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Greed and the European Super League

Suffocating the grassroots. Mocking the working-class origins of the game. World football, and primarily European club football, has long done away with loyalties in favour of cash and contract. The professionalization of the game has seen a difficult relationship between fan, spectator and sporting management, none better exemplified than the price of tickets, the role of branding and sponsorship.

The apotheosis of this has arrived in the form of a proposed breakaway European Super League. Like a mafia-styled cartel, twelve of Europe’s elite football clubs have banded together to create their own, sealed competition. The English contribution will be Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal. Juventus, AC Milan and Inter provide the Italian contingent; Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletico Bilbao supply the Spanish element. To these will be added three as yet unconfirmed founding members and five annual qualification spots. The competition itself will feature two small leagues of ten clubs each, with the highest finishers facing each other in an elimination phase to eventually reach a deciding final in May.

The decision reeks of smoky, backroom secrecy, and promises to supplant the UEFA Champions League. Initial infrastructure payments between the clubs will be 3.5 billion euros, followed by 10 billion euros for an initial period of commitment. As with any such decisions made in the stratosphere of corrupt, gold crazed management, the foot soldiers, front line workers and fans are merely incidental. In some cases, not even coaches were consulted. Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp was left dumbfounded. “I heard for the first time about it yesterday,” he told Sky Sports. “We are not involved in any process, not me or the players.”

For Klopp, accepting the proposal was tantamount to rigging the competition, creating a closed shop where the relegation and admission of clubs would be impossible. “I like the fact that West Ham might play Champions League next year. I don’t want them to, because I want us to be there, but I like that they have the chance.” For Klopp, “the Champions League is the Super League, in which you do not always end up playing against the same teams.” His nightmare: a perennial bout of competition between the same football clubs, a franchise model, in other words, commonly accepted in US sports. (Consider Major League Soccer, NBA basketball and NFL gridiron football.) “Why should we create a system where Liverpool faces Real Madrid for 10 straight years?” Klopp’s observations impressed former Manchester United footballer turned commentator Gary Neville. “He’s destroyed his owners on national television.”

Traditional football officialdom is also furious at the move. UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin cast a withering eye over the idea, focusing his ire on Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli and Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. Woodward, the furious president claimed, had expressed his satisfaction with the existing stable of UEFA reforms in a phone call. But it was obvious that “he had already signed something else.” Agnelli, however, took the crown, being “the biggest disappointment of all. I have never seen a person that would lie so many times, so persistently as he did – it is unbelievable.”

On April 18, UEFA, the English Football Association and the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A issued a joint statement of condemnation. Were the Super League to be established, the various bodies, including FIFA, would “remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project,” one “founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.” Judicial and sporting measures were promised. Bans on the clubs will be implemented, affecting playing at all levels: domestic, European or global. Participating players will not be able to represent their country.

With some of these governing bodies, virtue has been a difficult thing. FIFA has a lengthy record of diddling finances, resorting to bribery and greasing backdoor deals. Over the years, multinational investigations have been conducted into various executive members of the organisation and associated bodies, including former chief Sepp Blatter. But on the matter of the Super League, the righteous were proving noisy, with the organisation keen to “clarify that it stands firm in favour of solidarity in football and an equitable redistribution model which can help football as a sport, particularly at the global level.”

Attempts to punish the renegades may not be as fruitful as detractors of the Super League think. Memories seem to have been rinsed on that score, but the English Premier League itself broke away from the English Football League in 1992. Officialdom, as it was bound to be, was enraged, as were the fans.

The Super League proposal is drawing attention to an already decaying structure, one that sees little by way of revenue returning to the lower leagues and clubs that were already struggling prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, it is hard to take the views of Prince William, who is president of England’s Football Association, too seriously. Well it is that “we must protect the entire football community – from the top level to the grassroots – and the values of competition and fairness,” but that project is hardly flourishing as things stand.



Astronomical transfer fees already keep the top clubs in the clouds, meaning that the Champions League already resembles, on some level, Klopp’s nightmare of repetitive competition. What the franchise Super League model proposes to do is take it that one step further, creating a closed shop.

Commentary abounds on whether this play is part of a negotiating tactic to better improve the financial standing of the twelve clubs. With so much football already being played, a mid-week Super League fixture seems like exhausting surfeit. But for those keeping an eye on football politics, the idea of a reformed European league has been on the table for some years. In October 2020, the notion of a European Premier League, sponsored by JP Morgan and comprising 18 clubs, was already being mooted. Alarm was sounded by the words of Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who claimed in his resignation statement that the club had “accepted a proposal to participate in a future European Super League.”

Were this league’s establishment culminate in savage retributions – bans, relegations, prohibitions – as promised by the authorities, a standalone creation, hoovering up sponsorships and broadcasting revenues, may well be the default outcome. Little wonder that the finance wonks suggest keeping the selfish twelve within the tent rather than letting them scamper off.

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  1. Phil Pryor

    I used to watch Brian Morre and the day’s football roundup, here in Australia by Tuesday night, then Monday. The old stars, Charltons, Grieves, finals, world cups, even endless Scottish Celtic V Rangers. Then, over time, the adverts around the ground became more foreign, players came and went, bought, sold, rented, more and more foreign, then managers too, finally big momey owners, even a thieving Russian Oligarch, so that a plain local loyalty game has become a corporate moving show for colour telly. Beer and pies and bad singing remain, club colours, but, the mums and dads, volunteers, amateur refs and officials are squashed now, and who actually comes from the local juniors anymore? It has become superslutmoneymaking for uncaring profiteers. It’s a long time, c. 1990, that I watched the F A cup final, because it just doesn’t really matter now. Puskas, Di Stefano, Pele, Maradona, even Georgie Best, fading memories…

  2. Michael Taylor

    … even endless Scottish Celtic V Rangers.

    You made me chuckle there, Phil. I noticed that back in the 70s. Don’t tell me it’s now embedded in eternity! 😳

  3. Jack Cade

    I can’t believe I am saying this, but the most passionate, articulate, literate and apposite comments about this travesty have been made by Gary Neville, a man who, because of our childhood backgrounds and allegiances, I abhorred as a player and then as a pundit.
    I saw my first Liverpool game in August 1954, after they had fallen into the old second division. I think the opponents were Bury or Port Vale – I cannot remember the score but I CAN remember all the players in our team. I watched from what was called the ‘Boys Pen’ which was in the top left hand corner of the old Spion Kop, a huge hulking stand, named for a battle in the Boer War in which Scousers- and probably Mancunians – took part.
    The old Kop, when full, contained 23,000 people, all swaying when the ball came to that end of the ground. Terrifying! You always got to the ground early to avoid being near the crush barriers. Even in the Pen.
    Now, sixty-odd years later, I am seriously worried that I may be forced to switch my allegiance to a team that is not owned by greedy billionaires, or stop caring about football at all. I cannot countenance supporting a team in the Super League…
    After all, I was appalled when the Champions League was extended to allow 4 teams from the EPL, thinking that only champions should be in the Champions League. Now we are faced with a league comprising a maximum of 20 teams, eventually, with no relegation.
    Presumably they will sooner or later adopt the North American abomination of the top two playing 7 games to decide who is the Champion. Invariably going to 4-3 to maximise the income.
    Not that it would be fixed…


  4. Michael Taylor

    G’day, Jack. I thought this article would stir you up.

    For a traditionalist like myself, this is indeed grim. It reminds me of Kerry Packer’s World Series cricket.

    Why can’t some things be left the way they are? Next they’ll be going to court (aka the America’s Cup or an American election) to decide the winners.

    You can take solace though knowing that a certain footy team in Adelaide is bringing us some joy.

  5. Andrew J. Smith

    One had the same sentiments regarding the VFL -> AFL hollowing out lower tiers, professionalisation, turn over of squads and media dominance or culture.

    Think it also reflects how most followers of (any form of) football, it is now a remote media based (and supported) experience due to accessibility (plus global audiences) and cost to attend matches.

    Even the then new EPL was a step too far for many, increasingly internationalised squads, expensive entry, all seating, many complained that London (lesser extent Manchester and Liverpool), any football match crowd is dominated by tourists and generally, to be consistently near the top requires deep financial resources.

    From the English end I guess there may be some antipathy directed towards Europe, but it’s an entertainment business and it may have a positive effect (will there be relegation/promotion?) on EPL and Euro leagues dominated by two or three top clubs, with the remainder some way behind (nervously observed in the AFL’s third tier in suburbs and bush); evening things up.

    However, the quality of at least the later stages of Champions League football can be sublime, the skills and the competitive matches as the global benchmark which in turn inspires many young players and supporters.

  6. Harry Lime

    The pursuit of money via corporatisation corrupts everything…sport,society, democracy,education etc. even governments.Who would have guessed?Not to mention the cult of personality,a largely unconscious population and a corrupt mainstream media promoting bread and circuses.Has Fatguts Palmer got plans for a Circus Maximus to go with his hugely successful Titanic replica?I apologise, I have a bad case of the shits.

  7. Jack Cade

    Hello Michael

    Yes!! And good value, too!

  8. Michael Taylor

    Hi, Jack.

    A couple of big outs with injuries, but we seem to have covered them well. 😀

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