Explained: What is Europe’s Controversial Super League?

The European Super League have proposed to make this a new midweek competition.

Updated
Football
5 min read
12 teams have proposed a breakaway European Super League led by Man United, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Juventus. 
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On the night of Sunday, 18 April, 12 powerful European football clubs announced the proposal of a breakaway European Super League – a closed competition paving the way for more revenue for themselves.

The announcement, which has been met with plenty of criticism from fans and players across the globe, has caused complete chaos about the direction in which football is going.

The clubs also have a similar competition for the women’s game in the pipeline. The ESL have proposed to make this a "new midweek competition" and claims the participating clubs will continue in their respective national leagues. They hope to start the tournament "as soon as practicable".

The self-appointed big 6 from England – Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Man City – along with Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are the first teams willing to jump on board this plan.

Explained: What is Europe’s Controversial Super League?

  1. 1. What is the European Super League and Whose Idea Is It?

    A football competition involving 20 of the powerful football clubs from Europe, of which 15 are assured of their spot every year irrespective of results. The other five will be decided by rotation, the basis for which is still unclear.

    Club chiefs Florentino Perez (Real Madrid), Ed Woodward (Man United), John Henry (Liverpool), and Andrea Agnelli (Juventus) have been the brains behind this hugely unpopular project and invited the rest of the 8 teams.

    Currently, there are only 12 teams who have signed up for this, causing major upheaval and chaos within the football fraternity.

    It’s different from the already existing UEFA Champions League because for starters UEFA don’t approve of this and have revamped their own tournament and secondly, Champions League qualification and spots are based on the domestic performances of the previous season.

    The competition’s 15+5 format also dilutes the idea of merit-based progression as the 15 are safe-guarded from relegation.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Prompted the Move towards the ESL?

    The founding members estimate that they can gain close to four times what the Champions League winners Bayern Munich got last year. The clubs also believe the rights to the tournament, featuring the top names of the sport, will be worth billions which would be split within themselves and not with lesser clubs and UEFA.

    “I have great respect for everything that Atalanta are doing, but without international history and thanks to just one great season, they had direct access into the primary European club competition. Is that right or not?” Agnelli told the FT Business of Football Summit in London in March 2020.

    “Then I think of Roma, who contributed in recent years to maintaining Italy’s ranking. They had one bad season and are out, with all the consequent damage to them financially."

    While the coronavirus pandemic has cost the clubs big amounts in revenue, the idea has been in the pipeline for close to five years with millionaire owners and of course the belief that the teams driving the revenue should get the bulk of it, much like when the Big 3’s domination of cricket.

    Mind you, the increased earnings aren’t going to pave the way for astronomical salaries either as the player wages and transfer amounts will be capped.

    Expand
  3. 3. Who Gets to Be Part of European Super League?

    While German powerhouses Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have refused to be part of the ESL, there are 12 founding members in the mix currently.

    The self-appointed big 6 from England – Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Man City – along with Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are the founding members.

    There are eight chairs free at the table, but the Germans have stepped away and other likely candidates such as Qatar owned Paris-Saint Germain and FC Porto distanced themselves from the project.

    The additions to the existing band of 12 are not yet clear. There are five spots open for rotation and 53 domestic champions every season in the continent.

    Expand
  4. 4. What’s the Proposed Format of ESL?

    The 20 teams will be divided into two groups of 10 each and they will play two-legged home and away games in the first round.

    The top 3 teams from both the groups then progress to the quarterfinals while the 4th and 5th ranked teams in the groups will meet in a playoff (two-legged) to decide the final line-up for the quarterfinals.

    That will then be followed up by the two-legged semi-finals before the tournament ends with the final at a neutral venue.

    The difference is that those playoffs will be held over the course of four weeks at the end of the season while the group stage will be mid-week during the normal season – a time which is currently reserved for the Champions League and Europa League.

    Real Madrid supremo Florentino Perez has said he is open to shortening the game from 90 minutes.

    Expand
  5. 5. What are FIFA and UEFA Saying?

    The powerhouse clubs want financial stability, more so in the current situation, and have made their case clear.

    FIFA and UEFA have released strong statements about their lack of approval of this project, warning that those involved can be banned from UEFA and FIFA tournaments. Most FA’s as well are not happy with the situation.

    “At Fifa we can only and strongly disapprove the creation of the Super League,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said. “Of a Super League which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions. From the leagues, from the associations, from Uefa, from Fifa. Which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of Fifa’s disapproval of this.”

    "The players who will play in teams that might play in the closed league will be banned from playing in World Cup and Euros," UEFA Chief Aleksander Ceferin said. "They could not represent national team in any matches."

    "We didn't know we had snakes working close to us, but now we know," Ceferin added. "Super League is only about money, money of the dozen, I don't want to call them dirty dozen, but UEFA is about developing football, and about financing what should be financed, that our football, our culture survives, and some people don't understand it.

    "We have the English FA, Spanish Federation, Italian Federation, the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and FIFA, unanimous in opposition to these cynical plans which are completely against what football should be. We are all united against this nonsense of a project."

    Expand
  6. 6. How is the Football Community Reacting?

    Almost everyone involved in top flight football in any way have reacted strongly against the European Super League. After Liverpool drew against Leeds, Jurgen Klopp and James Milner were critical of their employers.

    “I don’t like it and I don’t want it to happen.” Klopp, who was only informed of FSG’s plans on Sunday, said. "I like the fact that West Ham might play in the Champions League next year. I don't want them to because we want to do that, but I like that they have the chance."

    “I can only say my personal opinion, I don't like it and hopefully it doesn't happen. I can only imagine what has been said about it and I probably agree with most of it. I think for us we just try and concentrate on the game, there is obviously a lot going on, but for us we just have to try and be professional and concentrate on the game that is the only thing we can control," James Milner said.

    "As a player and now as an owner I know that our sport is nothing without the fans. We need football to be for everyone. We need football to be fair and we need competitions based on merit. Unless we protect these values the game we love is in danger..." David Beckham wrote on Instagram.

    (With Inputs from New York Times and The Guardian)

    (The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

    Expand

What is the European Super League and Whose Idea Is It?

A football competition involving 20 of the powerful football clubs from Europe, of which 15 are assured of their spot every year irrespective of results. The other five will be decided by rotation, the basis for which is still unclear.

Club chiefs Florentino Perez (Real Madrid), Ed Woodward (Man United), John Henry (Liverpool), and Andrea Agnelli (Juventus) have been the brains behind this hugely unpopular project and invited the rest of the 8 teams.

Currently, there are only 12 teams who have signed up for this, causing major upheaval and chaos within the football fraternity.

It’s different from the already existing UEFA Champions League because for starters UEFA don’t approve of this and have revamped their own tournament and secondly, Champions League qualification and spots are based on the domestic performances of the previous season.

The competition’s 15+5 format also dilutes the idea of merit-based progression as the 15 are safe-guarded from relegation.

What Prompted the Move towards the ESL?

The founding members estimate that they can gain close to four times what the Champions League winners Bayern Munich got last year. The clubs also believe the rights to the tournament, featuring the top names of the sport, will be worth billions which would be split within themselves and not with lesser clubs and UEFA.

“I have great respect for everything that Atalanta are doing, but without international history and thanks to just one great season, they had direct access into the primary European club competition. Is that right or not?” Agnelli told the FT Business of Football Summit in London in March 2020.

“Then I think of Roma, who contributed in recent years to maintaining Italy’s ranking. They had one bad season and are out, with all the consequent damage to them financially."

While the coronavirus pandemic has cost the clubs big amounts in revenue, the idea has been in the pipeline for close to five years with millionaire owners and of course the belief that the teams driving the revenue should get the bulk of it, much like when the Big 3’s domination of cricket.

Mind you, the increased earnings aren’t going to pave the way for astronomical salaries either as the player wages and transfer amounts will be capped.

Who Gets to Be Part of European Super League?

While German powerhouses Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have refused to be part of the ESL, there are 12 founding members in the mix currently.

The self-appointed big 6 from England – Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Man City – along with Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are the founding members.

There are eight chairs free at the table, but the Germans have stepped away and other likely candidates such as Qatar owned Paris-Saint Germain and FC Porto distanced themselves from the project.

The additions to the existing band of 12 are not yet clear. There are five spots open for rotation and 53 domestic champions every season in the continent.

What’s the Proposed Format of ESL?

The 20 teams will be divided into two groups of 10 each and they will play two-legged home and away games in the first round.

The top 3 teams from both the groups then progress to the quarterfinals while the 4th and 5th ranked teams in the groups will meet in a playoff (two-legged) to decide the final line-up for the quarterfinals.

That will then be followed up by the two-legged semi-finals before the tournament ends with the final at a neutral venue.

The difference is that those playoffs will be held over the course of four weeks at the end of the season while the group stage will be mid-week during the normal season – a time which is currently reserved for the Champions League and Europa League.

Real Madrid supremo Florentino Perez has said he is open to shortening the game from 90 minutes.

What are FIFA and UEFA Saying?

The powerhouse clubs want financial stability, more so in the current situation, and have made their case clear.

FIFA and UEFA have released strong statements about their lack of approval of this project, warning that those involved can be banned from UEFA and FIFA tournaments. Most FA’s as well are not happy with the situation.

“At Fifa we can only and strongly disapprove the creation of the Super League,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said. “Of a Super League which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions. From the leagues, from the associations, from Uefa, from Fifa. Which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of Fifa’s disapproval of this.”

"The players who will play in teams that might play in the closed league will be banned from playing in World Cup and Euros," UEFA Chief Aleksander Ceferin said. "They could not represent national team in any matches."

"We didn't know we had snakes working close to us, but now we know," Ceferin added. "Super League is only about money, money of the dozen, I don't want to call them dirty dozen, but UEFA is about developing football, and about financing what should be financed, that our football, our culture survives, and some people don't understand it.

"We have the English FA, Spanish Federation, Italian Federation, the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and FIFA, unanimous in opposition to these cynical plans which are completely against what football should be. We are all united against this nonsense of a project."

How is the Football Community Reacting?

Almost everyone involved in top flight football in any way have reacted strongly against the European Super League. After Liverpool drew against Leeds, Jurgen Klopp and James Milner were critical of their employers.

“I don’t like it and I don’t want it to happen.” Klopp, who was only informed of FSG’s plans on Sunday, said. "I like the fact that West Ham might play in the Champions League next year. I don't want them to because we want to do that, but I like that they have the chance."

“I can only say my personal opinion, I don't like it and hopefully it doesn't happen. I can only imagine what has been said about it and I probably agree with most of it. I think for us we just try and concentrate on the game, there is obviously a lot going on, but for us we just have to try and be professional and concentrate on the game that is the only thing we can control," James Milner said.

"As a player and now as an owner I know that our sport is nothing without the fans. We need football to be for everyone. We need football to be fair and we need competitions based on merit. Unless we protect these values the game we love is in danger..." David Beckham wrote on Instagram.

(With Inputs from New York Times and The Guardian)

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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