Twelve leading European clubs announced plans to form new breakaway European Super League, only for it to collapse within days.
Six English clubs were among the clubs who agreed the proposals for a new competition which was planned to replace the current Champions League competition. They were joined by three clubs from Spain and Italy apiece with all 12 facing huge media and fan backlash.
The move seemed to be an attempt to wrestle back control from football governing bodies to secure a greater share of revenue and increased financial stability. There is no surprise the announcement came a day before UEFA planned to unveil plans to revamp the Champions League showing rising tensions at the top of the sport.
According to Sky, the clubs claimed with the new format they would receive annual revenue of $4.2bn, around $280m each. This would have given clubs a guaranteed annual revenue which was cut following the Covid-19 pandemic. In January, Deloitte published their money league which showed the richest clubs would lose $2.3bn by the end of the current season.
The format would have allowed all founding clubs to qualify automatically with five more able to qualify each year. However, the closed shop format with no qualification for the founding clubs questioned the integrity of competition within football.
The European Super League announcement prompted a huge backlash
European football governing body, UEFA, along with national football associations and current domestic leagues came out with scathing criticism of the plans.
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UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin deplored the plans as “disgraceful, self-serving… [and] fuelled purely by greed”. Furthermore, it was announced these teams would be prevented from competing in existing competitions and players may be unable to play for their national teams had it gone ahead.
Fans of the clubs involved, and others came out largely united in their opposition to the plans which they see as ruining the competitiveness and history of the game.
Ultimately, this put huge pressure on clubs who failed to consult fans before agreeing to the format. Chelsea were the first club to pull out on Monday night and others soon followed leaving the plans in tatters.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez argued the plan would save football from waning interest and appealing to a global younger audience. However, with football the most popular sport across the world this merely seemed to be a power grab by the rich to become richer.
Longstanding issues with money in football culminated with this move
Plans for a European Super League are not new, having been around since the late 1990’s. However, this is the nearest that they have come to fruition.
There have long been issues with money in football with UEFA and FIFA involved in numerous corruption scandals. Notably the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, awarded to the state despite human rights abuse issues. Additionally, there have been concerns over clubs such as Manchester City and PSG being bankrolled by gulf states by the traditional elite clubs.
This led to discontent among many with these institutions over how football is run. However, the richest clubs breaking away and forming their own closed shop was never a viable solution to alleviating these concerns and would have merely created more.
Despite, the power of owners it is clear fan pressure is still able to force change with the backlash meaning the proposal had no chance of success. However, if overseas owners continue to seek to maximise profit similar issues will continue to arise.
In Germany, the 50+1 rule allows fans to be majority shareholders preventing such moves. To address growing imbalances in the game other countries need to follow similar models but wrestling power back from foreign owners is no easy task.
The past few days have showed the power held when football fans united to fight issues within the game. Perhaps this could continue into forcing governing bodies into stamping out ongoing issues with corruption and racism.
However, as mentioned earlier, plans for a European Super League have been around for a very long time. It may be unwise to expect that this is the last that we will hear of them.