Why we have not heard the last of The Super League
There is only one thing that today’s article could be on; the dodged bullet that was the European Super League. In this article, we will discuss its formation, the uproar it caused, and aftermath of the failed attempt, as well as why this will not be the last time we hear about it.
Whispers and rumours of the Super League have been circulating the football world since 1998 with proposals for the new competition arising almost 25 years ago. Nevertheless, these proposals never materialised and just led to a subsequent expansion of the Champions League by UEFA.
However, 11 years later, Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, resurrected these plans. He disapproved of the Champions League and believed that it prevented clubs from growing their businesses and maximising their finances. In addition to this, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, prophesied the formation of the ESL. He was quoted in 2009 saying, “the European Super League will be here in 10 years.”
He was aware that the plans to create the league were already in place and envisaged the launch of the new league due to clubs not being satisfied with the Champions League format. The legendary Arsenal manager also stated that opportunities in football, “must be on merit, rather than wealth”, and despite being ridiculed for these comments, how right did he turn out to be. Yes, Wenger has done it again.
8 years later in 2018
the discussion intensified and other clubs in Europe became involved in these conversations. These regular dialogues around the formation of the ESL were conducted in secret and the disdain for the Champions League exponentially grew. However, once the Coronavirus Pandemic plagued the world and football clubs across the globe drastically began to suffer financially, the discussion on the league (recently backed with a $5 billion formation pledge from American investment bank JP Morgan) rapidly started to intensify and eventually led to where we are now. On 18th April 2021, Florentino Perez alongside the 12 Founding Clubs, announced the formation of The Super League/European Super League.
Cue the turmoil.
Almost immediately, the footballing world was in turmoil. There was worldwide disapproval and criticism of the league. From football fans, footballing bodies, pundits, politicians, and talk-show hosts; everyone voiced their anger and displeasure towards the idea.
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Opposition Leader, Keir Starmer both vowed to end the ESL before it begins. Both stated how these proposals could be, “damaging for football.” In addition, French President, Emmanuel Macros and Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, both supported UEFA’s position against the ESL.
Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and PSG, as well as other Portuguese, French, and Dutch football clubs who were sought after by the ESL in an attempt to get them to join the organisation but declined, publicly denounced the league.
Multiple broadcasting organisations also denounced the league
namely Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video, Facebook, and DAZN. Furthermore, the commentators that work for these organisations also voiced their disapproval of the ESL. These commentators and pundits expressed their anger at the complete ignorance of these owners. As well as their concern of the effects the ESL could have to other clubs and lower leagues, with emphasis being placed on the destruction of the promotion and relegation systems. Ex-Manchester United player, current Sky Sports commentator and Salford City co-owner, Gary Neville became the face of the anti-ESL movement with multiple impassioned rants and cries against the league on TV and social media labelling the league, “an act of greed”.
Finally, and most importantly, the fans. Simply put, the fans stood up and made themselves heard.
Before the ESL was formally announced, Gary Neville and Martin Tyler criticized it and the owners behind the league.
33 minutes after the ESL bomb was dropped
The Chelsea Supporters Trust labelled the ESL, “the ultimate betrayal of football fans”. Supporters Trusts of all the other Big Premier League clubs made similar statements in quick fashion. This was supplemented by an absolute uproar on social media from football fans worldwide. A poll from YouGov found that 79% of British football fans opposed the Super League and this was made evident by protests from multiple clubs across the world.
The day after the announcement of the league, before the Leeds United v Liverpool game, a crowd of about 700 fans appeared outside Elland Road to protest against the European Super League before. An estimated 1,000 Chelsea fans bravely protested against the Super League. Similar protests have been seen against the KSE organisation by Arsenal fans outside the Emirates and against the Glazers by Manchester United fans.
So, what happens now?
Chelsea and Manchester City were the first English clubs to pull out of the ESL. Multiple owners have come and apologised or put out statements as a result of their actions. Liverpool owner, John Henry even put out a video apologising directly to Liverpool fans for his involvement in the league. The KSE organisation also apologised for their involvement and Josh Kroenke, son of Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke, apologised directly to the Arsenal faithful on a fan forum.
However, despite these apologies, the relationship between football club owners and their respective fans remains fractured and will be for some time. I believe we will see more and more of these demonstrations of revolution against the owners, and rightfully so.
These owners displayed a complete lack of empathy or concern for the fans for their clubs. Football was the least of their worries in this situation, focusing only on financial gain. This whole situation proved how money truly is the root of all evil and these owners should be deeply ashamed of themselves. Moreover, Florentino Perez has refused to let the idea of the league die, as he is adamant that with a new structure of the system the ESL can thrive and will be presented again. Perez believes that the new competition will provide, “higher-quality matches”, whilst also enabling substantial financial gain for football clubs and this will not be the last, we hear of the Super League.
Until that happens, it was truly amazing to see football fans around the world unify and rally against a common enemy. Greed.
The love of the game won this time and when Perez returns with his next proposal, we will be ready.
For now, Football Fans 1 – 0 Owners.
Nnamdi Onyeagwara | Twitter: @NnamdiOnye | Talk Your Talk Podcast