AGAINST The Super League

Editorial

April 19, 2021

The SUper League.

We’ve known it’s been coming for years now, but it’s still a shock; 12 of Europe’s heavyweight clubs banding together and breaking away to form The Super League. Not the *European* Super League. The Super League.

This is important. Today, the BBC’s Dan Roan tweeted that some involved in The Super League have been referring to club supporters as ‘legacy fans’, “while they are focused instead on the ‘fans of the future’ who want superstar names”. It is a truly perverse sentiment, surely foreshadowing a future of The Super League’s games being played abroad, likely in the US, Middle East and Asia.

Europe’s biggest clubs have been indulged for too long. First, they got the 32-team Champions League format, ensuring that more teams from the biggest leagues would consistently qualify for the continent’s biggest tournament. Then we had the recent reforms ensuring that Italy, Spain, England and Germany would all be guaranteed four positions each season. And then we have the upcoming transition to the ‘Swiss model’, another way of ensuring that there are more games for more TV revenue, and guaranteed places for the top clubs even if they fail to qualify.

But even that was not enough to match the monopolistic greed of the breakaway clubs. Capital, as it always does, is now consolidating in the face of mounting debts partly caused by the pandemic, and partly caused by decades of a race to the top on wages, transfer fees, and agent fees, as these clubs rode the wave of exploding revenues from ever-increasing TV rights and commercial deals. Now that sugar rush has worn off, and these clubs want more.

Are we really surprised though? Let’s have a run through the owners of the 12 clubs:

  • Juventus, owned by the billionaire Agnelli family through their Exor holding company which also owns Fiat-Chrysler
  • Internazionle, owned by Chinese billionaire Zhang Jindong
  • AC Milan, owned by American ‘vulture fund’ Elliott Management Corporation
  • Manchester City, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates
  • Liverpool, owned by American billionaire John W. Henry and his Fenway Sports Group
  • Arsenal, owned by American billionaire Stan Kroenke, who recently moved another team he owns, the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, from St. Louis in 2015
  • Chelsea, owned by Russian billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich
  • Tottenham Hotspur, owned by British billionaire Joe Lewis, currently living in tax exile in the Bahamas
  • Manchester United, owned by the American billionaire Glazer family
  • Atlético Madrid, owned by Miguel Ángel Gil Marín, convicted of embezzling almost $20 million out of the club in the early 2000s
  • And Real Madrid and Barcelona, technically fan-owned, but with limited input other than through Presidential elections
 

For these people, the desires of ‘legacy fans’ are just a small inconvenience on their path to monopolising and controlling European football.

One can only hope that UEFA, FIFA, the national federations and the leagues throw the book at these mutineers, whose hegemony over European football needs to be ended. Encouragingly, there are reports of discontent among club employees, with The Independent’s Melissa Reddy tweeting that “Players were not consulted and aren’t keen. Opinions of the managers that will now be in the spotlight and field questions about the Super League, were not taken into consideration. Club staff don’t like it”. But simply quashing this proposal will not be enough, it needs to be destroyed and the 12 clubs will need to face severe consequences.

And from there, we will need to push further, applying the same pressure to UEFA, the leagues and clubs to do more and do better in serving the fans that make football a truly special sport. Football’s endless quest for financial growth has turned it into a monster at the elite level, and the continued dominance of an elite few will see this sport eventually cave in on itself.

STEPHEN GANAVAS  |  EDITOR