Hello Friends! Hope you all are hale and hearty and taking good care of yourselves! I am back with a new blog on ‘The Rise and Fall of European Super League’. Twelve of the biggest European football clubs have announced their intention to form their own competition, known as the European Super League. This has become a major news story, and has been criticized by fans, players, football club owners, and politicians across Europe. So, in this Blog, I will explain what a Super League is, why clubs want to join it, why it is such a controversial topic and also how fans have contributed in it’s doom! So let’s get started!
Football, is the world’s most popular sport. It is played, watched, and enjoyed by millions of men and women around the world. For many including me, it is more than just a sport or game; it is an important part of our life and identity. I have friends who consider being a Liverpool fan, Manchester United fan, a Real Madrid fan or a Barcelona Fan for example, a more important part of their identity than their political belief or even religion. The team you support can help you make friends or cause arguments. For much of the world, and especially Europe and South America, football is a way of life. We all pride ourselves in being our clubs’ fans and we always support our clubs through their thick and thin, this is what Football is all about!
So, when twelve of the biggest football clubs in the world announced to the world that they were going to establish their own tournament, it was always going to be a major news story. The teams’ plan to launch a closed competition known as the Super League, in which they would compete only against themselves and has been almost unanimously criticised by footballers, fans, newspapers, smaller clubs, and even the UK government. The last few days have been very Tumultuous because The European Super League proposal has rocked the World of Football to it’s very core. So to make it all clear, I will be briefing you everything about this controversial league, how it unfolded and how fans ruled the show and saved the day for World Football! So let’s start with the basic question:
What is the European Super League?
The European Super League is a New Breakaway League which was Proposed by the 12 best clubs of Europe or rather to be more precise I would say The Billionaire Owners of these 12 Teams. The Founding Clubs of this newly proposed League are the Big Six of England, that is, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspurs, 3 Teams from Italy, that is, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan and 3 from Spain – Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund from Germany and Paris Saint-Germain of France were the other 3 clubs Invited but they rejected this Proposal!
The Concept of a European Super League is not new. The talks started in the Year 1998 but the talks ultimately never progressed the planning stage as it failed to garner much attention then. In the year 2008, Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid, commenced plans for a super league competition, as he thought the UEFA Champions League was obsolete and problematic for the sport, and was an obstacle from letting clubs grow their businesses and develop infrastructure. The Proposal started gathering steam in 2018 and was officially announced by the 12 Founding Clubs in 2021.
The 12 Founding clubs of ESL which I mentioned above were of the opinion that the format of the UEFA Champions League has to be changed because they have supporters all round the World and the Amount of money that other Governing bodies raise that they play in is because of their fanbase all around the world and so they wanted a larger piece of the pie which the UEFA never agreed to. So these 12 Teams proposed a Closed Breakaway Tournament called as the European Super League on 18th April 2021.
What is the Format of ESL?
The proposed competition was designed to feature twenty clubs who would partake in matches against each other – fifteen of these would be permanent members, dubbed “founding clubs” who would govern the competition’s operation, while five other places would be given to clubs through a qualifying mechanism focused on the teams who performed best in their country’s most recent domestic season. These 5 teams only can get Relegated according to their performance in that year. But the other 15 teams are guaranteed participation with fixed Income and guaranteed spots in ESL irrespective of their Performance in that given year.
Each year, the competition would see the teams split into two groups of ten, playing home-and-away in a double round-robin format for a total of 18 group matches per team, with fixtures set to take place midweek to avoid disrupting the clubs’ involvement in their domestic leagues. At the end of these group matches, the top three of each group would then qualify for the quarter-finals, while the teams finishing fourth and fifth from each group will compete in two-legged play-offs to decide the last two quarter-finalists. The remainder of the competition would take place in a four-week span at the end of the season, with the quarter-finals and semi-finals featuring two-legged ties, while the final would be contested as a single fixture at a neutral venue. In total, each season of the competition would feature 197 matches (180 in the group stage and 17 in the knockout stage). So this means you will be able to watch matches like Liverpool-Barcelona, Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid, Juventus-Barcelona and also see Messi and Ronaldo lock horns every week, well this seems very Interesting isn’t it? But wait a minute it is not so cool for Football in general! Let’s see how!
Why ESL was so Controversial?
The major reason why fans all over the World are criticising and opposing this league is because there is no Relegation or Promotion for the 15 founding teams, that is, the 15 Founding Clubs will always remain safe irrespective of whether they win or lose every game. It’s kind of similar to the American Leagues like the NBA (National Basketball Association) or the NFL (National Football League) which is also called as the Franchise Based Leagues. Only the other 5 teams can get relegated and the other 15 Founding Teams will never ever be relegated! Football is becoming exclusive for some teams and so the Purpose, the Value of Winning goes for a toss because no matter what happens whether they win or lose they are guaranteed spots in the ESL. These clubs will be given 3.5 Billion Dollars just for participating in it, it is tough for owners to reject such a proposal but such a proposal goes against the absolute Value and Spirit of this amazing Sport. This League is basically making the Rich Richer and the Poor Poorer which is totally unfair to small teams.
These 15 Founding Clubs were Invited just on the basis of their rich history and culture and their fanbases. Can you Imagine underachiever teams like Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs and even Juventus for that matter who are currently struggling to even qualify for the Champions League are guaranteed Spots in the ESL just because of their rich fanbases. This Proposal was basically a Money-Driven Decision, and most Importantly the respective Club Managers and Players who are the major stakeholders of any team were not even consulted before taking this decision.
Also if this League would have continued then UEFA and FIFA the 2 governing bodies of World Football would have banned the teams from the Domestic Leagues like the Spanish La Liga, the English Premier League and Italian Seria A. Also the Players of the respective clubs would also be barred from representing their Countries! Can u imagine LaLiga without the El Classico(Real Madrid vs Barcelona) and Madrid Derby (Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid) ? Can u Imagine the Premier League without the Manchester Derby ( Manchester United vs Manchester City)? Can you imagine the Serie A without the Milan Derby (Inter Milan vs AC Milan)? And can u imagine the World Cup without Ronaldo, Messi, Hazard, De Bruyne and other big stars? I bet you can’t because these are the matches we Crave for! This league would mean that Domestic Leagues and also the UEFA Champions League would eventually loose their shine because no one would watch teams like Real Sociedad take on Athletic Bilbao or a Sporting Lisbon take on Galatasaray. This league could have been disastrous for Small teams and Football in general.
Another Important Aspect of this league is that if it continued Small Teams would have lost their lustre and eventually fall apart. We know what happened when underdogs like Greece won the Euros in 2004 and when Leicester City won the Premier League in 2016, it inspired so many ! It is always heart-warming for all of us when Teams like Ajax and Porto qualify for the Quarter Finals of the Champions League by eliminating giants like Juventus and Real Madrid on the way! This is what Football is all about where underdogs beat the giants of European Football! All this things wouldn’t be possible if the ESL came into existence. Imagine this league started 20 years ago then Great Players like Ronaldo and Messi who started their career in Sporting Lisbon and Newells Old Boys respectively, might not have become so great. Because great players always start their career by playing for small teams and if small teams don’t exist these players won’t get the recognition they deserve! Yes I agree that we do like to watch big teams play each other, but watching them play every week would surely get tedious and eventually we will lose interest!
Approximately 80-85% of fans all around the World were not happy with this league, many managers and players of these clubs also opposed such a league and all these major stakeholders were not even taken into consideration by the owners which is truly flabbergasting! This proves that owners were just behind money and nothing else.
Reaction of Football Experts and How Fans saved the Day for Football
The domestic leagues and Uefa have condemned the actions and view it as a blatant power-grab. They have also pointed out clubs and players could be banned for participating.
A joint statement by Uefa, the FA, the Premier League and their Spanish and Italian counterparts said: “We will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.” In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the plans “very damaging” and suggested they would “strike at the heart of the domestic game”, before housing minister Christopher Pincher told Sky News on Monday that “we don’t want to see a footballing league which is by the elite, for the elite, of the elite”. Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola and Liverpool FC Manager Jurgen Klopp and many players like Liverpool player James Milner strongly condemned and criticized this new breakaway League! Pep Guardiola in an Interview expressed his disapproval by saying, ” It’s not a Sport if relation between Effort and Reward and Effort and Success does not exist. It’s not a Sport if it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It’s not a sport if Success is already guaranteed”!
Just after the News broke out former Manchester United Players Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand and former Liverpool FC player Jamie Carragher strongly condemned and criticized their own clubs for this complicit decision. Their Podcast in SkySports had garnered millions of views overnight! Their Strong and Critical Interview Enthused millions of football fans to oppose such a bizarre league. The Proposal got widespread Criticism and Condemnation from not only Football fans but also from Governing Bodies of different Countries Europe. Fans from all over the World started berating their own club for their decision. Mobs started gathering outside the stadium in large numbers and did everything possible to be heard by their clubs.
After all this opposition from their own fans many clubs started realizing their mistake and 8 out of the 12 Founding Clubs withdrew from the League. Chelsea and Manchester City were the first ones to withdraw from the league which was followed by teams like Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool FC, Inter and AC Milan also quickly followed the suit leaving a third Serie A club, Juventus, and Spanish trio Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Barcelona as the last standing members of the breakaway group. This shows that fans have been victorious in their fight against the ESL
Immediate Fallout of ESL
The Immediate Fallout of this whole ESL Saga is that firstly Everyone Involved in the European Super League were forced to apologize. The English Premier League (PL) were the first ones to impose sanctions on these officials of ESL. PL stated that all Officials from these 12 Founding Clubs of ESL who are involved in Premier League Committees will have to resign or else they will be removed from their post. Premier Leagues have different committees like for example the Audit and Remuneration Committee has Chelsea FC Chairman Bruce Buck on Board, Club Strategic Advisory Committee which has Arsenal FC’s Office Bearers on Board. So all such officials have to resign from their posts or else they will be chucked off. UEFA and FIFA are yet to announce sanctions for the clubs but will sooner or later will penalize these founding clubs to ensure that this sorry episode won’t repeat itself!
Top Clubs of ESL were affected badly due to the Coronavirus Pandemic which forced them to take a decision on ESL to mitigate their losses. But the Pandemic has affected the smaller clubs more badly which the ESL clubs didn’t care for. At a time when being Empathetic and Selfless towards one another was the right option, these owners chose the wrong option of being Selfish and Greedy which could have murdered football. It was a total money driven decision which was followed by Widespread Criticism and Condemnation.
This whole episode shows that despite being in an Era of Corporate Control over Sports, we all fans emerged as Victorious. If football owners didn’t already know before the farce known as the ESL collapsed, no football club would exist without the fans that help build them into the clubs we know and love today. You can’t make life-altering decisions regarding ‘your’ clubs without consulting the fans and knowing you have the vast majority of their support. Trying to sneak your way into an ESL and hoping that the negative reaction will disappear over time is simply naive. It has been stated by a number of pundits on television and the internet that many of these foreign owners still have a lot to learn about the fans of these clubs. We don’t give up, we will stand up and we will be heard.
So that’s it from my side, Hope you all enjoyed reading my blog. I would love to converse with you all, Drop in your views on this topic in the comment section below and also if you like my blog, don’t forget to give it a like and share it with all your friends too! And stay tuned for more such sports blogs!!!