With no game for the Liverpool FC Men’s team until Monday, it seemed like it would be a relatively quiet weekend on the news front for the Reds. Then news dropped that Liverpool and a number of Europe’s other top sides had officially signed on to create a new European Super League.
News of such a proposal has been swirling around for a year now, but there had been no concrete evidence that this was something other than informal discussion until now, with a report from the New York Times detailing that Liverpool have been joined by top teams from England and the rest of Europe to create a new closed league to rival the UEFA Champions League.
John Henry, part of Liverpool’s ownership at Fenway Sports Group, is believed to be one of the significant players behind the scenes, and The Daily Mail believes that Henry would be one of the vice-chairmen of a new league that would be led by Florentino Perez of Real Madrid.
Other teams who are said to have signed up or are at least on board to join are Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Tottenham from England; Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid from Spain; and Juventus, A.C. Milan, and Inter Milan from Italy.
The only major European powers not to have voiced their support thus far are Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich. PSG’s owners also own BeIN, which holds TV rights for the current UEFA Champions League.
Creating a breakaway league would give these teams power over negotiating massive TV deals, giving them even more of a financial stranglehold on the game than they already do. And with the league being closed, it would mean that the teams would never have to worry about qualifying through their own leagues, and thus have the potential to take a financial hit if they do not qualify.
UEFA and the national organizations, and the leagues that all of these teams currently reside within, quickly came out with a strong statement condemning these clubs and calling it a “cynical project.”
If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we – UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.
We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.
The statement was scathing and threatened that if clubs go through with forming a Super League they would be cast out of their domestic leagues. And, with the support of FIFA, the statement mentioned the nuclear option of not allowing any player who participates in the Super League to take part in national team competitions, including the FIFA World Cup.
As previously announced by FIFA and the six Confederations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.
Let’s be honest here, the game and the business around the game has changed drastically over the years. While fans clamor for the nostalgia of the era where clubs were truly local, the game is now global, both in audience as well as in the players involved at the club level.
The FA Cup used to be a major competition in England, for example, but is now more of an afterthought for most of the “big” clubs as they vie for the riches of the Champions League. And even without a Super League, the game looked likely to move ahead to create an even larger financial divide between the top teams in their respective leagues: UEFA had been set to announce changes to the Champions League that would mean more qualifiers from top leagues and an expanded schedule in a money grab just as naked as the formation of a Super League would be.
At the end of the day, then there are no “good guys” in this story. The biggest teams in the world are pushing for a new iteration of how the game is structured, and in doing so they would seek to secure their financial futures at the expense of the domestic leagues they currently play in.
UEFA and the domestic leagues, meanwhile, are crying foul over seeing their cash cows looking to leave after decades of decisions based on making more money rather than in the interest of all the clubs they are supposed to represent by those governing bodies. Now we just have to sit back and watch the posturing between the two sides to see if a compromise can be met or if it ends in a complete split.