A European Super Mess


European Super League

When it comes to PR disasters, the launch of The Super League (ESL) must be one of the most magnificent failures ever.

If any proof were needed that clowns are running football, here it was for all to see.

In the ESL press release, Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli had claimed a benefit would be "substantially increasing solidarity" in the game before a tsunami of rejection sank his battleship in harbour before its maiden voyage.

Since the announcement on Sunday night, football fans, players, managers, clubs, governing bodies and journalists were near-unanimous in their opposition. In Britain the Prime Minister and the heir to the throne condemned it. I expected Pope Francis to weigh in any day. There was an extraordinary feeling in the air. Football had united to say no.

After years of wishing we could come together to throw the traders out of the temple, it had finally happened. It was a battle won and not a war, I hasten to add. The rebellion must not end here.

By early Wednesday, Real Madrid owner Florentino Perez & JP Morgan's grand projet was in shreds. First Manchester City bailed on the project early on Tuesday night, followed by the five other English clubs. Without them, Bayern, Borussia Dortmund or PSG, it was anything but a super league on offer.

The only person to back it publicly after the press release was Perez, who went on Spanish television to make the laughable claim that football would die without the ESL.

He also claimed teenagers were losing interest in football, which is nonsense, but also failed to relate that to the exorbitant ticket prices charged by big clubs like his own or their failure to invest in grassroots football.

At least he was brave enough to speak to the media, unlike any of the other 11 club owners or the project's financier, J.P. Morgan. but in the glare of publicity, Perez appeared possessed of a skewed morality. In the EPL press release, he wrote that it would "take it (football) to its rightful place in the world."

Perez's plan was always going to be a non-starter. How could a European super league have begun next season without the two best teams in Europe this season, namely Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich?

The US closed-shop style league just will not wash with European fans wedded to promotion and relegation.

The American owners of Arsenal, Liverpool, Milan, and Manchester United would not comprehend it, but for fans, the idea of allowing the Gunners, Chelsea, and Tottenham into the continent's premier competition next season but not the highest-placed London side, West Ham, is a deal-breaker.

It is interesting the two oligarch-owned clubs - Chelsea and Manchester City, for whom profit is less of an issue than prestige, were the first to show cold feet.

While the threat of a European Super League is nothing new, was responsible for the conversion of the old Champions Cup into the bloated Champions League and is an ever-present danger in the background, this was the boldest attempt yet to make it happen.

Protests against the ESL broke out across the country

Covid triggered it, with week after week of empty stadia and reduced takings, but the reasons for such a seismic change espoused made no sense while top clubs pay millions per week in wages and the pandemic will not last forever.

The wider problem this madness has revealed is that too many football club owners think of their clubs as businesses. Every man jack of us knows clubs are terrible investments, experts at losing money, and no place for profit seekers.

You could forgive arriviste investors for not having twigged this inescapable fact yet but old-timers like Perez should know better. His stance was illogical. Real Madrid can already attract the top talent with the highest wages and can be sure of qualifying for the Champions League every year. 

Despite having operated for years with hundreds of millions of Euros of debt, Los Blancos are in reality too big to fail. Even more income flowing into the Bernabeu coffers would not trigger a road to Damascus balancing of the books, after a lifetime of chronic overspending.

At the end of the day, the ESL was pure greed.

Happily for the football world beyond the twelve disciples of mammon, this was a stupid step over a cliff edge. 

Don't hurry trying to climb back up again, gentlemen.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


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