European Super League: is it a good or bad thing?
Words by Nathan Irvine and Rob Chilton
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To say the European Super League (ESL) announcement has been met with negativity is like saying the atom bomb made a bit of a mess. Social media has been red hot with critical takes on the proposed new tournament. It's set to exclusively involve twelve elite(ish) clubs - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The proposal suggests that each team will play each other midweek in a league format before a final held in May. Oh, and it's set to start next season. Thing is, UEFA and FIFA haven't agreed to this and the whole thing has been discussed in clandestine fashion between the chairmen of each club. The key driver? Money, of course. The ESL is estimated to generate billions of dollars for these twelve founding clubs - plus four more that are TBC.
Fans, ex-pros (see below) and clubs further down the football pyramid are up in arms about the deal. And rightly so. France's Ligue 1 and Germany's Bundesliga have both - so far - refused to take part. So what now?
EDGAR's Rob Chilton and Nathan Irvine digest the facts and discuss whether the ESL is good or bad? Clue: it's bad.
Before we get to the vulgar, vile monstrosity that is the European Super League, let’s remind ourselves that we already have a European Super League – it’s called the Champions League and, by and large, it’s pretty good. Yes, the group stages go on a tad too long, but from the round of 16 matches onwards, it’s some of the most exciting, dramatic and tactically-advanced football in the world. Leave it alone, it works fine.
The ESL is so transparent, it’s embarrassing. Rich, foreign owners are chasing the dollar without a care for the fans born and raised within sight of the stadium. If these owners buy, let’s say, Sony and want to change the name and the logo and turn it into an ice cream shop, go ahead. But don’t touch these football clubs.
They aren’t companies. They may look like companies with a corporate infrastructure run by people in suits who went to Harvard Business School rather than every home game, but they are clubs that have been embedded in communities for decades. When a local kid makes it into the first team of the club he supported as a boy, he’s an instant hero. A European Super League goes against all that and wants to turn football into a shiny piece of tech with no history, no nostalgia and no soul.
Big ‘super’ clubs (by the way, why are Arsenal, Porto, RB Leipzig and Tottenham in this ESL proposal?) have lots of money already, so don’t be greedy. I know it’s naïve but today, especially after a drab season without fans, it’s time these owners step back and think about the humanity of football and the value of what it means for people to belong to a club. Clubs, not cash – please.
OK, let me staple a neon-lit disclaimer on this so you don’t have to hunt me down on social media. While I’m about to make a case for why the European Super League idea is sort of good, I’m against it in principle.
As Rob makes clear, this is just a cash grab to make the rich clubs richer and will ultimately stretch the gap between these so-called elite teams and the rest. It’s sickening how these billionaires that are completely detached from the history, fans and club are allowed to make their own special league to simply line their own pockets.
Would I watch a midweek game between two global giants each week? Probably. Will I still want my beloved Manchester United to win this Mickey Mouse cup? Absolutely. It’s football after all and I’m keen to drink in as much of it as possible.
I don’t see this current format making it to fruition, but a new format isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People are reluctant to change, so it’s understandable that this ESL announcement has been met with negativity. There are ways I think it can work, but it demands that the greedy folk at the top see sense and agree.
Firstly, if they want to show loyalty to the match-going fans around each club’s stadium then make admission free. Secondly, distribute the money further down each country’s league pyramid - if it’s supposed to benefit them too, show us exactly how it will and let those clubs negotiate terms.
Lastly, all clubs involved should be slapped with a transfer cap. If they’re going to be generating money from a revenue stream that’s closed off to others, then sanctions need to be in place so they can’t inflate and buy up all the best players.
I’m very aware that none of those things will ever happen because, well, greed. But if this is going to be the progressive step that these clubs claim it will be, hardworking fans and clubs outside the ESL need to be taken care of too. A cash injection is great, but it needs to be distributed much further than the 12 clubs involved.
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