Why is the Super League Super Problematic?
Turmoil in the European premier football (but not American football) league began last week with the announcement of the formation of a new elite league, known as the Super League, and ended with rambunctious street protests, according to a report in the “New York Times”.
What is the Super League?
On April 18, 12 successful and powerful European soccer clubs announced the formation of their new league. The Super League would be a competition among 20 teams. Unlike the Union of European Football Associations’s Champions League, which is an annual tournament of the 32 teams in the top of the European divisions, the Super League would have had permanent members who never have to qualify to play and would always profit.
Who is and is not in the Super League?
The driving forces behind the Super League were Real Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool and Juventus. These teams also invited Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Inter Mila, A.C. Milan and the rest of the Big Six (Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal). These teams were also planning to invite three more permanent members that were not disclosed. Nevertheless, the 15 founding teams would be joined by five rotating teams. None of France and Germany’s top teams agreed to join.
Why did the Super League start now?
Due to the pandemic, Europe’s soccer clubs have lost millions of dollars. The organizers hope that the Super League would bring in more money to outweigh those losses. According to Tariq Panja and Rory Smith from the “New York Times”, each founding team stands to gain $400 million, which is four times more than what last year's Champions League winner, Bayern Munich, earned in 2020. Additionally, broadcasting and commercial incomes will contribute billions, which will go to the founding teams rather than smaller leagues and clubs. Creating a Super League also reduces the value of other leagues. The founding teams agreed to restrict the amount for spending on transfer fees and wages so that teams will not fight.
Why are fans responding so harshly?
Fans who have immense loyalty to their clubs were furious about the change. Many teams were established in small towns or neighborhoods and have existed for over a century. These fans felt that the Super League disregards longstanding soccer traditions of promotion/relegation. In professional American sports, leagues are closed, so teams are invited in and stay in the league. However, in European football, the worst teams in better divisions are demoted and the top teams in the weaker divisions are promoted to the better division at the end of the season.
Fans also criticized the move and felt that it was driven by greed. They pointed out that many of the teams that would be permanently joining the league are not as elite as they seem. For example, Arsenal and AC Milan have not qualified for the Champions League since 2016 and 2013, respectively, according to Matias Grez from CNN. Securing a permanent spot in the Super League would ensure that these not-so-super teams would earn them more revenue that they have not been able to get.
On Tuesday, Chelsea fans gathered at the club’s Stamford Bridge stadium to protest the plans. Protesting fans tried to stop the team bus from arriving for the match against Brighton. During the protest, the news came out that Chelsea, as well as Manchester City (and eventually all the other Premier League teams), would no longer be a part of the Super League. There were also protests by fans of Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal at their respective stadiums. Following closely after these protests, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus also pulled out. Barcelona and Real Madid insisted on remaining in the Super League, but its collapse is a victory for football fans.