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What is the European Super League and what does it mean for the future of football?

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Small number of clubs are set to form a breakaway European competition devoid of character and meaning - including the so called "big six" Premier League clubs

by Craig Humpage
Football Writer, Sporticos
Published on Monday 19 April 2021

You've all heard about it by now. It is the news of the century, probably the biggest breaking news event in the history of European sport. Everybody's talking about it. Gary Neville has been ranting about it. I'm referring to the plans for a European proposed Super League. It's been universally condemned by the sport's most respected figures, football's top organisational bodies and even national and European governments. But what exactly are the proposals for this new competition, and what does this new chapter for European football mean for the future of the most popular sport in the world as we know it?

The Death of Football (as we know it)

If you're reading this expecting to hear the other side, you're in the wrong place. It seems the only people on earth in support of this idea are the owners of the football clubs involved and they are somewhat shy about giving comments right now. The rest of the football world seems unified (for once) in it's complete hatred of this idea and the likely consequences it will have for the beautiful game. Founding clubs will receive £3 billion to "support their infrastructure investment plans" or in other words they will trade in football as we know it for some extra cash. Let's talk about what this new European Super League will be and how it will work.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and more sign up for European Super League

The "ESL" is a proposed breakaway football competition which will run in mid week involving some of Europe's biggest football clubs, effectively killing the UEFA Champions League. Here is a comprehensive list of the twelve clubs involved:

AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico de Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Tottenham Hotspur

These clubs, led by Real Madrid President Florentino Perez and Manchester United Chairman Joel Glazer among others, have effectively decided to do away with the current system we have in our game which allows any club to qualify for top European competition based on merit. This is the type of system that saw lowly Leicester City qualify for the tournament, which saw a club like FC Porto - huge in Portugal but an also-ran in the grander scheme of things - win the whole thing under Jose Mourinho. This is the system which sees many a neutral English Premier League fan rooting for West Ham United this year as they try to sneak in through the back door and quality for the world's most prestigious club tournament.

Basically these teams would rather do away with that and just have a fixed league which they are always in. That way they can just sit back and relax and never be punished for their complacency. The level of arrogance and entitlement from some of these clubs is astounding. These owners act as if it is the fault of UEFA or the wider football community when they miss out on top level competition. I'm sure Arsenal's American owners will complain of the financial strain brought on by missing out on European competition and their remedy is seemingly to eliminate that possibility through the creation of an anti-competition in which there is no relegation nor promotion, no need to try. If you're a Manchester United supporter, you can look forward to a ninth place finish in a fake tournament which means nothing, with nothing to play for, and without the option of the UEFA Champions League.

You might be thinking that this is crossing over from news story into opinion piece and you'd be dead right. I stand with the rest of football in condemning this atrocious anti-sport proposal which will - in so many ways - diminish the game we all grew up loving. That being said, I suppose we should talk a little bit about exactly what this new league will look like.

How will this European Super League work?

There are some different numbers out there but it seems that there are currently twelve teams in agreement and three more expecting to join as "founding clubs" - there's a lot of speculation about who those could be but the truth is we don't know yet. When that's agreed, we will have fifteen founding clubs who automatically qualify for this midweek tournament every year regardless of their performances in their respective national leagues. They would then be joined by five other clubs who can gain access via a qualification mechanism annually based on achievements in the prior season. To be clear, the likes of Arsenal (9th) and Tottenham Hotspur (7th) will be playing Real Madrid every year regardless of sporting merit, but plucky underdogs like Leicester (3rd) and West Ham (4th) could get the honour to join them for a year and, share in the spoils of the huge broadcasting deals they are sure to sign, if they do really well in the league and then navigate this qualifying procedure.

Once that qualification is settled, we have our 20 teams and we are ready for the European Super League to begin for that year. At that point it becomes a little more murky. All we know is that the games will take place midweek - you can imagine what that means for UEFA competitions. I'm not sure if they are supposed to play each of their opponents in the league once or twice or what but I guess that will be coming out soon. We don't yet know if it'll be every week of the season or a more Champions League-like schedule. There are a lot of unanswered questions.

What will the European Super League mean for football as a whole?

Former players, managers, pundits, governing bodies and even the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have lambasted this proposal and frankly I should stop referring to it as a proposal - it's been confirmed, it's happening, this nightmare is real. The reason for the negative reaction is clear. Everybody who knows the game understands how badly this will affect its ecosystem. Let's try and break down the key knock-on effects.

The Premier League: It is understood that if the "big six" clubs go ahead with this breakaway league, they will either need the support of the Premier League or without it they will breakaway and start anew. If they do that that will remove six of the most popular clubs from the league and the English game. That in turn will affect the revenue of the league on a gigantic scale. Many clubs in the league could struggle to survive financially due to a hefty decrease in broadcasting revenues.

The Football Pyramid: If those six leave the EPL, it will have a lot less money to funnel down the football pyramid, as it normally does. This money is a lifeline for many clubs in the lower reaches of our game. We've already seen the first real casualty of modern football greed in Bury FC who effectively ceased to exist in 2019. Many more clubs in League One, League Two and below will go out of business if they can't rely on money from the top trickling down to support football at a grassroots level and lower league level. This decision which is based uniformly on greed will lead to even greater financial turmoil for the clubs lower down in our system, who are already dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Similar after effects will be felt across Europe, not only in England.

UEFA Champions League: It's unclear what will happen with the UEFA competitions but one thing is for sure, if you're a fan of one of these big clubs you can kiss goodbye to the Champions League theme music. Of course if you're playing in this new midweek competition there'll be no time for the UCL. Will that mean that this tournament will instead be played out with the likes of Leicester, West Ham and similar sides from across Europe? No disrespect to those great clubs but without the big boys that just won't draw the same broadcasting interest, especially globally, leading to a very similar predicament to the one which the Premier League is likely to find itself in. As for the UEFA Europa League and proposed UEFA Conference League, will they even bother doing those anymore?

To summarise, this European Super League will:

  • hugely devalue the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and any other domestic league competitions in the countries where the "founding clubs" are based, essentially turning the EPL into the Carabao Cup.
  • devalue the Champions League, turning that into the Europa League and effectively killing any reason for the latter to exist
  • rob smaller clubs around Europe of the revenues they need to survive
  • destroy the spirit of competition in the elite levels of the game
  • lead to complacency and stagnation in terms of quality
  • most importantly of all, kill the romance of the game. No more Leicester City defying the odds and joining the elite for a season. No more shock upsets with smaller clubs beating the bigger clubs.

How has the football world reacted to the European Super League?

Needless to say this news has been less than popular with the wider football community. Aside from the select few rich and powerful men in the boardrooms of those particular clubs, and the couple of women they allow to be there, it seems very hard to find anyone in support of this move. Many people have expressed their distaste over the past 18 hours or so. Beloved Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United player Gary Neville called on governing bodies to take action: "They should deduct six points off all six teams that have signed up to it. Deduct points off them all. To do it during a season - it's a joke." Micah Richards, former Manchester City defender, chimed in on this breakaway league: "What happens to the fans? They're just forgotten about for the sake of money. It's a disgrace." Jamie Carragher called his former club Liverpool's involvement a "betrayal"

"Enough is enough," was the message from UEFA in its joint statement with the FA and Italy and Spain's football associations. The Premier League itself issued this comment: "Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best. We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream." And so it most certainly would.

Final Take: This disgraceful act cannot stand

It's pretty clear from the past 1,500 words or so what I think of this proposal and I'm sure many of you reading this will agree. The European Super League must be strongly opposed in every possible fashion. I'm a supporter of one of these so called "big six" Premier League clubs and if it goes ahead I will no longer be following that team. I will instead follow my local club and put my money and energy into supporting that. I hope that will be the response of many fans and our responsibility is to protect football from money. I'm sure they won't care because this is all about securing broadcasting deals in China or the middle east or wherever else but fans have to make a stand. FIFA and UEFA have to get tougher and ban these clubs from all their competitions. Players who play in this cannot be allowed to represent their nations in a World Cup. They cannot be allowed to continue playing in the Premier League, La Liga etc. Most importantly of all, we cannot give them our money or our time watching them on TV. If they want to create this new NBA style landscape, let them do it but it's not football and we should all completely turn our backs on them like they have done to us.

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