WHAT IS THE EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE?
Updated: Jun 1, 2020
This article was originally published on November 14th, 2018.
Celtic manager Jock Stein once said: “Without fans who pay at the turnstile, football is nothing. Sometimes we are inclined to forget that.”
Documents leaked by German newspaper, Der Spiegal, suggests that many teams have forgotten this golden rule and what the future of soccer may look like, a European Super League.
The documents leaked by Der Spiegal, contain information about a proposed brake-away competition.
The movement which has been led by Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez would include 16 of the sport's richest clubs. With the competition reportedly ready to start as early as 2021.
The increasing influence of American investors, on European soccer, is bringing the idea of a European Super League closer than ever.
Teams have also expressed concerns over current TV rights deals. Something they would be able to control, in their own competition.
The leak included a draft of a “binding term sheet” sent on October 22nd, 2018. By Spanish company Key Capital Partners to Real Madrid’s president. It appears to show Real Madrid and 10 other 'founder' clubs to create the new competition.
The breakaway league, according to Der Spiegel, would consist of 11 'founder' clubs. With the addition of 5 'initial guest' clubs, to create a 16-team competition.
The document further recommended that the 11 'founders,' register a company in Spain. This would be used to market, organize, and execute the European Super League under its full control.
There have even been mentions of potential ownership stakes by the individual clubs. With Real Madrid holding 18.77%, Barcelona 17.61% and Manchester United 12.58%, or the European Super League company.
The Super League would have a group stage and a knockout round. There is also a suggestion that a second league under the European Super League could be created.
However, the 11 'founder' clubs would be immune from any form of relegation, for the first 20 years of the new competition.
So, what are the benefits of participating in a European Super League?
The main benefit for participating teams is the financial reward. The potential to be able to sell out stadiums against top teams on a more regular basis.
Teams such as Barcelona would also receive less backlash on hosting games internationally.
As the teams break away from their national competitions the Super League would be able to compete with the NFL and NBA. Benefiting from huge TV rights deals, similar to the deals signed by the American leagues. Especially since the Champions League is the most-watched sporting event in the world each year. While also controlling all advertisement rights.
An NFL-type management structure with caps on player costs and a revamped player transfer system would be an attractive proposition for club owners as a way of increasing revenues and reducing costs and which also provides for a more competitive and evenly matched competition.
Since the leak, the idea has received much criticism, especially from UEFA and FIFA. The Association of European Leagues, representing 25 domestic leagues, has also condemned the idea. Saying that it strongly opposed the “creation of any ‘closed and franchised style’ Super League”.
In a statement, the association also reiterated its support for UEFA, the European football governing body, and the current pyramid structure, in which promotion and relegation and the sporting merits of clubs are at the core of every competition.
“Domestic football is at the heart of the game throughout Europe for all football stakeholders: players, clubs, leagues, national associations and, more importantly, fans,” it added. “Proposals for a closed Super League will have serious and lasting implications for the long-term sustainability of professional football in Europe."
Many of the clubs have distanced themselves from the project. Including Bayern Munich, who when asked for a comment, said the club was aware of “neither the existence nor the content” of the draft of the “binding term sheet.” Furthermore, he added, Bayern “as a matter of policy, does not comment on confidential discussions.”
Plans for a new Super League Competition have circled for a while, previously raising its head in 2016, before being squashed.
In 2017, UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin accused Europe’s top leagues of attempting to “blackmail” the governing body. Later stating “We will never give in to the blackmail of those who think they can manipulate small leagues or impose their will on the associations because they think they are all powerful on account of the astronomical revenues they generate.”
Ceferin accused “some leagues” of trying to hold UEFA to ransom and “some clubs” of agitating for a closed super league. “To some clubs, I shall say it calmly and dispassionately, but firmly and resolutely: there will be no closed league. Quite simply, that is not in line with our values and ideals.”
The U.K. government is also understood to "fully oppose" any Premier League team proposals to join forces with the rest of Europe's elite.
One source said "The government hasn't been told about any of this, which suggests the Premier League has also been kept in the dark. We would absolutely oppose this on the basis that it would threaten the culture of sport in England."
Without the support of football authorities, "any such league would effectively be considered a rogue competition," Fifa president Gianni Infantino said. Even suggesting they could ban European Super League players, from playing in any FIFA-sanctioned competitions. It means the World Cup would be missing most of the sports best players.
Infantino, stated that "We have seen for many years these attempts to break away outside of the structures, going back to the 1990s." Adding "you are either in or you are out. If there are players who don't play organized football then that encompasses everything - national leagues, confederation competitions, the Euros and the World Cup."
"It is up to us to protect football and come up with solutions that benefit clubs and also the world football community," he continued.
Infantino appears to also be using the controversial talk of a breakaway, to push his plans for an expanded FIFA-operated tournament for clubs. Suggesting that without it, the likelihood for teams walking out would be higher.
Any player ban could also be extended to officials or anyone employed by a European Super League.
Global footballers' union FIFPro has responded to Infantino, that it will resist any attempt to ban players from international football if they take part in a breakaway European Super League.
The planned breakaway is essentially a cash grab by soccer’s richest. Without a thought about how soccer fans feel about the decision.
European soccer is vastly different from other sporting leagues such as the NFL, NBA, and MLB. In soccer, team owners do not really own the team. The team is owned by the fans, clubs represent their local culture, beliefs, and their community identity.
The European Super League plans are moving teams away from the fan culture and the fan base may not choose to follow.
FC United of Manchester and AFC Wimbledon are two examples of supporters that have had the fortitude and will to follow through on their frustration and anger, regardless of what you may think of their actions.
For the supporters that stay what is to say that these games won't get boring. If you give owners full control of your team, what is going to stop Manchester City from being moved to a city where they could sell out their stadium? Just like an NFL franchise, whose owner can get the city to pay for their new stadium.
We should all be remembering the words of Jock Stein, "Football is nothing without fans."