The European Super League: A Disgrace To Football
For years now there have been rumours of the "big" football clubs in Europe reforming European football, creating a "Super League" that features the biggest names in the sport. News broke yesterday that agreements had been made by 12 clubs to create this league with late-night statements being released by the clubs showcasing their proposed plan for the future. Branded as a new and exciting prospect for football, this plan has rightfully been met with an abundance of criticism from journalists, fans and pundits alike as these greedy clubs look to rip the soul out of the beautiful game.
The planned proposal for this Super League features a 20 team competition made up of 15 Founding Clubs who shall be safe from ever being relegated out of the league with a further 5 teams able to qualify based on their achievements in the season prior. Fixtures would be planned to take place midweek to allow for these teams to continue competing in their respective domestic competitions, with two groups of 10 being created with each team playing one another home and away. After this, the top 3 sides would go through to a quarter-final stage, with the final two spots being decided in a two-legged playoff between the teams finishing 4th and 5th in the groups. From there, the competition would play out the same as the current Champions and Europa League's knockout stages, culminating in a single fixture final at a neutral venue.
Immediately, this proposal will not go as planned, with UEFA and the governing bodies of England, Spain and Italy released a statement saying that any of the sides who take part in this competition will not be allowed in any of their competitions - even including internationals. The joint statement released by these bodies announced that this tournament would mean these teams would have to break away completely should they go through with it. This means that should the Super League go ahead, England, Spain and Italy will go into the season without their 3 most successful league winners in Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter and AC Milan respectively. A further 3 English sides will join them in the form of this season's likely league winners Manchester City, former European Champions Chelsea and for some reason, Tottenham too.
From that list of teams, it appears quite laughable to list them as a Super League, especially considering the recent successes of most of them. Arsenal currently sit in 9th place and haven't been in the Champions League since the 2016/17 season whilst AC Milan have not competed in the Champions League since 2013-14, hardly "super" credentials based on playing efforts. Manchester United haven't won a league title since 2013 and haven't left an impression on Europe's top competition since then either whilst Tottenham had wedged themselves in without having won a major trophy domestically since the 1991 FA Cup Final.
It's very clear that performances don't mean anything when it comes to this competition, with monetary reasons being the solo clear ambition for these clubs. The first listed reason for this change in European Football is to bring "significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues". The rest of the paragraph discusses monetary gains which will fill the richest clubs in the world's pockets with even more money than they already have with the competition itself being a matter tossed to the side. This alone is a criminal act on the sport as they look to create guarantees and rewards based on name, rather than the achievements and performances of the participants. Change is needed on the European stage but this proposal goes in the complete opposite direction which makes a total mockery of the spirit of competition within the sport.
By removing incentives in a competitive sense such as promotions and relegations, you lose so much value to the nature of your game. You have to earn the right to be at the top and be competing at the highest level, you shouldn't be handed it on a silver platter. Handpicking teams to suit the elite is not only wrong for sport but embarrassing at the same time. Clubs like Manchester United and AC Milan should be humiliated at the fact that they are a part of this due to the fact their failings on the pitch means they haven't earned the right to be at the top for quite some time now. In this sport you earn what you put into it and this only encourages these teams to continue slogging around with even less pressure as there are no worries of dropping out of the competition.
Combine that with the fact that these European fixtures feel special because they don't happen every season means that it will soon lose its charm very quickly. There's a reason as to why a game between Manchester United and Real Madrid is such an occasion and that appeal will soon lose its charm when it comes around twice every season. A whole bunch of these clubs also run the risk of having meaningless seasons each year, with their campaigns ending after the culmination of the groups each season. Sport as a whole is about those highs and lows. The triumphs and the failures create incredible, emotional moments that are etched into history forever and hold a deep place in the hearts of those involved. This league threatens to strip that away as these clubs are going to head into their mundane seasons having not earned any of it at all and will participate in meaningless games with no punishment to their shortcomings.
This Super League is going to close the door on a number of tremendous clubs with great squads, histories and stories who will have earned their right to play at the highest level. It's incredible that Leicester City and West Ham United sit in the top 4 and could have the chance to face off against the likes of Bayern Munich next season. They will have earned that and the efforts of the club will be rewarded for all the correct reasons as it should be. The league is also going to shut the door on a host of Europe's top venues which takes away from the incredible spectacle that the current European competitions help create. Gone are those trips to Dortmund's Westfalenstadion, Celtic Park, Rangers' Ibrox, Fenerbache's Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium and Ajax's Amsterdam Arena. Historical and beautiful football cities and areas being shunned due to not being financially strong enough, it goes entirely against the nature of the game we all love. The spectacle that the fans of these teams create will go sorely missed as the best atmospheres of the game are drained out all for the ability for tourists and fans across the globe to tune into a stream of a deemed "super game".
Ultimately, that leads to the biggest negative regarding this proposal and it is the total lack of regard to the supporters of these clubs. Fans, especially after this pandemic, are not going to be able to afford to travel weekly to go to each of these fixtures, driving the die-hards away from the clubs they support. With this, crowds and atmospheres are going to suffer as their passionate supporters will be priced out of the game as weekly trips to the likes of Madrid and Milan will be unsustainable. These clubs also are clearly not representative of the supporters, with no discussions taking place with fan groups to gauge the opinion of how such a change like this would affect them. Generations of supporters who have stuck by these clubs through thick and thin are being treated as simple consumers, easily disposable with no care to their loyalty. Football clubs have brought a great sense of pride and community for over 100 years now, with plenty of supporters doing whatever they can to be able to see their team play. This is a massive slap in the face to every single supporter of one of those clubs who have been treated disgracefully by completely out of touch owners who deserve every inch of the backlash they get.
In a year where the pandemic has hit hard, these 12 clubs have brought great disgust to the game with their sheer greediness that has turned the world of football against them. You'll be hard-pressed to find many supporters of any team who won't be expecting these teams to be punished for these actions and they can have no complaints if that happens. In a year where Arsenal made many workers redundant whilst Liverpool and Tottenham applied for the government's furlough scheme, we fans hoped things wouldn't get much worse from these money-driven franchises. Unfortunately, we were wrong as all 12 clubs have shown their true colours, especially towards their own supports.
Man United have a banner in their stadium stating "Football Without Fans Is Nothing" whilst Liverpool like to harp on about their community with 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. These things perhaps used to mean something to these once-great football clubs but for now, the message is loud and clear, I just hope it was worth shattering their reputations for. I write this as someone whose love of football is largely paved by Manchester United, the club who produced most of my footballing idols at such a young age and created great memories by doing things the right way, by doing the business on the pitch. Sadly, it appears that club no longer exists.