It was on 17 April, 2021, that a group of elegant chairmen made an important decision. The first step toward a new concept of soccer. A project capable of modifying the rules and the overall conception of sport.
Twelve representatives of the most popular European soccer teams agreed to a revolutionary idea. A new tournament designed only for “the inner circle of soccer.”. A closed competition with more than $ 3.5 billion allocated for participants. There are no qualifications. There is no room for sportive meritocracy.
The first reaction among fans, right after the announcement, was a mixture of shock and incredulity. People protested the idea, and the scandal started to pressure team managers to revoke the decision.
Officially, a step back has been taken because all the English clubs involved in the competition presented official withdrawals. This new model of sport proposed by the 12 teams has to be an alarm bell for fans around the world. It does not only concern soccer, but the whole sports environment.
The Super League is a clear example of a scenario where money is more important than sport.
“We save football!” Thousands of Chelsea fans rejoiced, intoning these words right after the team’s managers announced an intentional withdrawal from the Super League project. Everybody cheered. However, unlike the majority of English supporters, I am not that positive. I think soccer is not safe, at all.
I, as a sports lover and an active supporter, cannot approve of the Super League. The team I support is bad. It is so bad that each season it struggles to avoid relegation. It was so bad that the first time I went to the stadium with my dad, the team lost 0-5. But I like supporting it because in sport there is always room for dreams.
This new tournament has nothing to do with sportive dreams. The competition is closed, and the teams are already selected. Nothing will change. There is no room for average teams.
The “declared mission” of the Super League is to present an exclusive soccer tournament where there will be only important games. Only main events.
Instead, I consider this new Super League to be a “sportive dictatorship” instituted by the richest and most popular teams in soccer, greedy for more profits.
It is evident that, for those teams, the amount of money established by the UEFA (Union for European Football Associations) for the international competitions is not enough. Or at least, it is not enough, anymore.
Specifically, today there are 98 teams participating in the UEFA Champions League, the most important international soccer competition. The first two teams, playing the final game, gain $200 million each.
Ten years ago, a competition prize of $200 million was more than enough for a society to build a skilled team. Today the same sum of money is adequate just for buying one top player.
A clear example is an operation involving Juventus and Real Madrid in 2018. The Italian club paid 100 million euros ($120 million U.S. dollars) to ensure the sportive performances of Cristiano Ronaldo. He signed a four-year contract perceiving 31 million euros ($37 million US dollars) annually. In total, the sum of money involved in the operation exceeds the competition prizes offered by the UEFA.
The main reason behind the creation of the Super League: Teams need money to face enormous expenses. But, as of today, the UEFA cannot provide that money.
I, like many other older fans, remember Arsène Wenger, the former Arsenal coach, pointing out his thoughts about the financial aspects of soccer.
“The way we are going financially is that even the money that will be coming in from the UEFA competitions will not be enough for some clubs because they spend too much money. The national leagues will survive but maybe in 10 years, you will have a European league.”
Wenger’s reflection, reported by “The Guardian,” seems to be the perfect analysis of the current situation. It is funny to find out that this interview got published in 2009, more than 10 years ago.
This is the main reason behind the creation of the Super League: Teams need money to face enormous expenses. As of today, the UEFA cannot provide that money. So they consequently move in order to find something else.
I personally refuse to believe that a similar proposal involving billions of dollars has been canceled due to a few thousands of soccer fans’ protests. All the withdrawals are consequences of a silent agreement. An agreement between the two parties involved. On one side, the UEFA tries to solve the problem without losing its top teams. On the other, the 12 chairmen ask for money.
Quid pro quo.
If the idea of the Super League disappeared a few days after its announcement, it means that somebody promised something. Maybe the UEFA and the 12 teams had a deal involving a conspicuous amount of money. Maybe the perspective of soccer without fans worried the chairmen. Or maybe the Super League will come back as a hot topic in a few months.
Soccer is safe, for now. But who do we have to thank for it?
Alessio Cavalca is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him @AlessioCavalca.