as we know it

The European Super League logo.
The European Super League logo.

What is the European Super League?

The European Super League seems to be the one competition that will end football as we have come to know and love over the decades. On Sunday, 18th April, 12 teams confirmed their intention of forming a breakaway European league, the Super League and announced themselves as the founding members.

These clubs are; Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan. (h/t The Independent)

Under the rules of the competition, the 15 founding members will be guaranteed qualification every year into the Super League regardless of their league position last season. This competition will effectively replace the UEFA Champions League for the clubs involved. Apart from the 15 founding members, 5 other teams will qualify each season based on their league position in the previous year. (h/t Sky Sports)

Florentino Perez (L) is the chairman of the European Super League. (GETTY Images)
Florentino Perez (L) is the chairman of the European Super League. (GETTY Images)

How will the Super League be conducted?

Well, the rules seem to be pretty straight forward. The 20 teams will be divided into 2 groups of 10, with each team playing home and away against each other from August to May yearly. The matches will be held midweek and are not aimed at replacing the domestic leagues of the concerned clubs.

Then, the top 3 teams in both groups will qualify for the quarter-finals. The competition, from thereon, will be conducted in the same fashion as the UEFA Champions League with 2-legged knockout fixtures. Teams finishing 4th and 5th in both groups will play against each other in playoff games to secure qualification to the last-8. (h/t The Independent)

The league has been supposedly financed by banking conglomerates, JP Morgan, who have invested about $5billion into this new project. As for getting their share of money, the 12 clubs, in their own announcement, said:

“The Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.”

European Super League will make UEFA Champions League irrelevant. (GETTY Images)
European Super League will make UEFA Champions League irrelevant. (GETTY Images)

What is the reaction to the Super League?

Largely, and rightly, this league has been condemned. The Premier League released a statement stating that this League would destroy the principles of open competition. Similarly, UEFA also took note of the situation in their joint statement with the major football governing bodies in Europe, threatening to ban these aforementioned clubs.

Whilst this  win their first Premier League title, it would be very bad news for the sport as a whole

“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. 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.”

Opinion: Super League is the death of football

That is a pretty strong headline, right? But the Super League has the potential to change, and in turn, harm football in such a way that the football that we know now will die. What then remains will be a shell of the sport, a skeleton with no muscles and blood. The soul of the sport, the fans, will be alienated.

Now you would think that this is an overreaction. After all, something similar happened almost 2 decades ago that changed the course of English football forever. Top Premier League sides broke away from the Football League in order to monopolize profits and not share it with the clubs in the three lower divisions.

That really betrayed the fans and went on to profit a handful of clubs over the years. Not just that, but the takeover of Manchester City, Chelsea, and Paris Saint-Germain also unravelled the era of billionaire owners ‘widening the goalposts’.

The club owners have really let the fans down with the ESL. (Image Credits: Daily Mail)
The club owners have really let the fans down with the ESL. (Image Credits: Daily Mail)

But the Super League is not the same. And if, in some aspects, it is the same as the incidents listed above, it is surely exceeding every possible boundary of morality, fairness, and competitiveness in the sport. This is why, it should be scrapped and the fans should have their game back, no questions asked.

Killing the competitiveness

The most visibly wrong thing with the Super League is its unbelievably clear bias towards its founding members. These teams will profit more, get to oversee the functioning of the competition, and of course, will be guaranteed participation in the new elite club competition in the world of football.

Now, this is as scary as it sounds. As we mentioned above, there is space for 5 teams to qualify by merit in the Super League every year. But that is still a ridiculously small number and it will ensure that a vast number of countries are not represented in the Super League each season.

The criteria for the qualification for those 5 teams is not clear yet, but the format of having 15 confirmed participants simply kills competitiveness in every sense of that word. There will be almost nothing for breakaway clubs like Atalanta, Leicester City, or West Ham United to fight for.

A fairy-tale story like Leicester's may not be possible anymore.
A fairy-tale story like Leicester’s may not be possible anymore.

With 6 teams qualifying for the premier European competition every season, the top 4 race in many of the best footballing leagues will be made redundant to a large extent. Not to mention, these 15 clubs will then become the destination for the best players in the world because why wouldn’t the best players want to play regularly in the ESL every year?

Just think of it this way. While the Champions League offers a fair albeit uneven, chance to 79 top clubs to qualify for the UCL each season, the Super League only accords 5 spots for that. That is close to 16 times reduction in the places reserved for teams to qualify for Europe’s premier competition based on merit.

Increasing the financial gap

Now, let’s talk about why this league actually came in place. Perez can say that it is to please the fans, but in reality, it is undoubtedly a measure taken by owners of the biggest clubs in Europe to maximize profits for themselves. Above in the article, we mentioned the amount of money set aside for the competition.

And on top of that, it is obvious that with their confirmed participation, these 15 teams will be guaranteed to rake in massive amounts from ESL sponsorships every single year. So, that’s one headache gone for these teams owners at least; just imagine going through a league season without ever having to worry about qualifying for Europe. That’s a dream scenario for the owners.

In another obvious consequence of this, sponsors will slowly leave UEFA. If not leave, their funding will decrease and the competition will clearly lose its shine without its best teams, who are now in the ESL, and the sponsorship and TV money. Because just take these figures reported by Marca English, as an example.

The winner of the Super League will reportedly earn close to €400million, as compared to the €120million given to the UCL winners. The TV money that this competition could generate is also reported to be as high as €10billion, which is an exponential rise from the €4million made by Champions League last year.

Liverpool and Real Madrid are a member of the ESL. (GETTY Images)
Liverpool and Real Madrid are a member of the ESL. (GETTY Images)

This sum of money will, as it always is, be distributed amongst the participating teams, albeit unevenly. But logically, it would still be significantly more than clubs outside the ESL would be earning. Now you see what the real fuss about the Super League is. It’s all about the money.

Also, with these clubs raking in significantly more money than the rest, they can afford more in transfer fees and wages. So apart from the prospect of playing in the Super League, which as its name suggests, will be the premier European competition, these clubs can offer better wages to other teams’ youth prospects and star players.

Long story short, this makes football a mini-competition between a handful of clubs, rendering every other club outside the ESL as a feeder club for these teams and indirectly functioning on the behest of the 15 teams above them.

These 15 teams can pay them good money and take care of their financial needs, but in return, could want their best players. Such a relationship will simply kill any competitive spirit football has, and will drastically widen the gap between the rich teams and the poor teams.

Killing the beauty of the game

The ESL could very well mean no more matches at historically iconic football stadiums in places like Belgrade, Piraeus, Istanbul, or Glasgow. And if they are held there, say for a final, it would be meaningless to the fans residing in that city. To add to that, take away the odd underdog story in football every year.

There is a high chance that after the Super League, stories like that of Monaco, Leicester City, or Atalanta will be next to impossible. If there is an exception and a small team does manage to rise quickly, consider them next in line to be gulped and spit out by the ESL clubs.

Liverpool vs Barcelona, a massive game in European football, can lose its shine and become a boring commonplace. (GETTY Images)
Liverpool vs Barcelona, a massive game in European football, can lose its shine and become a boring commonplace. (GETTY Images)

Not to mention, the big games will lose their significance too. Seeing your team playing Barcelona, Madrid, and Juventus twice a year without ever deserving that opportunity really makes those games lose all relevance.

Domestic cup competitions and even the domestic leagues will also lose a lot of relevance, especially if the footballing associations follow through with their promise of banning the ESL clubs from playing in UEFA competitions and from their domestic leagues.

But money runs the world, and these competitions being ousted will damage the competition banning them way more than the banned teams themselves.

What should be done?

Scrap it. Don’t modify it or try to justify it. Just ask for it to be scrapped. And this is not just a message for the fans, but also for every club that is not included in that 15-team list. Because the precedent that this sets is dangerous. It recognizes 15 clubs as the head of the table in Europe who will decide the economic football model in the continent.

And if this draconian competition is allowed to exist, who knows what comes next? So it is important for everyone in the footballing world to set their rivalries and come together to have the Super League scrapped. While the footballing associations are taking a stand by threatening to ban clubs, pundits everywhere are also voicing their opinions. Just take this elaborate, and much-needed rant by Gary Neville as an example.

So, as fans, we know money has long been a part of football. Small clubs have suffered financially even in pre-Super League times. But never has the competitive spirit and fairness in football been challenged like it is now. This is where the line must be drawn and this is where clubs everywhere have to take a stand; much like FC Porto have.

Although the Premier League clubs have now pulled out of this initiative, the very fact that they agreed to be a part of it in the first place is worrying indeed. Steps have to be taken now to make sure that no club takes control of football itself on the whole. There can be nothing toxic than that and it’s high time measures are taken to ensure nothing dramatic as this happens ever again.

Written by Aniket Rai

An ordinary football fan, doing what he loves.

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