The announcement of the European Super League on Sunday sparked a violent power struggle that could weigh on the economy of European football. In battle, the billionaire owners of the league’s 12 founding teams, some of the richest clubs in the world, and Wall Street’s largest bank face pretty much everyone else.
Aleksander Čeferin, president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), told reporters on Monday that the breakaway clubs “are only driven by greed”.
“The Super League is all about money, money by the dozen, I don’t want to call it a dirty dozen – but UEFA is about developing football and funding what needs to be funded so that our football, our culture survives – and some people don’t understand, “said fereferin.
The founding clubs will be permanent members of the European Super League (ESL), a structure similar to Major League Baseball or the National Football League that promises staggering paydays from media rights and merchandising.
But it goes against the traditions of European football, with its roots in industrial working-class neighborhoods, where even the poorest clubs get promoted to the top leagues when they win and no amount of money can protect rich teams from relegation when they lose.
Six English clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United ((MANU) and Tottenham Hotspur – have announced that they will join the league alongside AC Milan, Inter Milan and the Liga Juventus ((JVTSF) from Italy and the Spanish clubs Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid. The ESL plans to add three more permanent clubs, while five more would qualify annually based on performance.
The founding clubs have been accused of staging a massive cash heist that would harm smaller competitors and possibly doomed the elite Champions League contested by top clubs across Europe.
The biographies of the club owners confirm the notion that money was the driving force behind the decision to start the Super League.
American billionaire John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group, who owns the Boston Red Sox, heads Liverpool. Another American billionaire, Stan Kroenke, controls the sports franchises of Arsenal and the United States, including the LA Rams and the Denver Nuggets. Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich owns Chelsea and the Emirates royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan owns Manchester City.
Chinese investors are behind Inter Milan, and Elliott Management, US billionaire Paul Singer, is pulling the strings at local rival AC Milan. The long-time owners of Juventus are the Agnelli family, who made their living from ventures like the car manufacturer Fiat.
The Glazer family, which also includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, run Manchester United. Protesting fans announced their feelings towards the American bosses on Monday and held a banner in front of the club’s stadium that read: “Made by the poor, stolen by the rich.”
In contrast, Bayern Munich and teams in Germany where commercial investors are prevented from controlling More than 49% of most large clubs are characterized by their absence from the ESL. As well as clubs in France where President Emmanuel Macron slammed the new league. If the league survives the initial backlash and legal threats, the founding clubs will be guaranteed many millions of dollars each year for selling the broadcast rights to their games. Media giants including Facebook ((FB) and Disney ((DIS) are likely to be bidders, although there are three potential competitors – Amazon ((AMZN), BT ((BTGOF) Sport and Sky that belongs Comcast ((CMCSA) – have already distanced themselves from the runaway league.
“We believe that part of the drama and beauty of European football comes from the ability of any club to achieve success through the performance of the field,” Amazon Prime Video said in a statement.
The reaction from media companies is not surprising given the huge political outcry the announcement has sparked. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his administration was “examining all possibilities, including legislative options” to prevent this from happening. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge said he shared “fan concerns about the proposed Super League and the damage it could do to the game we love”.
Even so, the league has a strong supporter: JPMorgan Chase ((JPM), which CNN Business confirmed on Monday that it is providing funding. Tottenham Hotspur said in a press release that the charter clubs will receive € 3.5 billion ($ 4.2 billion) to support their infrastructure investment plans and offset the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The clubs each receive a “welcome bonus” worth up to EUR 300 million each Financial Times Football fans on Twitter criticized JPMorgan for its involvement. One User sarcastically attached a screenshot of Jamie Dimon’s recent letter to shareholders in which the CEO states that “Corporations must earn the trust of their customers and communities by acting ethically and morally.”
Despite the controversy, investors are seeing dollar signs. Manchester United shares rose 6.7% on Monday in New York, while Juventus shares rose nearly 18% on Monday in Milan before giving back some of their profits on Tuesday.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Tuesday that clubs should think very carefully about their next steps.
“You have to think and take responsibility,” he said. “You don’t just have to think of your shareholders, which is of course important, but also of … all the fans, all those who have helped create what European football is today.”