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European Super League

There’s been no escaping the news from the world of football since late last evening, with the advent of a breakaway European Super League including 12 of Europe’s biggest (in their minds) teams: Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. A statement from the founding clubs said three more teams would be announced shortly, with the aim of a 20 team ‘league’ playing midweek matches as a rival the current, and about to be revamped, Champions League, each team getting a split of the £4.6billion pot backed by American investor JP Morgan. The ESL said it also planned to launch a women’s competition as soon as possible after the men’s competition starts.

 

As a reaction to this, FIFA expressed its “disapproval” of the new European Super League (ESL) competition, while the UEFA said that “the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.” At a fans level, this revelation has been met with widespread criticism and anger. Even Boris Johnson, that cradle of awareness and common sense (not!), has said that the government was “going to look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed”.

 

Albert Kinsey scoring Wrexham AFC’s first European goal at Zurich !972

Albert Kinsey scoring Wrexham AFC’s first European goal at Zurich !972

This move is just wrong on so many levels, basically, it spits in the face of history it’s driven purely by greed, would destroy domestic leagues and is against the ethics of football. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit, not a closed shop series of exhibition matches, the football version of the Harlem Globetrotters. Unlike the Champions League, which teams must qualify for, the ESL would include the same 15 teams every year, with the remaining five qualifying annually. How they’ll ‘qualify’ is anyone’s guess, because they would have to be chosen to join the breakaway league, and could end up severing ties with their parent League because of it. And how would the new 5 be chosen annually? There cannot be relegation, so once you’re in, you’re in forever.

 

Looking at this in a little more depth, if the proposal does go ahead, which is looking likely at this moment, we could end up with to distinctly different ‘threads’ of football, one, the natural, historically supported meritocracy where ambition and performance lead to success on and off the field, and the new, shiny competition where 20 teams play each other 4 times a season on a televised platform watched by paying customers (not fans) around the world for the pleasure of being Champions of their own little world.

 

Given that the drivers of this move are for the majority part American, it is then understandable, they are trying to model football on American Football and its way of using franchise-based teams, but without (as yet) the draft system, where weaker teams get the chance to strengthen by having first pick of new players the next season to equalise monetary advantage and to stop teams buying the league. Exporting American Football to the world failed, so they are now doing the next best thing to get in to the money market available in European sports following by hijacking the World’s game, football, but applying American monetary ethics to it. The next thing will be moving one or more of the teams in the new ‘league’ to play in America. Not as far fetched as you may imagine.

 

And for further practicalities, where will the players for these teams come from? Will they raid the domestic leagues? Will those players then become outcasts from the real footballing world? Will there be a new cadre of professional referees? Who will administer the rules? Will they have a new set divorced from the real-world game? So many questions, and so many traps. The new ESL seem to be working with the assumption that it’s a done deal, based on their own perceived power as ‘money bags’ clubs soon to be even richer. Even to the degree they appear willing to go to courts to fight any sanctions proposed by FIFA, UEFA and domestics leagues put in place. In reality, the real outcome of this will be dictated by the fans. A boycott of everything to do with this new league by fans would inevitably lead to its failure, the funds would soon dry up if no one buys the product, or advertising revenue dries up from lack of interest.

 

The main problem is whether fans have the willpower to make a stand. If they, or you, don’t, you deserve what is about to become a reality, the death of football as we have known and loved. German and French clubs have already (so far) made a stand and declared no interest in joining the circus. Are they more sensitive to the relationship with club supporters? Time will tell, but whatever team you support, whatever your relationship with football, be prepared to enjoy the rest of the current, blighted by Covid-19, season, because it will be as close to your historic vision of what football is as you will ever see again.

 

Don’t give in to greed.

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