Super League: From Shock Announcement to Spontaneous Combustion

To understand the aim of this Super League, it may help to put things in context of the Indian Premier League.

Updated
Football
4 min read

Just over 48 hours is all it took for the American dream for European football to first shock the world with their surprise announcement and then also spontaneously combust, following the stance taken by the fans, footballers, coaches, the British Royalty, and even political leaders.

Why? Because well, paisa bolta hai but clearly in Europe… fans ki sunte hai.

Early on Monday morning, news broke of 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs announcing that they would be playing in a breakaway ‘Super League’ that would see matches played mid-week only between the ‘Founding Clubs’.

12 ‘Founding Clubs’

England’s Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Italy’s Inter Milan, Juventus, AC Milan, and Spain’s Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, and Real Madrid were the clubs that jointly made the announcement on Monday morning.

They had hoped, in fact, that three more of Europe’s elite clubs would later join and help them complete their cartel of 15 ‘Founding Clubs’.

The Super League was planned as a 20-team tournament that would see other teams fight for qualification every year and grab the five open slots every season.

A screenshot from the Super League’s website.
A screenshot from the Super League’s website.

Champions League and the Money Problem

The big problem with this new league of course was that the ‘mid-week’ during which the Super League planned to play their matches would clash with the schedule of the Champions League, which is mostly played mid-week as we know.

This obviously meant eventually the Super League clubs planned to pull out of the Champions League, and in a few cases the Europa League.

But why? Why would the biggest clubs in Europe choose to not play the most elite of club football tournaments in Europe?

Simply put. The money.

Apparently, having enough money isn’t enough and more needed to be earned. As we know, a lot of the clubs that were part of the Super League had over the last decade been talking about how they deserved a larger chunk of the revenue of the Champions League. The way they saw it – since they sold more tickets, had better viewership and a bigger star cast of players, then why would they not make more money than smaller clubs with lesser following.

An IPL Analogy

To understand the aim of this Super League, it may help to put things in context of the Indian Premier League.

It’s like Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and KKR one day decided to break away from the IPL and play their own league simply because the franchises had a greater following, sold more tickets, had better viewership on their games.

They would then be walking away from a league that is run by the BCCI where they have to share the revenue from media rights and sponsorships with not just the board but also the eight IPL teams. The BCCI, as we know, keeps 50 percent of the profits and passes the rest 50 to the franchises that divide it equally.

Instead, the Super League’s plan was to eliminate the UEFA from the picture entirely and run this league by the ‘Founding Clubs’. Not just the UEFA, they were also planning to eliminate the need to divide the money with other teams and keep all profits between the 20 participating teams.

More Money & Less Risk of Losing It

To go against European football’s parent body, to walk away from Europe’s biggest football tournament and face the ire of fans and sponsors – how did the clubs think the could pull it off?

Many British pundits believe this idea has its origins in America.

Premier League clubs Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal are owned by Americans as we do know, in America they don’t have an elimination system in their leagues, like in the NBA or the NFL. Unlike the Premier League or the Champions League.

In the Premier League, if you don’t keep up your quality of play, you risk relegation and have to play the Championship the next season. For the Champions League, too, in the Premier League, you need to finish in the top four to qualify for the next season.

This ‘uncertainty’ is what Super League teams would entirely eliminate. The proposed tournament basically would see no elimination, all ‘Founding Clubs’ would play every season. Nobody would basically need to do well or win a certain number of matches to qualify for the next season.

You play every season, you play every club. Your income from the league is a guaranteed fixed amount.

While this would be an ideal set-up for the owners, the players, fans, managers all simply rejected the format.

As Pep Guardiola said, ‘It is not a sport where success is already guaranteed. It is not a sport when it doesn’t matter where you lose’.

Guardiola along with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and many players from Premier League clubs spoke out against the plans of the Super League despite their team’s owners being involved in the plans.

Their united front along with the backlash from the fans and other clubs as well UEFA’s threats of severe sanctions ultimately led to the withdrawal of all the Premier League clubs from the Super League, within two days of the announcement.

Perez and the JP Morgan Hand

Apart from the American owners in the Premier League, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has now emerged as one of the main voices that backed the Super League. Perez in fact was slated to preside over the Super League had the tournament kicked-off.

But while these men cover the administrative aspect of the league, there needed to be a financial push as well.

A push for the clubs to first join the league and also, a commitment of an investment. And that came from American investment firm JP Morgan who committed 3.5 billion euros to lay the foundation for this league.

Each of the 15 ‘Founding Clubs’ were going to be getting about 200-300 million euros as pretty much joining fee.

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