*Note from the Editor-In-Chief: in the time between when this article was submitted and when it was finalized for publishing, several teams that initially made up the European Super League came to the decision to withdraw from it. We then decided to wait for more news to develop regarding this story; the Super League was soon suspended altogether, as more teams bowed out following the backlash. Nevertheless, we wanted to share our author's thoughts on the initial news itself and why it was, in his opinion, a horrible idea*
Wow, just wow. It's been two days now since this news has broken and I still don't know how to fully process it. The "big six" of English Football (Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham), as well as top clubs from Italy and Spain -- including perhaps the two biggest clubs in the world in Barcelona and Real Madrid -- have come together to create the "European Super League." Led by Real Madrid President Florentino Perez, this concept has been in the works since way back in 2009. It's nothing more than a greedy and scummy act by the owners of all involved clubs trying to generate more revenue for themselves, thus leaving everyone else in the darkness.
The European Super League consists of 15 founding members (12 having already been announced) and 5 additional open slots that clubs can qualify for annually (the qualification criteria haven't yet been announced or even established because, as you'll notice with all of this, this whole league is mess with a very confusing foundation). Now, for those of you who don't watch Football and therefore don't understand why this news is so unpopular, there's already a contest which has been around since 1955 called the European Cup (rebranded in 1992 and now known as the Champions League). For nearly 70 years, this structure has functioned as a means for the best teams across multiple domestic leagues competing against one another in order to become the true European Champion. In the larger domestic leagues, like those in England and Spain, the top four annual finishers qualify for the next season's Champions League; the smaller domestic leagues get two spots.
The Champions League works as follows: groups of 4 teams compete against each other (each team plays the other three teams once at home and once on the road, a total of six games played overall); the top finishers from these groups based on the points system (3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for losing) advance to the knockout round which, for comparison, is similar to the NFL Playoffs. Because the teams that finish at the top of their leagues, competing year in and year out, earn their qualifications, it's a fair system. The process is purely merit-based, as teams improve themselves from one year to the next and overtake others in order to make it to the competition. A prime example is Leicester City, a club that was almost relegated from the Premier League in 2015, which had the most amazing season in sport history and went on to win the Premier League the very next season. This qualified them for the Champions League, something their fans would never have even dreamed of the year prior, where they got to play with the best Football teams on the planet.
Now in this "Super League," with 15 total spots being guaranteed to the existing committed clubs, there's no competition whatsoever. There's no incentive for these clubs to try to finish within the top four qualifying spots in their domestic leagues because, if they were to leave the Champions League for the ESL, their spots would be guaranteed forever. What is sport with no competition? Domestic leagues, such as the Premier League in England and La Liga in Spain, are also cheated; unless a team is competing to win that league, it now has no incentive to play its better players in these competitions. Instead, these clubs could play their reserve players and focus solely on the Super League games.
As a result, this would make these other leagues worth less money and less popular, as they would get less viewership and attention. This would, in return, screw over the other teams in this league, as they wouldn't receive as much revenue to re-invest into their clubs. Not to mention that the timing of this is HORRIBLE; to up and create a breakaway league during a pandemic, in which many historical clubs have gone bankrupt and furloughed players due to income shortages from COVID-19, is perhaps the greediest thing of all. And these teams are just...allowed to be in this league forever, mainly because of their past successes in some cases. It's elitism and not even sporting anymore, and "lesser" teams can do nothing about it, basically because they aren't as rich as others, which isn't even their fault.
To American sports fans or those with no understanding how Football relegation and promotion work, this might not seem like a big deal. But in leagues all across Europe, promotion and relegation are some of the most important factors in how the system works. The pyramid system in the Premier League, for example, is as follows: there are multiple divisions of English Football and clubs that finish towards the top of the divisions below the others are promoted upwards until they reach the highest, which is the Premier League itself. Conversely, those clubs that finish at the bottom of a division (such as the bottom three of the Premier League, etc.) are relegated to the division below. This process is vital to how the entire sport is run all throughout Europe. It adds an incentive to those clubs at the bottom to try and compete all season, unlike in American sports, where teams that know they don't have a shot at the Playoffs might lose on purpose or "tank" to try and get a better draft pick.
This format makes every game for each team involved a competition to the point where you would never even consider losing on purpose. This is both great for the game itself and also a reason why it's so popular. The fact that the teams making up this Super League think they have the right to compete at the top for the long term future without having to earn or qualify for it is nothing short of disgraceful and would highly damage the reputation of the sport.
The Super League is headed by Florentino Perez, who, as I previously stated, is the President of Real Madrid (which is arguably the largest and most popular Football club in the world). Perez is flanked by Vice Chairmen, a committee which, at the moment, consists of owners from Manchester United and Juventus. With the League being set up with these men (who already have a club interest) being in charge, it begs the question: how can this be fair for those other clubs involved in any way? If a questionable call helps Real Madrid win a game or, even on a larger scale, the title itself, who would these clubs complain to? What if Manchester United were negotiating with a player from another club inside the Super League outside of the legal tampering period? Who would these clubs file a report to?
The people in charge are literally those who have a financial stake or jobs with specific clubs; the entire operation would be run on corruption and lies (on top of it already being built on greed). The motivation is one thing and one thing only: money. That's what these owners care about and that's why this league has come to fruition, because all they care about is how they can fill their pockets with even more cash. This would put all revenue into these clubs' own pockets, depriving it at the same time from smaller clubs in other countries who aren't "elite" enough to be invited (I'd actually argue they're much more elite than any of these founding clubs, since they'd never consider doing something to damage the sport like this).
The official tagline on the Super League's website is: "The best clubs, the best players, every week." The best clubs? Arsenal are a team that currently stands in ninth place as I write this. Tottenham? 7th place and they just fired their Coach hours before I wrote this. Manchester United haven't won a league title since 2013 or any other trophy since 2017, which was four years ago. "The best teams" really means the wealthiest teams, as that's the real reason they were chosen to join this league. The Champions League is already great for these big teams playing each other in the later games of the competition. It also makes for some great gameday atmosphere, as you could possibly be matched up with other big clubs for the first time ever, in some instances; these occasions could be downright historic for certain clubs.
I previously mentioned Leicester City, a club that rose from darkness to win the Premier League and make the next season's Champions League. They got to play a very big team in Atletico Madrid (who happen to be apart of the Super League proposal) as a result. The fact that a team not even in the first division of English Football got to play one of the biggest teams in the world is an amazing story that can only happen in this format. That set of games they played are going to go down as two of the most famous nights in Leicester City's history, despite their loss. Now for the big teams that are usually in the Champions League, it's always great to see yourselves play another big team for high stakes, especially when a matchup like Barcelona vs Inter Milan (another club in the Super League) might have been decades in the making. This leads to some truly special moments and games between these teams while, in the Super League, these same teams would be playing each other week in and week out, multiple times a year; that frequency just takes away some of the allure.
The appeal of big teams playing each other in these massive games is that it's a special occurrence, a really cool day or night to watch your team. If it becomes the norm, then it just becomes flat and boring. Especially when none of these teams can drop out or be relegated from the league, leaving us with the same matchups over and over again. And again, because these founding 15 members can't be kicked out...what happens if Chelsea were to finish last and Manchester United second to last, but one of the five clubs that qualified for just that year's version of the campaign finishes above them? They would be kicked out because the others can't be, unlike in the Champions League, where it all depends on how you finish domestically. This isn't a competition anymore -- it's essentially turned the sport we know and love into a string of exhibition games for money.
The reaction to this news has been almost universally negative, from just about every aspect you can look at. This includes from fans, the clubs not involved, ex-players and pundits alike. Even individual Governments are trying to stop this concept before it even begins; Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of England, made a statement condemning the ESL. Even some players who are contractually obligated to participating clubs have come out and spoken against this League. The worst part of it all is that this idea has supposedly been in the works for many years now, yet the coaches and players of these teams involved have stated that they only found out about it at the same time as fans and everyone else did on Twitter.
Everyone who has invested their time and emotion into these clubs over the past 10-15 years or so feel blindsided by what I'd call downright greedy actions from owners. So many of these clubs involved had been born from workers, low income players and hard working people who just wanted to play the game, only for those efforts to be thrown away due to greedy men in charge looking to maximize their profits. The Glazer family, who are the owners of Manchester United, have gotten the club into record amounts of debt; the family continues to withdraw money from the club to put directly into their pockets, making matters worse. These are the kinds of people running the league and it basically sums up what's important to them.
Let me paint you a picture here: Joel Glazer, who's a Vice Chairman of the Super League, said in a 2019 interview that he still doesn't understand the sport's offside rule. In other words, a founding member of this massive league with a ton of power and influence in the world's biggest sport doesn't even understand one of its most simple rules. Did I mentioned that he's owned the club for over a decade now? This is yet another example of how these businessmen do not care about the sport and are only in it for the money, which is appalling.
As I stated before, the reaction since this news broke has been wildfire negativity, including the reaction from those inside other governing bodies in the world of Football like UEFA, who runs the Champions League, and FIFA. They've come together and made a statement, saying that any club participating in this league would be banned from playing in their domestic leagues, the Champions League and essentially any other competition. They've also said that players who are on these teams will be ineligible to be rostered on National Teams, meaning that they wouldn't be able to play in the World Cup, among other things.
Now I, as well as several others, don't know if these governing bodies can (legally) do that, much less uphold it. However, I applaud the gesture, as any punch that can be thrown to stop this mess should be thrown immediately. Some of these clubs founded over 100 years ago have had many famous nights and won many trophies, including League titles and Cups like the FA cup or Copa Del Rey. If they were to join this new League, they'd be throwing away that history, which is a slap in the face to fans all over the world, fans of a sport bigger than any other worldwide. All those triumphs and celebrations gone in one night, all due to greed.
It's yet to be known what many of the players on these teams think about these developments. However, Daniel Podence, a Portuguese winger who plays for a club in the Premier League, shared a message condemning the ESL on Instagram. This message was shared by Bruno Fernandes and João Cancelo, who play for Manchester United and Manchester City, two teams participating in the ESL (they're also Portuguese teammates with Podence); along with sharing the message, they added their sentiments that Football shouldn't be all about money. James Milner, who plays for Liverpool, said in a postgame interview the day after this was announced that he hoped the league wouldn't move forward.
I believe that, if fans all come together, put rivalries aside and continue to show their displeasure, this movement can be stopped. I'm a Manchester United fan and a massive one at that, for 6 years now. While that isn't too long, I still understand the magnitude of how dumb this really is. This would damage everything about the sport, including the clubs and International play. It would essentially "Americanize" a sport that isn't American. The format of the league would be like that of an American sport, which honestly doesn't even make any sense. But instead of blaming the clubs, I choose to blame the owners. This isn't Manchester United and what they were built on over 100 years ago. People have literally died to play for this club -- because they love the game -- and they would absolutely hate this. In fact, I'm willing to bet that all of those involved with the current club and all other previous iterations beforehand would be absolutely disgusted by hearing this news.
At the end of the day, none of this is about football, it's purely about money. This league doesn't even represent a competition; it's just 15 clubs who think they're better than the others because of what they already have in their pockets. And these owners that are in the position to make these decisions are only there because of the past successes of these clubs and the hard work those before them put in. It's just an investment to them and it's truly sad to see. Many have even considered falling out of love with the sport and their club due to this news and I can't say that I haven’t as well. This threat is very real and could begin as soon as this year, which is why everyone needs to come together, including players and those involved with these clubs, to refuse and protest this arrangement. This Super League would destroy the game of Football as we know it, turning it instead into a real world moneyball with no competition whatsoever. The Super League needs to be abolished and those involved with trying to break away and form it in the first place need to be heavily punished.
- Cameron (@Cameron_FTF)