Breaking news shook the European football world on Sunday April 18 when the boards of 12 prestigious clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus – announced they are forming a breakaway European Super League (ESL).
The new league, led by Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez, was intended to be an alternative to the Champions League (UCL) of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which would generate almost three times as much money for the clubs as the UCL. The participating clubs should initially receive 3.5 billion euros, with the league winner earning around 400 million euros. This is between three and four times the current UCL winner’s prize pool.
The competition should include around 20 clubs. The 12 founding clubs (plus three other founding clubs) would compete without restriction each year, regardless of poor performance in their respective national leagues. Every year five more clubs are invited to take part in the competition, which are selected based on their national successes in the preseason.
Why is it a bad idea
The announcement immediately sparked outrage across Europe and the world. Fans, commentators, heads of government, national leagues, players and managers (including the 12 clubs) spoke out against the project. UEFA and FIFA threatened to ban ESL players from participating in the upcoming European and World Cup.
Criticism was particularly widespread in England, the homeland of football, which has highly competitive leagues within its rugged football pyramid. Both the royal family and the UK Prime Minister condemned the project. Fans of the six English Premier League participating teams as well as fans of other English clubs protested and marched through the streets of their cities and in front of their football clubs.
Their goal was to show their disdain for a Super League that is far from great.
The proposed system contradicts everything that football is supposed to stand for: meritocracy, mobility and humility. The emotions and passion created through qualification, promotion, regulation and the like cannot be bought, but the proposed ESL is a system that eliminates all of these. The qualification basis for 75% of the teams is simply money.
There is no hope for smaller clubs that want to become giants or play with giants. The proposed league eliminates the basics of accomplishments like winning the Premier League by non-favorites (like Leicester City in 2016) or the legitimate battle for a top 4 UCL spot (like West Ham United this year).
Furthermore, the announcement of a billion dollar project is truly insensitive in the midst of a global pandemic where most people are struggling financially. The timing was strategic, however, as the ESL wanted to drive the curve and announce the league ahead of UEFA’s changes to the UCL model.
The project was motivated by greed and a thirst for power. UCL and UEFA in the broader sense certainly have their own problems – big ones – but an elitist and exclusive Super League that does away with the fundamental football principle of merit does not eliminate problems. rather, it strengthens them.
As of April 21, all six English Premier League clubs as well as Atlético Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan have initiated proceedings to withdraw from the ESL. With only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus left, the Super League was suspended less than 72 hours after its conception. The stop demonstrates the power of the football fans’ voices, as well as their commitment to a system that rewards effort and results, not just prosperity – one that inspires grassroots football around the world and promotes mobility across leagues and divisions.
Whether the 12 clubs listed above will be punished for their actions remains to be seen, but the ESL will certainly have to permanently disband even if the remaining three clubs refuse to withdraw. In the eyes of football fans around the world, this would be a win.