European football at a crossroads as Super League threatens to reshape the sport

Photo by Janosch Diggelmann via Unsplash

By Matteo Venieri
Boston University News Service

Over the weekend, several of the biggest clubs in European football took the first step toward a complete revolution: twelve clubs announced a European Super League creation. 

Six of the founding members are from the English Premier League (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham), three from Italy’s Serie A (Milan, Inter and Juventus) and three from Spain’s La Liga (Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid).

Three more founding members have yet to be announced. Bundesliga powerhouses Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich have rejected the offer. In France, Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatari ownership group is trying to appease European soccer officials ahead of the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez will lead the Super League as the first chairman, flanked by Juventus president Andrea Agnelli. 

“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” Pérez said in a statement. “Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans. Our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to the wishes of the fans.”

The Super League is set to include 15 permanent clubs, called founding members, and five teams who would qualify for merit in the respective national leagues. The 20 clubs will be split into two competing groups to determine the best eight, who will then advance to the quarterfinals and a two-leg knockout stage. 

Contrary to the current Champions League model that is structured to delay box-office matches until the late stage of the competition, the Super League would showcase high level matches throughout the season, which is set to go from August to May.

If implemented, this would completely reshape decades of European football traditions. The new model would essentially annihilate the prestige of the Champions League. 

The most important European competition would inevitably showcase lesser teams and lesser talent. Competing for viewership against the Super League would also be an insurmountable task as both tournaments occur midweek.

National leagues could be forced to have a huge makeover as well. Winning the league and avoiding relegation would be the only two things at stake for the entire season. In Serie A, for example, seven teams are currently in a ferocious fight for the first four spots that secure access to next year’s UCL. The same scenario will provide no pathos in the future.

Not surprisingly, FIFA, UEFA and the three European federations vehemently condemned the plans of the 12 “secessionists” and are preparing a series of countermeasures. 

“We are all united against this nonsense of a project,” UEFA President Alex Ceferin said. 

He added that the founding members could be banned from both national and international competitions. Their players also denied the opportunity to play in the World Cup and Euros.

It’s hard to be sure who is currently bluffing. The founding members have dominated European Soccer for decades. Banning those teams indefinitely could impoverish FIFA, UEFA and all the national leagues to the point of near extinction.

At the same time, the founding members’ bold move has seemingly alienated them in the eyes of the majority of fans, who are protesting across Europe today. The next few weeks will be crucial in determining the destiny of the world’s most beloved sport.

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