The European Super League, insofar as it was actually a thing, existed for less than 3 days before 9 of the 12 founding members got cold feet following a raft of supporter protests and threats of punishment from national and international football governing organizations.
Liverpool supporters, whose core identity is defined by its 6 European Cups, were especially furious with the ownership’s membership in this attempted money grab, and were vocal in opposition to it.
The three remaining clubs, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Juventus, were—and remain—far less apologetic for their involvement. And a favorable court ruling, one which prevents UEFA from inflicting penalties on these three clubs because of the Super League Fiasco, has only strengthened their resolve.
One of the biggest problems with the European Super League besides the “closed” nature of it, was that it painted UEFA, whose greed and self-interest knows no bounds, as the “good guys” in the conflict.
In reading the press release from Barcelona following this court decision, I have to say they raise some good points:
We have the duty to address the very serious issues facing football: UEFA has established itself as the sole regulator, exclusive operator, and unique owner of rights of European football competitions. This monopolistic position, in conflict of interest, is damaging football and its competitive balance. As shown by ample evidence, financial controls are inadequate, and they have been improperly enforced. Clubs participating in European competitions have the right to govern their own competitions.
We are pleased that going forward we will no longer be subject to ongoing UEFA’s threats. Our aim is to keep developing the Super League project in a constructive and cooperative manner, [their emphasis] always counting on all football stakeholders: fans, players, coaches, clubs, leagues, and national and international associations. We are aware that there are elements of our proposal that should be reviewed and, of course, can be improved through dialogue and consensus. We remain confident in the success of a project that will be always compliant with European Union laws.
Now, these clubs in particular complaining about UEFA’s weak financial regulation and monopolistic position when they have both a) led to massive inflation in football because of their own reckless financial dealings, and b) attempted to create their own, separate monopoly is, in a word, rich.
It is also rich that they want “dialogue and consensus” when the European Super League was literally sprung on players, managers, and fans alike with zero buy-in or feedback from anyone who would be directly affected.
While I do not trust these clubs to push back against UEFA out of anything other than their own financial self interest, it is good that UEFA will continued to be challenged. We have seen time and time again that football’s national and international governing bodies have neither the fans’ nor players’ interests at heart.
It is a shame that the initial momentum from the fan protests stopped shortly after the dissolution of the European Super League. There are real problems with fixture congestion, expanded club and international competitions, player protections, fan travel and expenditures, etc.
In one sense, breaking away from UEFA’s control could work out for the benefit of the clubs, fans, and players. However, it needs to come from a place that puts the good of the game first, which is exactly what the Super League did not do.
Instead of learning a positive lesson from the Super League Fiasco, UEFA learned that they could continue to act as if it were “business as usual.” In response they announced plans to expand the Champions League, with more meaningless group stage games, and therefore more money. And they got rid of the away goal rule, which besides ruining one of the most exciting aspects of European knockout football, also will ensure that more matches go to extra time, thereby increasing the likelihood of player exhaustion and injuries.
The upshot of all of this is there will be future, and probably better thought out challenges to UEFA’s control. UEFA has the power to improve the game to the point where these challenges would be as laughable as the first. However, they lack the self-control and awareness to make even the simplest moral decisions on behalf of fans and players.
If UEFA is undermined by a European Super League of some description, they will only have themselves to blame.