On the night of 18th April, criticism and controversy broke loose when 12 powerful European football clubs declared the idea of a European Super League which intended to be a closed competition that allowed more security and revenue for the football clubs. Thus, the past two days witnessed a lot of chaos and condemnation and questioned the validity of the ongoing Champions League and the future of several domestic football tournaments that have been the backbone of the game over these several years.
However, yesterday, less than 48 hours after the announcement, the widespread discontentment prompted the six premier league clubs i.e. Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham to have withdrawn from the competition.
Amongst the many players standing up against the ESL, one of them was Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson who talked on social media about how his side's "collective position" does not want the superleague to happen. "We don't like it and we don't want it to happen," read a message that was also posted by many fellow Liverpool players.
Thus, amidst this fast turn of events in the football world over the two days, here is an overview of what the European Super League is all about.
What Is The European Super League And Which Clubs Are Involved?
The ESL is a football competition that incorporates 20 of the powerful football clubs from Europe, of which 15 have a sealed spot irrespective of their performance throughout the year. The rest five will be included based on rotation, for which the rules have not been clearly declared yet.
The ‘founding members’ are the self-appointed big 6 from England – Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Man City along with Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid. Although there are eight free spots German clubs i.e. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have refused to be a part of the league and other likely clubs such as Qatar-owned Paris-Saint Germain and FC Porto have dissociated with this project.
Whose are the minds behind this league?
The primary brains behind this project are club chiefs Florentino Perez (Real Madrid), Ed Woodward (Man United), John Henry (Liverpool), and Andrea Agnelli (Juventus). They were involved in inviting the rest of the 8 teams.
It is different from the existing UEFA Champions League because the URFA disapproves of this league and has made changes in their own tournament. Furthermore, the spots and qualifications in the Champions League are based on the domestic performances of the clubs in the previous season.
Thus, if the European Super League continues, it definitely poses a threat to the Champions League. The ESL developments were announced just a day before UEFA was inclined to discuss reforms on the Champions League formats. These reforms were introduced as a way to offer the clubs with more matches who are in favour of a breakaway competition. Proposed to come into effect in 2024, the new Champions League reforms intend to extend the number to 36 teams, adjusting the format, and increasing the number of matches from 125 to 225.
Thus, the European Super League which has a format of 15+5 format disbands the concept of merit-based progression as the permanent 15 are secure from elimination.
Why has this come about now?
The clubs say that "the formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model. Further, for a number of years, the Founding Clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.”
"The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid", they further add.
However, as suspected by many who call this move a way to procure more finances for the giant football clubs, Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol too outlines the sole reason behind this project.
"The reason it is happening now is that we have had a global pandemic, finances at the biggest clubs in Europe have been hit," he said.
"I keep saying it is about money, and if you look at the finances, a club like Man Utd playing in the Champions League, they make between £40m and £80m on a good year if they win it.”
"If they play in this new competition, they get a cheque for £250m-£300m, to begin with, then in the future, they will get three times as much money a season as they get from the Champions League,” Solhekol further adds.
What Is The Format Of The European Super League?
A statement from the organizers outlined how the league will shape itself.
"[There will be] 20 participating clubs, with 15 Founding Clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season," it said.
"[There will be] midweek fixtures, with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game.
"[There will be] an August start with clubs participating in two groups of 10, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.
"As soon as practicable after the start of the men's competition, a corresponding women's league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women's game."
Talking about it will affect the other ongoing games, it said "Games will be played midweek, and all clubs will remain in their domestic leagues."
How Would The European Super League Be Financed?
The American bank JP Morgan has decided to commit about a huge sum of $5 billion has been committed to this new project.
In their own announcement, the breakaway clubs mention “The Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.”
This league is viewed as a way by several for the big clubs to gain a lot of money as this huge amount of €3.5 billion for the mere cause of securing a financial foundation accounts to be four times more than what Bayern Munich earned for winning the Champions League last season. Furthermore, these clubs believe to earn billions through the selling of broadcasting rights and commercial income, which will not be divided amongst smaller clubs and lesser leagues through the European football’s governing body, UEFA. This will also have a detrimental impact on the value and position of several small and domestic clubs as well as tournaments.
How Have The Other Football Tournament Bodies Reacted To the ESL?
The Premier League
The Premier League condemned the concept of the European Super League and in a statement commented that it would "destroy" the concept of an open competition
"Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best," said the statement. We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream."
In a joint statement with the English Football Association, the Premier League, the Spanish FA, La Liga, the Italian FA, and Serie A, the UEFA was extremely critical of this project and threatened to ban participating clubs from their domestic competitions.
"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 UEFA said.
UEFA Chief Aleksander Ceferin stated, “The players who will play in teams that might play in the closed league will be banned from playing in World Cup and Euros,". "They could not represent national team in any matches."
"We didn't know we had snakes working close to us, but now we know," Ceferin added. "Super League is only about money, money of the dozen, I don't want to call them dirty dozen, but UEFA is about developing football, and about financing what should be financed, that our football, our culture survives, and some people don't understand it.
"We have the English FA, Spanish Federation, Italian Federation, the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and FIFA, unanimous in opposition to these cynical plans which are completely against what football should be. We are all united against this nonsense of a project", he further commented.
FIFA too asserted strong disapproval against the idea of the European Super League. Most FA’s as well are not happy with the situation either.
“At Fifa, we can only and strongly disapprove the creation of the Super League,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said. “Of a Super League which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions. From the leagues, from the associations, from Uefa, from Fifa. Which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of Fifa’s disapproval of this.”
How is the Football Community Reacting?
Several members who have significance in the football community in anyway reacted against the European Super League. After Liverpool drew against Leeds, Jurgen Klopp and James Milner were critical of their employers.
“I don’t like it and I don’t want it to happen”, Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool said. "I like the fact that West Ham might play in the Champions League next year. I don't want them to because we want to do that, but I like that they have the chance," he added.
“I can only say my personal opinion, I don't like it and hopefully it doesn't happen. I can only imagine what has been said about it and I probably agree with most of it. I think for us we just try and concentrate on the game, there is obviously a lot going on, but for us we just have to try and be professional and concentrate on the game that is the only thing we can control," James Milner said.
"As a player and now as an owner I know that our sport is nothing without the fans. We need football to be for everyone. We need football to be fair and we need competitions based on merit. Unless we protect these values the game we love is in danger..." David Beckham wrote on Instagram.
Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticized the move tweeting, "Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action. They would strike at the heart of the domestic game and will concern fans across the country.”
"The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps," his tweet added.
Several other fans took to the internet, and some even protested in public against the European Super League.