The soccer world shook to its core when Europe’s top teams announced it would create a European Super League. The league was to include at least six English teams, five Italian ones and Atletico Madrid. The response was fierce, to say the least. Britain’s Prince William (who is president of the English Football Association), French President Emmanuel Macron and even Pope Francis voiced concerns about the idea. Condemnation from former stars like David Beckham, current players and countless fans who protested at stadiums and online were also heard. The Union of European Football Association’s (UEFA) governing body also threatened to impose sanctions against clubs and players who went with the new league.
The new league tried to position itself as an alternative to the pan-European Champions League, the top echelon of European football. Organizers were also looking at the English Premier League’s $12 billion in television revenue, trying to carve out a piece of that pie with the richest teams in Europe.
Structure an issue
The league appears to have been structured more like American pro sports, where the leagues include all the teams all the time. This idea makes sense considering three of the British clubs are owned by Americans who also own pro sports teams in the U.S.
The European soccer structure is more performance-based – the clubs must excel in their local leagues to qualify for the Champions League regardless of the club’s stadium-size, fan following or budget. Those who lose are not invited, and previous powerhouses can be relegated to a lower level, which would be akin to moving losing Major League Baseball teams down to the minor leagues.
European football fans were angry about the business-like way that owners of the wealthiest clubs were looking at ways to increase their revenue stream while also shutting out the smaller clubs, thus attempting to further tip the power and money in the direction of the already wealthy.
Change in the future likely?
All teams have taken a financial hit due to the pandemic, with the larger teams with more overhead facing greater deficits. But teams at all levels will struggle to recoup those losses. There has also been grumbling about the current structure of European football as unfair or unfair to some. The new Super League appears to have lost this battle, but the war over soccer is far from done as teams search for new footing.