To say the world of football is in a state of uncertainty is a big understatement after some of the biggest clubs in European football announced a breakaway league called ‘European Super League’.
The UEFA Champions League was formerly known as the European Cup with a straight knockout tournament format open to only the winners of the domestic leagues. The European Cup became the current round-robin Champions League format in 1991 so as to pacify the big clubs that don’t win their domestic leagues. That format has now been changed to the 36-team Swiss model as from 2024.
There are billions uponbillions of cash for the teams in the UEFA Champions League and this explains why the big clubs are keen for an easier route to the competition hence the changes. With the changes, these clubs would be able to qualify for the Champions League easily. Also, more matches mean more money for the clubs. However, more was never going to be enough for these clubs and that has led us to this ‘European Super League’ situation.
The 12 clubs that have confirmed their status as members of the new European Super League are Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur from England;AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus from Italy; and the trio of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid from Spain.
Reports of the European Super League was first revealed by the New York Times before the competition’s website went live. According to the information released by the European Super League body, the aforementioned 12 teams from England, Italy and Spain would be joined by three unnamed teams to take the number to 15. The competition is in a 20-team format with five teams joining those 15 teams based on domestic achievements every season. The new competition is designed in a bid to supplant both the UEFA Champions League and the various domestic leagues. According to reports, each team could receive up to €3.5bn.
The newly formed European Super League will see the best teams and best players feature against each other regularly. This should be fun for the fans right. However, a deeper x-ray on the competition reveals otherwise.
So much of the romance of football comes from the current modus operandi in European football as teams have to finish in the top spots in their respective leagues to qualify for the Champions League every season. Also, teams are in danger of dropping down to the lower leagues if theydon’t perform well in their leagues. To this effect, the context of success or failure matters a lot. This would no longer be possible with the 15 clubs guaranteed a permanent spot in the European Super League every year.
These big clubs are guaranteed access to huge sums of money yearly whether they fail or succeed on the pitch. The new competition makes the Cinderella story less unlikely. Cinderella stories like the one of Leicester City during the 2015/16 season and that of AS Monaco during the 2016/17 campaign. In summary, the soul of football would be lost with the new European Super League.It’s not surprising that a large section of fans including those associated with the abovementioned 12 clubs have kicked against the idea.
It is clear that the European Super League body has done its homework to reach the conclusion that the new project will garner enough fan support from outside the European continent. Fans from other continents like Asia, Central America and Africa have always opted for the choice of investing in watching European football rather than investing in watching their own domestic leagues.
For governing bodies like UEFA and FIFA, the new project will surely render them less authoritative on all things football not to mention the financial hit that would be taken in the process. It’s not a surprise that these bodies have moved swiftly to kick against the new competition. It has even been suggested that participating players won’t be allowed to feature for their countries at major international tournaments like the World Cup starting from the next edition in Qatar next year.
As things stand, the European Super League will go ahead as planned though there are still many roadblocks to cross before that happens starting from August 2021 as disclosed and it is up to football bodies like UEFA and FIFA to reach a compromise with the major actors to stop the project from taking off.