The footballing world erupted when news broke out on Sunday that a new league would be formed called “The Super League” which was slated to start “as soon as possible”. The Super League started with 12 teams: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham. Currently, only four teams remain; Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Juventus. The concept of the European Super League isn’t new but it was looking more like a reality when football clubs were issuing statements about their decision to become involved in the competition.
The formation of a European Super League was always discouraged and so the same threats were coming back around from the football governing bodeis. The teams in the competition and their individual players were told that they couldn’t play in FIFA or UEFA competitions anymore if they didn’t leave. Football fans took to the stadiums and football players took to Twitter to share their disapproval, which prompted the clubs to start pulling out one by one.
While many members of the footballing community rejoiced in what seems to be the end of The Super League, it’s important to note that the sport we love isn’t out of the woods yet. Football is still in trouble.
The Problem With the Super League
Many football fans referred to The Super League as the ‘death of football’ or the ‘rich stealing from the poor.’ Let’s address the first statement. The Super League would have 15 founding members while 5 more teams will join in some way that hasn’t been made clear, potential through some sort of promotion and relegation process.. The problem that fans had is that the 15 founding teams would never lose their place in the competition. One of the best parts of football is that teams have to qualify for competitions. Finishing in a certain position in the domestic league tells you whether the club has qualified for European competition or not. Clubs have had to earn their place.
On the other hand, some would argue that the founding members (or at least most of them) usually qualified for European football anyway and at least with the Super League these clubs would earn more money. With that said, the clubs are still not on equal footing, even though football is supposed to be meritocratic, the clubs with the money definitely have the advantage most of the time.
Speaking of money, The Super League spelled trouble for smaller teams. According to the New York Times, “The clubs believe that selling the broadcast rights for The Super League, as well as the commercial income, would be worth billions. And it will all go to them, rather than being redistributed to smaller clubs and lesser leagues through European soccer’s governing body, UEFA”. That’s why people say it was the rich stealing from the poor. The founding members of The Super League are wealthy clubs with massive appeal. Without them in the competition, the broadcasting rights for the Champions League wouldn’t be worth quite as much.
It Was All About Money
Let’s be honest, the fight between The Super League and the football governing bodies is about money, not football tradition, morality, or anything else. FIFA and UEFA are mad because The Super League threatens to take money out of their pockets and the clubs that were in Super League are upset that UEFA isn’t giving them more money, add to that the context of the COVID- pandemic. The “super clubs” have cited that the pandemic has hit them especially hard and has left them cash strapped.
Problems Still Exist
UEFA and FIFA are not off the hook, fans are only choosing the lesser of the two evils. The conditions that bred the Super League remain and the problems that showed up as a result won’t go away so easily. According to a Washington Post article, “from wealth inequality to fan powerlessness to the desire of a cabal of elite clubs to be free of oversight and run their organizations for the sole purpose of turning a quick buck — will not go away either with the Super League’s demise or the pandemic’s approaching end.”
If UEFA and FIFA want to keep the clubs happy, they’re going to have to dish out more money. They probably thought they won this battle comfortably but if the issue keeps getting pressed and clubs sink deeper in debt, the footballing giants may not have leverage. It is no secret that the big clubs are not getting enough funds from UEFA despite these clubs attracting most of, if not all, the attention to their club competitions.
In addition to that, FIFA and UEFA have not won over the fans with their lack of meaningful action on racism, as well as ‘the reformed’ Champions League competition that will start in a couple of seasons from now, which will only make the football calendar more congested. The football governing bodies’ strong reaction to The Super League showed fans that both FIFA and UEFA could definitely bring more heat if they wanted.
Fans are still side-eyeing FIFA for making them watch a World Cup when they should be drinking sorrel and buying gifts.
The point is FIFA and UEFA are not off the hook and they need to do better. It is clear they have the capacity to give back a fairer share to the larger clubs while taking action on more serious issues in football like racism. In addition to that, capitalism still runs football.