European Super League: Americanizing the most romantic game in the world

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

American owners don’t understand the concept of relegation in football. So guess what they have decided. They will Americanize the most romantic game in the world by creating a European Super League (ESL). 15 founding teams will forever play each other and 5 other teams will qualify for it. The criteria are unknown currently.

And the worst part is that the club who I have loved with all my heart since 1997, Manchester United, is one of the 12 teams who have decided to lead this madness. All this because the owners, the Glazer family, are greedy bastards like the 11 other owners/chairmen.

The other 11 owners and teams are as follows:
Spain:
1. Florentino Perez (Real Madrid),
2. John Laporta (Barcelona) and
3. Miguel Ángel Gil Marín (Atletico Madrid)
England:
4. Stan Kroenke (Arsenal) — How are they one of the big 6 in England with their recent Premier League performances plus the fact that they have never won the Champions League,
5. Daniel Levy (Tottenham Hotspur aka Spurs) — they have not won the Premier League yet,
6. Roman Abramovich (Chelsea)
7. John Henry (Liverpool), and
8. Sheikh Mansour (Manchester City) — They have never won the Champions League
Italy:
9. Andrea Agnelli (Juventus),
10. Zhang Jindong (Inter Milan) and
11. Paolo Scaroni (AC Milan).

Late evening on April 20, the “Super League” published a statement.

The release read: “Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new mid-week competition, the Super League, governed by its Founding Clubs.”

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, Manchester United’s co-chairman Joel Glazer, and Real Madrid chairman Florentino Perez later released statements in favor of the launch.

The Super League has hired InHouse Communications as a British public affairs agency to promote the launch. Katie Perrior, the chair of InHouse, was head of communications for Theresa May during her period as prime minister. She also worked on Boris Johnson’s 2008 mayoral campaign.

Before we dissect this stupidity, let’s read what the main person behind this, Florentino Perez had to say.

“Whenever there is a change, there are always people who oppose it. We are doing this to save football at this critical moment,” Perez said on Spanish TV show El Chiringuito de Jugones.

“Audiences are decreasing and rights are decreasing and something had to be done. We are all ruined. Television has to change so we can adapt.

“Young people are no longer interested in football. Why not? Because there are a lot of poor quality games and they are not interested, they have other platforms on which to distract themselves.”

In the ESL’s maiden statement, Joel Glazer said: “By bringing together the world’s greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid.”

Now that you have read the self-serving statements, let’s get the facts first.

The format of the proposed Super League

The tournament, which would start in August, would feature 2 groups of ten, playing home and away games. The top 3 would qualify for the quarter-finals. Those who finish fourth and fifth then compete for the remaining quarter-final places. And the final eight would play in a two-legged knockout format. There would be a single final at a neutral venue. Additionally, the clubs said in a joint statement that “as soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a correspondent women’s league will also be launched”.

P.S. if ESL starts, the clubs involved won’t take part in any UEFA competition including the Champions League, Europa League, and the European Conference League (scheduled for 2022).

Why ESL?

UEFA had been planning a revamped format for its flagship competition, the Champions League, which would come into effect from 2024. This new format would end the 32-team group stage and instead have a 36-team “Swiss model” league, where each club plays 10 games: five at home, five away. The fixtures would be based on seedings and teams will be ranked from 1 to 36. The top 8 would go to a 16-team knockout round, and the next 16 teams go into a play-off round to decide those final 8 slots.

The above 12 clubs did not want to sign off on this as according to them it makes the Champions League even weaker. Their logic is that in the last 20 years, the only winners outside the 12 clubs have been Porto (in 2003–04) and Bayern Munich (2012–13 and 2019–20). They are currently trying to get Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and PSG in the 15 fixed teams.

So when push came to shove, they decided to break away and launch the ESL. And hours after the launch of ESL, UEFA did announce that the format has been approved (more on this later)

The money involved

The founding clubs will get €3.5B ( most likely to be debt-financed by JP Morgan, the same firm who debt-financed the buyout of Manchester United and who are the former employers of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward), to be shared among the 15 clubs upon joining. This would be targeted at offsetting the losses sustained during the pandemic, and to support infrastructure investment plans.

The founding clubs have also argued that this would not constitute a selfish pursuit. They have pledged €10B in solidarity to the European football pyramid over 23 years, which they claim is a lot more than what the UEFA is offering.

Is the Super League final?

The paperwork distributed between clubs are “agreements of principles” and “memorandums of understanding” at this stage, rather than contractually binding. They are, however, significant statements of intent. Also, on Sunday night, Agnelli quit his roles with both UEFA and the European Club Association. Manchester United has resigned from the European Club Association (ECA) and Ed Woodward has stepped down from his role with UEFA.

But they will not go ahead without regulatory approval from FIFA. This is going to be crucial.

One, rogue leagues won’t last long as the players won’t want to play if they can’t play for their national teams.

Two, the Premier League’s Rule L9 states clubs need the permission of the board to play in any competition apart from the Premier League, the FA Cup, the League Cup, the Community Shield, one run by their County FA or UEFA’s club competitions. In short, ESL needs to be recognized by one of football’s regulatory bodies.

Lastly, FIFA backing would make UEFA’s threat to ban the clubs, and their players, from any of their competitions, including international tournaments, just that, a threat.

Who will broadcast the Super League?

It is unclear who would be the main broadcast partner of the tournament after DAZN distanced themselves on Sunday. This was following reports linking the network to the competition. One of the global tech streaming giants (Amazon Prime Video comes to mind) could emerge as a partner.

What about the remaining 8 teams

PSG and the German clubs Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have refused to join (more on this below). So have Porto and Ajax. So we don’t know who will fill those 3 fixed and 5 rotating slots for the first season (if it happens).

Response from football associations

UEFA along with the English Football Association (FA), the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation, La Liga, the Italian Football Federation, and Serie A, condemned the breakaway league. They have promised sporting sanctions and legal action against clubs that join the ESL. This could include a ban from competing in domestic leagues and forbidding the founding club’s players from competing in tournaments for their national teams.

The Premier League wrote to all 20 Premier League clubs on Sunday and chief executive Richard Masters urged the self-proclaimed Big Six to “walk away immediately before irreparable damage is done”. He also reminded them of the rule that signing up for a new European competition would require Premier League approval.

The Premier League, alongside The FA, met with clubs today to discuss the immediate implications of the Super League proposal.

“The 14 clubs at the meeting unanimously and vigorously rejected the plans for the competition. The Premier League is considering all actions available to prevent it from progressing, as well as holding those Shareholders involved to account under its rules.

“The League will continue to work with key stakeholders including fan groups, Government, UEFA, The FA, EFL, PFA and LMA to protect the best interests of the game and call on those clubs involved in the proposed competition to cease their involvement immediately.

“The Premier League would like to thank fans and all stakeholders for the support they have shown this week on this significant issue. The reaction proves just how much our open pyramid and football community means to people.”

What would it mean for the other clubs?

If a Super League happens, and the super clubs are banned from domestic leagues as being thwarted by the associations, the remaining clubs in England, Spain, and Italy might be the biggest losers. Without the Big Six in England, and the Big Three in Spain and Italy, the broadcast money will be the first thing to get hit. The Premier League loses a third of its value to broadcasters if there is no challenge for Europe.

Clubs like recently promoted Leeds United who are backed by NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and former champions Leicester City who are likely to qualify for the Champions League next season by finishing top 4 this season, are going to be furious about this. Leeds have a plan in place to become a top 4 contender in the next 5 years while Leicester have been pushing for a regular European slot.

Even clubs like Brighton will be fuming. Manchester United, Tottenham, and Arsenal have all lost at Brighton’s Amex Stadium. They drew a game vs Chelsea and they also defeated Liverpool at Anfield in February. Big Six, really?

In Spain, clubs like Sevilla, who are just 6 points off the top of the league at the moment, will feel the brunt of it if the Champions League becomes weak and the money reduces. Imagine what would happen to the Europa League. It will probably become non-existent. Sevilla are 6 times Europa League winners.

In Italy, clubs like Atalanta (currently 3rd in the league and just 2 points behind AC Milan), Napoli (who consistently play in Europe and have the 4th largest fanbase in Italy), and Roma (who are set to play in the Europa League semi-finals vs Manchester United next week) are not going to take this lightly.

What do the clubs feel about the Super League?

The Premier League clubs and clubs across Europe suspect this may be extreme pressure tactics from the founding clubs and that the Super League model may be the starting point of negotiation for more concessions from UEFA or a more inclusive Super League, rather than the final version.

Aston Villa Chief executive Christian Purslow said: “The scheme is designed to take away uncertainty (relegation) and to give predictability to their businesses so that, if they’re badly managed or have a poor year, they’re still in the premier tournament.

“Does that sound like sport or football to you? To me, it sounds like a grotesque concept.”

“Every facet of it is against the very idea of British football,” Everton owner Farhad Moshiri told talkSPORT.

“Football belongs to the fans and to their communities. This just takes much of their romance of football away.

“Who wants to see Real Madrid and Liverpool every year? You want Liverpool and Everton to play. It’s just a money game, it’s not football anymore.

“I think the Premier League should deduct points from these clubs.

“When clubs get deducted points for minor things — poaching a manager, a player, exceeding Financial Fair Play, these six clubs are attacking the very heart of the Premier League and I think they should be disciplined. That’s what I’d do.”

Now that we have the facts, let’s try and understand the reasons behind everything that has happened in the last 72 hours.

Why did it come to this point where Europe’s leading clubs want to break away?

To understand this better, we have to look at the history of English and European football. In the late ’80s and early 90’s the major clubs in England including the likes of Liverpool, Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Everton wanted to break away from what was then the Football League and at the same time, the major clubs in Europe wanted UEFA to swap the European Cup’s quarter-finals for two groups of four. Reason: Obviously, more money. They felt that they deserved more money as they were the ones getting the audiences.

In theory, they were not wrong then and they are not wrong now. The richest clubs can start their own competition, get sponsors, broadcast partners and play to packed stadiums. Who would not pay to watch the best players play against each other week in and week out?

They have been fed up with the UEFA as they see more than 20 percent of the club competitions’ turnover swallowed by UEFA’s licensing fee, overheads, and solidarity payments, and they are convinced that they could do a better job of selling the commercial and media rights

These owners have always been greedy but the pandemic has cost them billions in lost revenue — Barcelona and Real Madrid are close to a billion dollars in debt each. And the fact that some of them are American, they know how lucrative North American sports franchises are. Even player wages are 2–3 times what superstars in the Premier League earn.

The big clubs have been playing this card every decade and it has always resulted in UEFA bowing down to their demands. But this time because of the pandemic, they have a very strong hand. If they break away and say UEFA imposes sanctions, the other clubs won’t be able to survive without them. In fact, some of the smaller footballing nations rely on UEFA money which mainly comes from the Champions League.

Even the Premier League, the richest domestic league in the world, relies on TV contracts for the big money, and without the big 6, that will reduce substantially and would mean lesser money for the remaining 14 clubs leading to lesser money for players, renegotiated contracts, etc.

So, in short, it’s not going to be easy for UEFA and the leagues to impose sanctions without affecting the entire footballing pyramid as the money that these clubs earn goes down the pyramid when they invest in youth academies and buy players from across the world.

The elite clubs know this so they will push for more. They have already got the format changed. The new format for the Champions League has 2 wildcard entries for teams who don’t qualify the regular way (top 3 or top 4 finish) but have European history. For example, Liverpool could qualify even if they do not finish in the top 4.

But now they want to run the competition too as they feel one of them will anyway win the Champions League every year so why should teams like Basel, Shakhtar, etc. be a part of that and share the money. Plus ESL promises more money (€300m) to even the lowest-ranked team than the winner of the Champions League (€100m). The clubs want to sell the broadcast rights, do the sponsorship deals and they do not want to share.

Why do PSG and German clubs oppose it?

Before we give credit to PSG for standing up to the elite, let’s get the actual facts. PSG’s President, Nasser al-Khelaifi, is a member of the UEFA board and also heads up beIN Media Group, the Qatari television networks that have the rights to broadcast UEFA’s Champions League. Plus Qatar has got the FIFA World Cup coming in 2022. Considering all this, al-Khelafifi won’t support ESL. Also, he is really close to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and he won’t backstab him as Agnelli has. Agnelli has long been seen as a close ally of Ceferin, to the extent that the latter is the godfather of Agnelli’s daughter.

PSG is also worried about the fact that the initial novelty of ESL may wear off and this would affect their domestic league as public opinion is against the Super League.

As far as the German clubs are concerned, they are owned by fans (50%+1 share) and they know the fans would not allow this.

In reality though, if ESL goes through, the 3 clubs might be forced to join ESL as Champions League without the 12 would be way less enticing and the money will also reduce substantially.

What do players and managers have to say?

Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in Premier League history, told Reuters: “Talk of a Super League is a move away from 70 years of European club football. Both as a player for a provincial team Dunfermline in the 1960s and as a manager at Aberdeen winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup, for a small provincial club in Scotland it was like climbing Mount Everest. Everton is spending £500 million to build a new stadium with the ambition to play in the Champions League. Fans all over love the competition as it is. In my time at United, we played in four Champions League finals and they were always the most special of nights. I’m not sure Manchester United is involved in this, as I am not part of the decision-making process.”

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has previously condemned plans for a Super League. He told The Athletic: “For me, the Super League cannot happen. We have the Champions League. It’s enough, right? The Champions League pits the best against the best already. But the future of football must value national (domestic) competitions more.”

Gary Neville, on Sky Sports, called it a scandal and Rio Ferdinand was scathing in his criticism of the clubs on BT Sport. He called it a War on Football and was embarrassed that United was a part of this. “I think this breakaway group of teams, this is a war on football. It’s a disgrace. It’s embarrassing. And it goes against everything football is about. It’s a closed shop for these bigwigs and it’s completely and utterly only about one thing and that’s money. The rich are getting richer and the others are not even being considered,” Ferdinand told BT Sport.

Ander Herrera, former Manchester United and current PSG player, said, “I fell in love with popular football, with the football of the fans, with the dream of seeing the team of my heart compete against the greatest. If this European Super League advances, those dreams are over, the illusions of the fans of the teams that are not giants of being able to win on the field competing in the best competitions will end. I love football and I cannot remain silent about this, I believe in an improved Champions League, but not in the rich stealing what the people created, which is nothing other than the most beautiful sport on the planet.”

Ex-Arsenal star Mesut Ozil, who is currently at Fenerbahce, tweeted — “Kids grow up dreaming to win the World Cup and the Champions League — not any Super League. The enjoyment of big games is that they only happen once or twice a year, not every week. Really hard to understand for all football fans out there.”

Former Arsenal striker Lucas Podolski tweeted, “Today I wake up to crazy news! 😡 An insult to my belief: football is happiness, freedom, passion, fans, and is for everyone. This project is disgusting, not fair and I’m disappointed to see clubs I represented involved. Fight against this!”

Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes became the first player from the 12 clubs to weigh in on the issue. Fernandes commented: “Dreams can’t be buy (bought)”, in reply to Podence’s post on Monday which read: “The Ball. The Song. The Dream. The Zidane’s volley. Kaka’s Solo. Liverpool In Athens. Ole in Barcelona. Cris and Seedorf. There some things we just can’t really pay for it.”

Since then captain Harry Maguire has confronted Woodward at the meeting over the players not knowing about the ESL plans before playing Burnley. It has clearly not gone down well with the players.

Man City manager Pep Guardiola has called on those behind the project to come out and give more details.

He said: “We are going to play in the Champions League next week, we are going to try to reach the final, and next year we are going to play European competitions because we deserve it, we won it on the pitch.

“We did our job and, after that, the right people have to clarify. They have the obligation, the duty as soon as possible, today better than tomorrow, to come out all around the world and clarify the situation that is to come, and the benefits and why they took the decision.”

Asked about the concept of a competition in which there is no promotion or relegation, Guardiola added: “It is not a sport where the relation between effort and success does not exist.

“It is not a sport where success is already guaranteed, it is not a sport where it doesn’t matter when you lose.”

Jordan Henderson has called an emergency meeting of Premier League captains over the European Super League plans.

The Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, who forced the govt to take a u-turn on meals in schools during the pandemic, posted the picture of a quote from Sir Matt Busby that reads: Football is nothing without fans.

World players’ union FIFPro ****came up with an equally opposing statement. The statement read: “This decision leaves players and their unions with many concerns and questions about its impact not only on the fabric and cultural identity of football but also more practically on their careers.

“Football is built on its unique social and cultural heritage, which not only gives it an unparalleled relationship to its fans but also has created the engine to spread the professional game like no other sport.

“For this to be sustained, healthy and solidarity-based cooperation between domestic and international competitions is critical. A new competition undermining this might cause irreparable damage.

“It is important to note that European football’s arrival at this point of potential disruption is a reflection of governance in which some have enjoyed disproportionate powers and most others including those at the heart of the game — the players but also fans — are largely overlooked.

“Threats of a breakaway competition and subsequent concessions to reform European football competitions have shaped decision-making for years. This dynamic has replaced transparent and inclusive discussions on the opportunities of competition reforms for all players, fans, clubs, leagues, and federations.

“Players continue to be used as assets and leverage in these negotiations. This is unacceptable for FIFPRO, our 64 national player associations, and the 60,000 players we represent. We will vigorously oppose measures by either side that would impede the rights of players, such as exclusion from their national teams.

“In the best interests of players and the whole industry, we are committed to working with all stakeholders towards decisions that support all levels of the game and repair its existing flaws.”

What do fans like me feel?

I have been a strong opposer of the Glazer family ever since they took over Manchester United. From letting Ronaldo go to Real Madrid without signing a world-class replacement for him, to not investing in the later stages of Ferguson’s era, to placing commercial and short-term success over long-term investment, the Glazers have been leeches. They have taken close to a billion dollars from the club and the debt still stands close to $450m.

And the FA is to blame. They allowed these American owners to buy clubs even with debt financing because they wanted more money in the game. And this was always going to happen. the Glazers, Fenway Sports Group, and Stan Kroenke obviously wanted to Americanize football and they are very close to that dream. We are not far away from seeing our beloved clubs playing in Shanghai, Mumbai, Mexico, Brazil just to make money for these greedy owners. And then see the draft system come in place.

As the top 15 teams can’t get relegated, the lowest ranking team gets the first draft pick to select the next Kylian Mbappe or the next Jude Bellingham. And it would be the end of football as we know it.

Plus I’m more concerned about what will happen to the youth teams. Will we ever get the next Mason Greenwood from the academy? or a Jaden Sancho? or a Jude Bellingham?

Fans in England are worried and rightly so about the football pyramid. How will money flow to the Championship, League One, and non-League teams if the Premier League is without the Big 6 who generate the maximum revenue?

And say ESL co-exists with Premier League, 5–10 years down the line, we could see the end of the Premier League. When ESL becomes boring, you could see franchises spring up across the world, and if not that, we will see United playing in China or Liverpool playing in India because that’s where the money is.

Will we ever see a Nottingham Forest get promoted and winning the European Cup twice in a row? Or an Aberdeen winning in Europe? Will we see the likes of Mason Greenwood play in the Champions League final? I want to see all that and I want to go to Old Trafford with my son and show him why I have a football club’s initials tattooed on my right arm.

I don’t want this Super League to go through. Like Rio, I’m embarrassed that Manchester United is a part of this, in fact, leading this. But it looks like the UEFA will have to bow down if that has to happen and the UEFA have made a strong statement to now take a U-turn.

What will UEFA do now?

Most likely UEFA will bow down again and the Champions League will become a more inclusive Super League. But if that does not happen, it has everything to lose and nothing much to gain. Without the 12, the Champions League will have no attraction. And you can’t impose sanctions on players without going to the courts.

Also, looks like FIFA is not going to prevent them from playing in the World Cup. FIFA said that it “can only express its disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures.”

Plus who would want to watch Euros without the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Bruno Fernanes, Pogba, and the other superstars who currently play for these founding clubs?

In fact, England might be affected the most. Their starting XI is likely to have Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Luke Shaw, Phil Foden, Harry Kane, and Marcus Rashford at the very least. Not to forget the likes of Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, and Mason Greenwood who are very likely to go to Euros.

So, if a deal is not struck soon, this will end up in the courts most likely. Even the broadcasters will take the clubs who break away or devalue national competitions to court. The broadcasters will claim that the product they’ve invested in would not be the same without the involvement of leading sides. But, the elite clubs have the upper hand.

Update:

Manchester City were the First one to walk away. Ed Woodward resigned as Manchester United Executive Vice-Chairman. The Big Six had to walk away due to pressure from fans, the government, FA, managersformer players. Football wins.

#SuperLeague official statement

“We are reconsidering the appropriate steps, in order to reshape the project”.

“We’re proposing a new competition, because current one isn’t working. English clubs have been forced to leave, due to outside pressure”.

Follow me on Twitter for football and Instagram for food.

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Demand Generation at Fyle | prev Aryaka, Xoxoday | Writer at Hacker Noon, The Startup, picksaas | Manchester United fan | Instagram: lordofgoodfood

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Nilesh Surana

Demand Generation at Fyle | prev Aryaka, Xoxoday | Writer at Hacker Noon, The Startup, picksaas | Manchester United fan | Instagram: lordofgoodfood