The Death of the Beautiful Game?

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*This article was written in early 2021, the European Super League has since been scrapped. 


I am sure anyone who follows football must know by now about the new ‘European Super League’ which has been doing the rounds all around the footballing world. However, it's not "new’ at all, in fact the idea of such a league has been flirted with since the late 90's. Michel Platini also discussed this idea when he was the President of FIFA in 2009. In short, in the words of Florentino Perez: "It has been in the works for the last 20 years."


So you might ask why on earth create a new league when we already have the established UEFA Champions League? The answer is simple: Money. See, there is huge potential in a league where all the best teams from across Europe compete against each other regularly. This will bring unprecedented amounts of revenue and while it's President Florentino Perez said the league was created to ‘fulfill the demands of fans’ and ‘bring interest back to football’ it's simply all about money and cutting out the middleman which in this case is UEFA.


While there were persistent rumors about the league since a couple of years, no plans were made public nor were there any announcements. And while Real Madrid - the driving force behind the Super League - were already struggling to keep up (financially) with state-funded clubs like PSG and Man City, the thing which really imposed the belief that such a league was needed to stay financially sound and keep up with the state-funded clubs was the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, the club suffered heavy losses of up to 400 million. An insane amount.


This is where the ESL comes into play. If it goes ahead, it will help big clubs cover the massive financial losses inflicted by the pandemic easily, which would have otherwise taken years. Each participating club will receive 3.5 billion Euros as participation prize money. The league will be financially backed by American bank JP Morgan. Add in the revenue generated from TV rights, sponsors and viewership and tournament prize money (which is around 400 million Euros compared to the 120 million of the UCL) and it's easy to see why club leaders are desperate for the league to go ahead.


Now, let's talk about the sporting aspect of the competition. It currently has 12 teams and it is expected that 3 more powerhouse teams will be added. These 15 teams will never be relegated. In addition to those teams, 5 more teams will play in the competition. However, these teams will not be permanent as in they can be relegated. Every year 5 of the best performing teams will be given a chance to play in the league. So in short, the tournament will consist of 15 permanent teams and 5 spots for other ‘deserving teams’ whose places will not be permanent, meaning they could be replaced by better performing teams each year.


The way it will operate is similar to the MLS. There will be a play-off system for the cup instead of the group stages deployed in the CL. The top three teams in both groups will automatically qualify for the quarter-finals while the fourth and fifth teams from both groups will compete in a two legged play-off for the QF. From then on it will have pretty much the same rules as the CL and the team who wins the final will be crowned champions of the league.


Needless to say, if the league goes ahead it will change the entire footballing landscape forever and there would be no turning back. It could destroy football if not implemented correctly. While it may strengthen the big clubs even more, the ramifications it will hold for the smaller teams are drastic. If UEFA does indeed ban the participating clubs from their domestic leagues then a massive amount of spectators will stop watching those leagues and this will mean very little revenue for the smaller clubs and thus therefore many could even cease to exist. It will further increase the gap between the rich and poor clubs. Thus we will have no more underdog stories such as Leicester City winning the EPL or Ajax's dream run to the CL semi-finals in 18/19. Big teams will also therefore play without any pressure which may result in a serious quality drop-off of football as a sport in general. Remember at the start of the season when Real Madrid were in serious danger of dropping to the UEFA Europa League? Those humiliating losses to minnows Shaktar Donetsk? When rival fans made fun of us? When media piled the pressure on Zinedine Zidane and his lads? And how they responded to that by going an incredible winning streak? How we beat big clubs such as Inter Milan, Atletico, Barcelona and Liverpool yet lost to Cadiz, Alaves and third division side Alcoyano? That's the fun and unpredictability of the beautiful game and that's what this ESL is going to take away from us.

However, we don't have any other viable alternatives. The UCL was soon gonna turn into the same cash cow just under a recognizable name. Florentino Perez mentioned that the game needed to adapt to today's standard, but maybe it is us who need to adapt. Maybe this is the new normal. The Ajax's and Leicester's of this world are perhaps a relic of a past when football wasn't a business, the fans were everything and football was FUN!

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