Is the European Super League a Sign that the Game’s Gone?

Is the European Super League a Sign that the Game’s Gone?

Last update: 20 April 2021 Tags: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester CIty, Tottenham Hotspur, Champions League, Premier League, Harry Kane, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Europa League, UEFA, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, FIFA, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Carabao Cup, Paris Saint germain, Ollie Watkins, Stan Kroenke, European Super League, Richard Masters, Florentino Pérez, Andrea Agnelli, Joel Glazer, John W. Henry. Categories: Premier League, Other, Europa League, Champions League, World Cup, La Liga, Bundesliga.

News of the European Super League has set social media and the footballing community alight. Is all the commotion really justified?

Much Ado About Nothing.

That is my current perspective on the fuss that everyone is making about the proposed European Super League.

Is it a truly horrendous idea, that goes against everything that we as football fans hold dear? Absolutely.

Will it go ahead? I just can’t see it.

The world of football is essentially stuck in a catch-22. The European Super League will only go ahead if its opposition allows them to participate in their domestic leagues alongside the new competition. Conversely, Europe’s domestic leagues will only proceed as usual if the breakaway clubs back down on their plans to form this new tournament.

So, which will fold first?

For me, it has to be the rebel clubs.

For those who do not know, these clubs are currently Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid.

These clubs may be pursuing legal action to prevent their new competition being blocked by their rivals – at the same time that UEFA is planning a €50-60 billion lawsuit to do exactly that – but, from the evidence available, I simply cannot see that they have a leg to stand on.

It is a fact – as Premier Chief Executive Richard Masters pointed out – that Rule L9 of the 2020-21 Premier League Handbook expressly prohibits Premier League clubs from joining other competitions without first being sanctioned by the County Association of which they are a member. This did not happen.

The only exception to this rule requires prior written approval of the Premier League Board for the proposed competition. This was also not obtained.

Therefore, the European Super League is clearly in breach of Premier League rules.

From the off, this means that, if the Premier League’s threat to expel the ‘big 6’ clubs from domestic competitions – should they proceed with their plans – is one that the Board sticks with, half of the European Super League’s competitors will bail on the competition before it even begins.

There is no way that Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal would begin next season only competing in cup competitions. It is unthinkable.

The European Super League, spearheaded by Florentino Pérez (Real Madrid), Andrea Agnelli (Juventus), Joel Glazer (Manchester United), John W. Henry (Liverpool) and Stan Kroenke (Arsenal), is clearly a money-grab from those at the top of the footballing hierarchy, trying to establish control. Why on Earth would they proceed with their plans if it meant foregoing their other main sources of revenue? They wouldn’t. Of course they wouldn’t.

The European Super League only works if it replaces solely the Champions League. Not everything else too.

With every other European Football Association under the sun promising similar sanctions for their clubs if they too get involved in proposals, the other 6 ‘Founding Members’ of this disgraceful idea will likely have to abandon it too.

Besides, there would not be enough games to fill the calendar and I would not be surprised if players, managers and members of coaching staff actively opposed the plans too.

This argument gains further substance when it is considered that UEFA – who will claim that the breakaway clubs have a legal commitment to their Champions League and Europa League competitions – and FIFA have promised that anyone who partakes in the European Super League will be banned from all international competitions.

This is not a threat to be taken lightly. It may not be a coincidence that Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain have yet to sign up to the European Super League – perhaps with an eye on retaining Qatar’s rights to host the World Cup in 2022.

I have no problems in believing that the European Super League would proceed if the only opposition to it was from fans. After all, the mere announcement of a competition without promotion or relegation for 75% of its participants, designed specifically to give these clubs a monopoly over the footballing market, spits in the face of everything that we as football fans value.

Heroic underdog stories would cease, as the discrepancies in funding between those at the top and the bottom of the footballing ladder would grow at a far increased rate. What’s more, when those increasingly rare underdog stories came to fruition, they would lack meaning, for they would go largely unrewarded, with a place among Europe’s elite no longer up for grabs.

Historic European fixtures would become repetitive and overplayed, with the build-up lacking the same excitement that we have for games that are only meant to be seen a few times a decade. It would be big clubs playing big clubs, but we would all know that isn’t really the best playing the best, which is what it should be.

Furthermore, if Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain – the sides that most within the footballing community are speculating to be the three teams that organisers ‘anticipate’ will join the European Super League ahead of its inaugural season – opt not to join, it would not even be the biggest playing the biggest. An utterly bizarre concept, to say the least.

All of that does not even consider the fact that the competition proposed would be led and entirely controlled by the leading members of only a minority of the clubs involved, a concept that does not exactly lend itself to the idea of the European Super League’s long-term fairness.

First VAR, now this. Oddly, for the sport that has by far the biggest following globally, the opinion of the fans just does not seem to hold much weight anymore.

However, thankfully, it is not just the fans who will oppose these European Super League proposals. If the threats of football’s governing bodies are followed through with, the players will too. They want to compete in the biggest competitions on offer and play regular football. This means domestic leagues. This means the European Championships. It certainly means the World Cup.

So, unfortunately for the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ollie Watkins, they will not be leading the line in England’s charge to bring it home this summer, bar an injury to talisman and captain, Harry Kane. Kane will be there. As will England’s other premier players. As soon as these players openly oppose the proposals, they will fall dead in the water.

What will happen when these proposals die? Well, now that is less certain.

Calls for punishments have ranged from fines and points deductions, to outright relegations and the voiding of the Carabao Cup final, participated in by Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, two of the clubs involved in the proposals.

Personally, I believe that if these proposals are being opposed, as has been largely alleged, on the basis that they will hurt football fans, the solution to punishing those involved cannot be one that also hurts football fans. Voiding a cup final that thousands have been waiting in lockdown in anticipation for cannot be the answer. Nor can points deductions, as these would inevitably have unequal effects on each of the clubs involved.

Relegation, meanwhile, would have monumental financial implications on Europe’s most financially stable clubs. As much as these teams deserve some form of comeuppance, how can we expect them to provide financial support to the smaller teams that are in desperate need of it, in the form of proposed future bailout packages, if they cannot even support themselves? The top divisions must remain the pinnacle of European football. For that, the biggest teams have to be taking part.

A fine would therefore be my recommended sanction. A reasonable fee that should go directly to those clubs most in need, towards the bottom of the European footballing hierarchy, that have been worst hit by the impact of the global pandemic.

A happy ending. At long last.

For, by the start of next season, I expect that the footballing community will have put this whole debacle behind them.

After all, the only way the European Super League can actually go ahead is for either UEFA, FIFA and the Board of every League and Football Association of every involved club in the competition to all suddenly back down, or the leaders of this new competition to somehow win a seemingly impossibly legal battle, in order to force them to back down.

The first of these two options won’t happen, as it’d effectively be suicide for domestic competitions across Europe, as sponsorship and television deals would require immediate re-negotiation, absent of the big draw of viewership from supporters of these major clubs. In the midst of a global pandemic which already has several smaller clubs on their last legs, some sides simply wouldn’t survive the effects of this, as they would begin to trickle their way down the footballing food chain, destroying those at the bottom.

The last of these two options also won’t happen. The lack of full promotion and relegation from the proposed plans will arguably distort the competitions of the internal footballing markets of each involved nation, with the participating clubs having a significant guaranteed revenue stream that their competitors have no chance of gaining access to. Considering that, if this is found to be the case, then the European Super League will be in violation of European competition law, the likelihood of them winning their legal case to clear the way for their inaugural season does not seem that high either.

So no, the game hasn’t gone. At least, not just yet.


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