It has been an eventful week in the world of Football. Everyone was taken aback by the news of the European Super League. Several greed mongering beasts coalescing to tarnish the reputation of the game to fill up their overloaded pockets. For the folks unaware about this, it was a breakaway league proposed by 12 of the biggest football teams in Europe. This has been in making for some time but it was the least of everyone’s concerns. Until, the surprising press release on a Sunday eve. How about that to add to Monday blues for football fans!
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham decided to join hands in the name of “world-class competition”. It’s such an oxymoron when it goes against the very essence of competition. The media, pundits, players and supporters were rightfully outraged. The governing bodies felt betrayed and had to retaliate. This Super League was a ballsy move but one devoid of logic and rationality. Let’s see why:`
Even though these clubs haven’t admitted, the sole decision making factor has been money. They have been trying to rake in a higher share from UEFA for years and the European Super League looked like a promising avenue. JP Morgan decided to support this competition financially which promised each of these clubs an additional 400 Million dollars. More so, only the owners were on board this decision keeping every other person associated with these clubs in dark. These clubs have struggled financially over the past year but turning a blind eye to reality doesn’t solve the problem.
The foundations of European Football is laid on the decades-old tradition of competition and rewarding worthy winners. Several divisions of league football give hope to the teams to rise a level above and compete with the best. It also creates a fear of losing your position to a better team in case of incompetence and failure. The biggest revenue source in league football, distribution rights, trickles down this ladder to keep many such clubs afloat. If the biggest brands in this game suddenly disappear, it hurts the competition and snatches away the financial support for the lower division clubs. Many of them have struggled, even furloughed players during this pandemic. The timing of this decision could not have been more wrong.
Also, let’s look at these so-called biggest teams in the world. Big 6 of the Premier League have struggled to be in the Top 6 over the last decade. How delusional of you to consider yourself the best when you have struggled to qualify for the Champions League all these years, let alone win it. Most of these teams haven’t won a league title in more than 10 years now. Now you want to play in a competition where you won’t be relegated. Sports is nothing without competition. If you fear relegation or missing out on the Champions League spot, well here’s news for you: You are no longer one of the best teams in the world. Stop resting on your laurels. Also, the fans would get bored with the same matches every year. Champions League is exciting as we see the teams sweat it out to qualify for it and then face each other out through draws and knock-outs.
Let’s look at it from a different angle. The managers and players have complained of fatigue over the years owing to a hectic schedule. Why would you try to squeeze in additional dozens of high-intensity matches amidst all the competitions? Wouldn’t it defeat your point of superstars competing against each other if those superstars find themselves injured and warming the bench all the time? Plus the tournament needs 20 teams, with 15 founding members. Only 12 teams have shown intent, 3 other founding members are still missing. Bayern, Porto, PSG and Dortmund have refused to join the competition. It was mentioned that 5 other teams would be selected each year based on domestic performance. How will you do that? What would be the qualifying criteria? Where would the matches be held? With all the major television networks in an existing contract with domestic and European competitions, who would support and televise it for the global audience? It’s all blurry at this point yet these teams seem keen to start from the next very minute itself.
Let’s try to understand these teams’ perspective. They have been asking UEFA and FIFA for a bigger share of the money. Even though UEFA has decided to make certain changes to the Champions League starting 2024, it didn’t seem enough. The argument in the favour of these giants is their millions of fans and supporters who ultimately watch the games and bring in the most money. Hence, it should pass down the funnel to these teams. However, UEFA and FIFA have decided not to succumb staring at the barrel of the gun. They retaliate strongly by warning them with possible bans from all the competitions and forbidding the players to represent their national teams in EURO and World Cups.
With all the backlash from the footballing community, current players, managers and protest from the fans, the European Super League proposal has seen a major setback. The Premier League teams have withdrawn from the competition one after the other like the fall of dominoes. Owners have publicly apologised to the team, managers, players and fans. It felt more of a saving grace than directly coming from the heart. Manchester United Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward resigned shortly after United’s withdrawal. Real Madrid President and First Chairman of European Super League Florentino Perez is still defiant in the defeat. When one recaps how the events unfolded, this seems nothing more than a blackmailing move.
The owners and the teams still face possible repercussions over their sneaky move. This opens a dark chapter in the history of this game. The fight is still not over as the teams have shown their intention. It’s one of the biggest and most entertaining sports in the world. Over the years, the popularity has simply grown due to the underdog stories and the competition. To move away from it tarnishes the long-term reputation. Football is the winner for now but the war is far from over. Let’s hope our beloved game continues as a promise of hope, excitement and entertainment.