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America is destroying the beautiful game The European Super League is a betrayal of clubs and communities

Manchester United fans protest their American owners Credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Manchester United fans protest their American owners Credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images


April 19, 2021   4 mins

There are many ironies to the plans for a European Super League. There is the inclusion of Arsenal, who have never won the Champions League, and on the day of the announcement stormed to a 1-1 draw with Fulham, cementing their position in ninth place in the Premier League. And Tottenham, who have never won the Champions League, never won the Premier League, and last lifted its predecessor, the First Division, in 1961. Or what about the exclusion of Leicester City — who won the Premier League in 2016 and have just qualified for the Final of the FA Cup — as well as Nottingham Forest, who have won the top European elite competition two times more than Arsenal and Spurs put together.

But the biggest irony is the attempt by a bunch of American owners to create a closed shop in European football. In the interest of money-making and in the name of laissez-faire capitalism, they want to drive competition out of European sport.

For those who never quite understood the motivations of the Glazers, John Henry or Stan Kroenke, the key is the parallel (or lack of parallel) between the Premier League and the way American sports operate. The American owners of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have always dreamed of replicating American conditions on European soil — and thus replicating the riches of NFL and Major League Baseball owners. The Glazers have done very well out of their NFL franchise, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and John Henry out of the Boston Red Sox.

But American rules are very different from European ones. Professional sports leagues in North America operate with a fixed number of teams, known as franchises. The franchisees have territorial rights, usually covering a large metropolitan area exclusively. New teams may enter the competition only by a vote of current members. The leagues operate in a closed system and do not have to contend with the inconvenience of promotion or relegation. Very occasionally a league may decide to grow by admitting a new team, the last new team to join the NFL being the Houston Texans in 2002.

There is another fundamental difference between American sports and European football, and that is the way the transfer markets work. New players out of college in America are recruited through an annual draft. This is scrupulously fair, even egalitarian. The NFL draft is seven rounds long, with each team getting a pick in each round, in reverse order of the finish of that season. The worst team picks first, the second worst next and the champion picks last. But there is also a salary cap, which  places a limit on the amount of money a team can spend on salaries.

Although the original intention of this may have been to level the playing field, the effect has been to enrich the owners in a closed system where the surplus can only go to the owners or the players. The problem in Europe is that there is no cap on footballers’ salaries so that the players get to keep much more of the surplus. It also leads to a free-for-all in the transfer market, with new teams constantly vying to enter the top leagues and new owners trying to pour in money, which they can spend freely on transfers in order to buy success.

With precious few rules around ownership and suitability, the Premier League is a constant lure to questionable money, whether it be Middle Eastern sheiks or Russian kleptocrats, who know that with a big enough budget they can buy the top players and secure the prestige which comes with success. Cue Manchester City and Chelski, the parvenus of the Premier League.

The lack of entry barriers is not specific to Europe — there are plenty of new owners in the US, too. The difference is that in Europe, without any restrictions, owners with enough money can be almost assured of getting their hands on a trophy — and this is what brings us to the closed shop “Super League” proposed by the Group of Six. It is a protectionist money grab intended to ossify a momentary status quo in the interests of the current owners, preventing even richer club-owners from muscling in.

And of course it is much worse than that. Football clubs are not just capitalist enterprises. Indeed they should not be seen as capitalist enterprises at all.  The leading clubs have illustrious histories — some, like Liverpool and Manchester United, with more than a share of tragedy, redemption and heroism. Clubs have souls. They play in a certain way. Manchester United always have brilliant wingers, and the No 7 is a hallowed shirt. Great Liverpool teams are built on a bedrock of dominant central defenders.

Football clubs have their origins in working men’s clubs or factory teams, bringing together their local communities in shared support of their local side. In areas which have seen the downsides of globalisation, they are one of the last great symbols and anchors of local community, even if some have become global brands. They represent the sense of place. They enrich and unite their towns and cities. They give local pride.

This is no doubt why the German clubs have refused to take part. With its 50+1 model, the Bundesliga has created a much more balanced model for football club ownership, trying to achieve a balance between staying competitive financially while preserving the association with and respect for the local supporters.

It is no surprise that Boris Johnson came out so quickly against the Super League proposal. He may not be a football fan, but he understands intuitively that this is about much more than the game. It is about the ties that bind. It is also about the globalisation debate that defined Brexit. Unfortunately it may not be sufficient for the Prime Minister just to tweet on this.

I bear the scars of trying to challenge the Glazer takeover of Manchester United, through the Green and Gold campaign and the Red Knights. There is no way of regaining control of the club unless the owners want to sell, and the Glazers acquired control through a legitimate takeover process (albeit by saddling the club with huge debts). Private markets cannot rescue English clubs and it is fairly clear that the Premier League have no intention of challenging the current ownership model.

The only hope is that the latest proposal triggers a long-overdue review of football ownership rules in the UK, one that reconnects football clubs with their supporters, protects local communities and deters the predators from the other side of the Atlantic.


Paul Marshall is UnHerd’s founder/publisher.

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Andy Paul
Andy Paul
3 years ago

This is an exercise in removing jeopardy and merit and in effect sealing off competition. The excuse that it will aid the lower rungs on the pyramid is as credible at the argument for the formation of the Premier League which stated that the PL would improve the England team. It did not. The money will be ringfenced and teams will become franchises, cut off from their histories and communities. It should not be allowed to happen.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Paul

There is an eye-wateringly unnecessary amount of money sloshing around football, enabled by the operation of several “markets”. A couple of thoughts occur…
Players are not in it for the money – if top salaries were cut by 50% (or even 90%) they are not going to rush off to become merchant bankers. The rest of the “industry” is important, but perhaps the game would not collapse if some of the branding and marketing fat were trimmed.
Highly profitable clubs could be taxed much much more heavily – perhaps even at old-school socialist levels. A tax in the region of 75% with robust anti-evasion provisions, broadly drafted (so the inland revenue will have the incentive and the ability to effectively police it). With generous tax concessions for investing in the local community, and for encouraging new talent and smaller clubs.
Exclusive TV broadcasting contracts should be banned. This would make the sport more accessible by increasing the number of outlets that could show matches. If it reduces the overall value of the contracts, at the expense of the clubs, that is a price worth paying.
It’s just a game, after all.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Paul

Well a Super League…there`s a surprise, “For a greedy man even his tomb is too small”.
The Premier League is a largely sterile sea where all the fish know their plaice anyway. A hierarchy is nicely installed there, never mind a future Super League, it already seems like a job done , ( then I remember Leicester!).
But the Championship still feels like football. Match day, grandsons and I off to the City Stadium, through the Cardiff streets in mid winter, god I love it. No fake fans . It is real and crazy sometimes. At the start of most seasons every team has a reasonable chance. Some years the occasional big fish prowls the waters post relegation but at the start of every season every team and every fan looks forward with real hope of the possibilities.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

it’s the hope that finally gets you!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

It wasn’t Americans who scrapped the old European Cup, Winners’ Cup, and UEFA format, replacing it with the Champions League. Take some responsibility. No one is forced to go along with these apparently villainous American owners; is there no one in Europe with the testicular fortitude to say that the game has changed enough? That having teams in major leagues across Europe winning championships eight, nine, and ten years in a row is not a great thing?
With its 50+1 model, the Bundesliga has created a much more balanced model for football club ownership, 
And when was the last year a club other than Bayern own the league? I’ll wait. For all the focus on ownership balance, the Bundesliga has hardly achieved competitive balance. In the US, the NFL has instituted all sorts of rules that make dynasties almost impossible – free agency, the salary cap, and so forth. The league’s hierarchy would be ecstatic if every team went 8-8 and everyone was in playoff contention until the final Sunday.

Last edited 3 years ago by Alex Lekas
Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

No one is forced to go along with these apparently villainous American owners; is there no one in Europe with the testicular fortitude to say that the game has changed enough? 
yes, there is. Boris Johnson, Fifa, Uefa and more. Gary Neville.
And when was the last year a club other than Bayern own the league? I’ll wait.
2011/12
The author did mention the salary cap but that just makes more money for the owners.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

 Boris Johnson, Fifa, Uefa and more. Gary Neville.
the article plainly says Johnson is against this league. And again, FIFA and UEFA are not being forced to go along. They can say no.
2011/12
which makes my point. Bayern is approaching ten straight championships. That’s not competitive balance. This sort of dominance has been exceedingly rare across European football. Not even the great Liverpool teams of the 70s and 80s won every year.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

the article plainly says Johnson is against this league. And again, FIFA and UEFA are not being forced to go along. They can say no.

? You asked who had the “the testicular fortitude to say that the game has changed enough?”, and I answered. It’s odd then that you direct me to the article, which indeed did say that, though you seemed to not notice to begin with.
When a libertarian minded prime minister is opposed to these kind of capitalist shenanigans it may be time to re-assess your own ideas. It isn’t a left-right divide.

Last edited 3 years ago by Franz Von Peppercorn
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Okay. I misread the first half of your answer.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Wow. Please excuse me for saying that (surprisingly to me) you talk the most sense. Football has indeed changed and for the better. The games are faster now and the players are fitter.

The lockdown here has changed my perspective for ever. Before we saw on TV mostly the top teams. This season we have seen every match in the Premiership and the bottom teams really are bad. Mostly, they defend for 90 minutes against the top teams and hope to get a draw; sometimes they are lucky enough to win. The games are dreary.

Those who do not want change to ‘protect’ the weaker clubs have the same mentality as socialists – everything should be shared out to be fair. Entertainment value doesn’t seem to be important because it isn’t ‘fair’.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris Wheatley
Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Funny enough, as the article says, the NFL have a socialist draft system.

Do you think that outside a newly forged football “fan” there might be opposition from long term loyal fans of football clubs who won’t make the cut and fans of the top teams who want to stay primarily in the premiership? After all that’s what seems to be happening.

(Clearly you aren’t a fan of any one club or you would see weak teams playing all the time, as you would either support one or have seen them play your top level team).

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

Fans are overrated. On TV they say that the fans are the most important but nowadays they are not. Football has moved on. At the top level we have proved over the last year that we don’t have to have fans. OK, the atmosphere is better with fans – are they that devoted that they will just stop?

Time to move on.

I live in North Wales and used to go to see Bangor City before they were chucked out of the league. The owners then didn’t seem too concerned about the fans.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Well you have at least spelled out what I think is happening. This is for the casual fan across the world. who watches occasional matches on the television and is attracted to big names in Football. To me that is a travesty – but it may well be the future.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago

I wonder what will happen when they americanise the scoring system. How many points will a goal be worth… and how to make it easier to score them…

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Those who do not want change to ‘protect’ the weaker clubs have the same mentality as socialists – everything should be shared out to be fair.
The leagues are collectives, so there is going to be something akin to a socialist mentality. The enterprise as a whole suffers when a season begins and at least half the teams have no chance of even being competitive, let alone making a run for top spots.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

The enterprise as a whole suffers when a season begins and at least half the teams have no chance of even being competitive, let alone making a run for top spots.

You are describing nearly every league anywhere. absurd.

Nick Taylor
Nick Taylor
3 years ago

I share Preston North End’s statement – beautifully written and on the nail –  “Those English clubs who feel that such an attempt at a wealth power grab, thereby undermining and potentially destroying the English football pyramid, should look themselves in the mirror.
“If one takes the status of these so called big six over a longer time frame than just the formation of the Premier League it would take a wise person to guess at who these so called top six are. Over a sustained historic period, the suggestion that these clubs have been at the forefront of domestic trophy winning or domination doesn’t stand the test of scrutiny.
“Having just experienced the devastating financial impact of Covid on football finances, English football urgently needs a fairer distribution of monies throughout the leagues, not a money power grab by the self-appointed few. There is already a huge disparity between the finances available to the top 20 clubs rather than the rest of the football pyramid and many are in dire financial straits. This breakaway could destroy nearly 150 years of football history for short-term riches for the few.”
It adds: “We are looking to Government, Fifa, Uefa, the FA, the Premier League and the EFL to ensure that this proposal is stopped in its tracks and the future of the English game as a whole is secured.”

Simon Baseley
Simon Baseley
3 years ago

Clearly Gary Neville – whose reaction was widely sought – along with other ex-professional players who queued up to roundly condemn the proposed move as being motivated by greed have no sense of irony. They and their agents relentlessly pushed up the wage bills of all the clubs in the Premier League, leaving me to wonder at what point a player earning, for example, ÂŁ200,000 a week then demanding more is not doing so out of greed. Those who follow football closely will recall how 20 years ago former Arsenal full back, Ashley Cole, claimed that he nearly crashed his car and was left “trembling with anger” when he learned that Arsenal were only going to offer him ÂŁ60,000 a week.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

It’s possible to be pro capitalist in some cases and not in others.

barryjohncasey
barryjohncasey
3 years ago

Of course its possible but also hypocritical

John Lewis
John Lewis
3 years ago

It’s an amazing fact but if Chelsea beat Leicester City it will mean that 16 of the last 25 FA Cup finals have been won by either Arsenal, Chelsea or Spurs.

Arsenal 8 wins
Chelsea 8 wins
Spurs 0.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  John Lewis

Since when has anybody really cared about the FA Cup, since at least 1962?

Jon Read
Jon Read
3 years ago

well at least 1992 !

George Bruce
George Bruce
3 years ago

deters the predators from the other side of the Atlantic.

Would you not want to deter the Russians and the Arabs too? Or indeed anyone with no real connection to the club or area?
But surely the whole world of professional sport is rotten like this. It is seeping in everywhere.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

Agreed.

Having your own favoured team of interchangeable millionaire mercenaries, many of whom may well not there next year or the year after, makes absolutely no sense at all to me, but there again I don’t care for football or pretty much any other sport for that matter.

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
3 years ago

For those of us who follow an American sport (NFL in my case) closely, this comes as no surprise. There is a massive difference in our approach to sport, both fiscally and culturally.
The American system is based on winning – it is not important that the team comes in 11/6 (NFL) and has done really well (unless you’re the Jacksonville Jags). It is more important that you come in at the top of the division on 14/3. This is a cultural difference in the attitude within the American psyche – it’s a nation that lives on the mythologising of ‘winners’.
Whereas, in soccer, as in most sports in the UK, it is about taking part, and doing the very best you can.
I’m going to stick my neck out a little and say; the American mythologising of ‘winning’ extends to the fiscal world, to. So it doesn’t take too much imagination to think of the Glasiers, FSG, et al, sitting around wondering how they can ‘win’ even bigger. . . “Hey, I know guys; what about a Super League? The TV rights will be massive…”
And the rest – as they say…

Jake C
Jake C
3 years ago
Reply to  Red Reynard

I’d say you’ve got that opposite way round,In Europe its about constantly competing and winning to stay in a league and get to the top-with a penalty of being kicked out if you don’t perform.Whereas in the US all team stay in the league,even if they don’t do well.Even US athletes salaries are capped where as they skyrocket in competitive minded Europe.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jake C

Capping salaries benefits owners.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones
3 years ago

That’s not true at all

Sam McLean
Sam McLean
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Jones

Paying employees less does not benefit the employer? Please explain

Last edited 3 years ago by Sam McLean
Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  Red Reynard

I’d say that this is almost completely wrong. Every team wants to win, its just they have to settle for doing the best they can with the players they have (and can afford). There have always been ‘bigger’ clubs, or more recently, clubs with better funding and better managers. However despite all of this there is and always will be the giant killers and the turn ups. Leeds beating Man City or getting knocked out the FA cup by non league oponents.
If for purely financial reasons a group of English clubs think they can do better on their own, then they can sod off and try and do it.
Become franchisees, owned by the media or whichever billionaire wants to play at football leave the real football to the clubs that get it and let the fans decide what they really want.

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
3 years ago

The proposed Super League – Milan, Arsenal, AtlĂ©tico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur.
What so special about them? They are universally recognized names, even with people who don’t know anything about football – or soccer – and they are proven revenue generators which means TV loves them. The author says that Arsenal and Tottenham have never won anything but fails to mention they are firmly in the top six of money-making teams. Laplander reindeer herders and Appalachian coal miners have heard of Arsenal and Tottenham – Burnley and West Bromwich Albion (no offence intended) maybe not so much.
The article doesn’t make much mention of that but TV contracts are the holy grail for almost all pro sport, even in the current Premiere League system. You can bet that these twelve ownership groups are convinced that their elite brand recognition will bring them unheard-of riches. I would guess that they also figure they can make more money collectively by curbing the financial damage caused by internecine spending wars.
It should be of no surprise that American owners are pushing this because this money-making model works great in the US. Those that study sports economics will tell you that because of TV contracts and revenue-sharing an NFL franchise can make money without selling a single ticket. Why do you think pro sports leagues are operating in the middle of a spectator-less pandemic?
Bums in seats? Yeah sure, whatever.
I understand the frustration of “lovers of the game” because this proposal seems to be a slap in the face to the historical connection between community teams and their fans and destroys the dream that a David can defeat an array of Goliaths and claim the top prize.
Like they always say: “Follow the money”

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

And that is the real tragedy – “follow the money”. The horrendous american concept of “industry” is doing to sport what it already did to music, food and so many things that used to be great: it transformed it into s h i t.
Spoken wholeheartedly by a Brazilian born in Santos, who as a kid watched Rei PelĂ© conquer the world with what people universally admire and these dreadful “industrialists” stubbornly fail to value: talent.
These people will never understand that it does not matter that Brazil lost the 82 Cup in Spain. Or Croatia lost the 2018 Cup. Anyone that likes football remembers the spectacle these teams put out. If you still think winning is more important than enthralling, you are clueless. Now go watch “soccer”.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andre Lower
Jon Read
Jon Read
3 years ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

Despite losing to an Italy side containing Paolo Rossi (who had just been re-admitted to football following a two year ban for match fixing), the 1982 Brazil side was the embodiment of the beautiful game.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Football has long since ceased to to be ‘the beautiful game’. Well, the game itself can still be beautiful but everything around it has been very ugly for some decades and possibly even from the point at which the better players first found a few shillings in their boots, which was some time in the 80s, the 1880s.
For myself, I vowed in 1996 that I would no longer put any money into English football and I have stuck to that. It was bad enough then and it’s a thousand times worse now.

Last edited 3 years ago by Fraser Bailey
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

This proposal is little different to replacing the European Cup with the Champions League.
That step entrenched money and future success with the top clubs of the time.
This will do it a little bit more, while pushing UEFA and FIFA further away from the cash.
Remember it is UEFA that are currently trying to expand the Champions League to an extent where there are more matches than elite athletic players can realistically cope with.
Sadly, football is so lucrative at the top of the pyramid, that it will keep expanding coverage ….
Fans know that the FA is weak, FIFA are corrupt, and UEFA are greedy.
The Premier League will only object due to the risk of eyeballs being tempted elsewhere during the week.
It’s hard to see a further change in “a piece of the social fabric” but it’s going to happen anyway ….

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

From a nerdy perspective, if this threat gets rid of VAR from football, it may have been worthwhile.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

Presumably, unlike the NFL where most of its players are native Americans drawn from domestic colleges, these British ESL clubs, usually with their own youth academies, no longer draw substantially on the talents found in the lower leagues instead preferring to attract the very best players from across the globe with their fat chequebooks, hence there’s no longer any sense that they have a particular interest in sustaining those at the so-called grassroots domestic level any longer?

Twas forever thus of course.

Ironically, free market capitalism when allowed to run rampant all too often ends up stifling or killing any competition and creates the very monopolies its proponents profess to despise.

This has been a long time coming I feel.

Last edited 3 years ago by G Harris
John Standing
John Standing
3 years ago

Surely, if traditional community is the basis of the complaint, blame must attach to the successive British governments which have multiracialised the English homeland against the will and rights of the English people.

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
3 years ago

Why is anyone surprised? Football ceased to be a sport many years ago and has become a business. Players have no loyalty to club, to the area in which the club is located or to their national teams. Players are businessmen. The loyalties of the club owners are to their shareholders and investors.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago

More like contractors than businessmen, that would assume they have credentials for the successful operation of the business. Most are just contracted employees.

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
3 years ago

Honestly football is so full of sh*t. Beautiful game my a*se FIFA and EUFA have been openly corrupt for ever, you get the line oh but its not the same in the English leagues meanwhile the same people argue against VAR cos you know it slows the game down and stuff. Added to all that you get multi millionaires being pressured to take the knee by billionaires to support communists and telling fans who pay through the nose they are racist sc*m every match.
Most of these millionaires perform like pampered talentless journeymen 90% of the time and when in the past we have truly talented players like Gazza they are kicked into retirement way too early.
Let football have its super league. I am just baffled anyone is still stupid enough to care.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Precisely, well said Sir.

Nick Taylor
Nick Taylor
3 years ago

In last week’s New Statesman, John Gray wrote how he felt the fall of David Cameron was a fitting finale for a political project that turned the state into a business. I cannot help drawing the same comparisons here that the idea of football as a competitive sport based on community based clubs, allegiances, history and endeavor in coaching and playing is now to be replaced by a purely commercial transaction. We have sort of known it is coming, seeing clubs like Manchester City buy their way to success, clubs like Tottenham finding a position in the big six when their on field performance and table position suggests otherwise, when greed and financial performance is actually the measurement of success. Its all a mess and the large US, Russian, and UAE investors are changing the sport of football for ever- not for the better I am afraid.

Nicolas Jouan
Nicolas Jouan
3 years ago

If the main argument against this new league is that “football shouldn’t only be about money” then it’s a settled matter. These clubs are the most branded names in the galaxy. Asking them to not follow the “American way” is like asking a river to not throw itself in the ocean.

Last edited 3 years ago by Nicolas Jouan
Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

There is something to say about this connected to notions of globalization, citizens of nowhere, attachment to place, local communities and bankers. In the end it will come down to commercial viability: who are they going to sell it to? Not Europeans, not for long anyway as other leagues will compete for advertising deals. Americans are not interested enough. Africans and Latin Americans are too poor to sustain it. So that leaves Asia. They’ll have to sell a commercialised imitation of European football to Asia. In the short term they may get advertising revenue but the mid/long-term sustainability is risky. That risk will be increased by hostility as can already be seen. And will global fans want to watch stars performing in empty, quiet stadia being appealed to to buy new mobiles every five minutes? No, this is a flawed business model. And its flaw results from its contrivance by people who don’t understand the game but think they know best.
The people who know best are football fans. There may be a case for scaling back national leagues and intensifying Europe-wide competition. Consultation for how this could be done might have had positive results. Watching the top teams on TV is far more attractive than watching Mansfield Town versus Walsall in February. But the secretive contrivance has already got this off to a bad start, one that feels deathly cold in its side-lining of those fans who, ultimately, whether directly through ticket sales or indirectly as the recipients of advertising, will fund it. Will this format of teams of elite players appeal to the public more than the identification to a localised football club? Hopefully we won’t have to find out but that risk. This is just the latest manifestation of local, citizens of somewhere in a confrontation with bankers and other forces of globalization. That confrontation may be more interesting to watch unfold than the matches themselves.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago

It does appeal to the vanity of the glory chasing fans of the self proclaimed elite 6. They must be loving it. Since quite a lot of other fans either dislike or downright hate them, how can their removal from the league into a sort of elephants graveyard of obscurity be anything other than positive?

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Cooper

I don’t think many fans are loving it.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago

what do you mean?

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Cooper

Football fans hate it.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

A game is something that you play for fun. Something that you watch, that is not a game, it is a spectacle. Something you get paid to do, that is not a game, it is a job. Something that brings in millions in earnings, that is not a game, it is a business. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Big name football teams are an oppressive monopoly that have milked their unwitting fans at an ever increasing rate, for over-priced tickets, over-priced souvenir kit and other goods and over-priced TV coverage. This is just the next logical step.

John Mcalester
John Mcalester
3 years ago

If FIFA.UEFA and the FA really want to stop this breakaway league all they have to do is to inform the players of the breakaway clubs that if they play in the unsanctioned league they will no longer be able to play in the World Cup, the European championships or any competition organised by FIFA or associated bodies. This would ultimately effect their earning capabilities.

Saying that I don’t really care either way as football sold it’s soul years ago.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  John Mcalester

I think a lot would still do it if the money was right.

James Newman
James Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  John Mcalester

Restrain of trade, I believe. Not being selected is something else.

Tom Hawk
Tom Hawk
3 years ago

Even before this super league was touted, the amount of money in the game was obscene with transfer deals running into millions and players on huge salaries. People need to ask, where does it come from?

The answer is not Eruopean fans watching the game. It is from Asian gambling syndicates.

Follow the money.

John Dewhirst
John Dewhirst
3 years ago

This was always going to happen, an inevitable consequence of football capitalism and it should be seen not as an isolated event but in the context of the formation of the breakaway Premier League in 1992. In fact it is hardly a modern phenomenon and there is a very strong case that the breakaway Northern Union back in 1895 was driven by financial motives and the establishment of a cartel with restrictions on membership / promotion.
Ironically the Americans promote the idea that the vitality of a (football) league is only as strong as its weakest members and there is an active policy to circulate footballing talent to weaker sides.
The challenge for the football industry is to find an operating model that safeguards the viability of its weaker members and does not rely upon the charity of owners to keep clubs solvent. English football has always struggled to achieve that nirvana and ultimately it is only likely to be achieved through the sort of regulation and control that the biggest clubs will always reject.
The surprising thing is that English football has survived intact for so long but there is every indication that the bubble is about to burst and most certainly this initiative is not going to sustain the bubble economics of the game.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Dewhirst
Nick Taylor
Nick Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  John Dewhirst

The 1895 reference is a good one and in Rugby League the attempts at this sort of a model are failing. The RFL and SL Europe are finding it hard to stay separate and the franchise model has failed – the recent collapse of the Toronto experiment. Even the Aussie NRL is talking about a second division and a promotion and relegation although the licenses prevent this happening quickly. Ultimately its that element of competition, jeopardy and opportunity that makes sport what it is. If you have nothing to play for and dead rubbers then who cares.

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  John Dewhirst

Why should the league be trying to support its weaker members? There is a perfectly fitting place for them, it is called the league below. It’s the open system that allows clubs to be able to move up and down the leagues. It’s definitely not perfect but the league doesn’t exist to safeguard viability, it exists to facilitate competition.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

So just stop watching it.

Jeff Mason
Jeff Mason
3 years ago

Hey, don’t blame us. We don’t even watch soccer.

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Mason

You can’t watch it, even if you want to – there is no such thing. The sport you are referring to is called football.

Key Olney
Key Olney
3 years ago

A football team is like certain historical houses or paintings. Sure, someone can own it and derive all sorts of personal benefits from that ownership. But they can’t own it like they own their toothbrush.
So, the legislation need only be written that defines these football clubs as FA-regulated organizations in the same way that we define certain historical houses and paintings as national treasures which can’t leave the country or be dismantled or disfigured.
And if Henry and Kroenke think they can do it better, then it would be a matter of their building their own house or painting their own painting, not stealing these.

Last edited 3 years ago by Key Olney
eugene power
eugene power
3 years ago

Hey Fulham have US owner…and if they are excluded from the Premiership they cant be relegated again.
So Fulham for Eurosuper league : its a win-win , sort of er never winning again ?

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

I can’t decide whether or not it is more amusing or instructive that in America, that paragon of capitalism where to whisper the name of socialism is to invite the loudest opprobrium, its most wildly successful and universally adored sports league (the NFL) is blatantly socialist.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

There is something to say about this connected to notions of globalization, citizens of nowhere, attachment to place, local communities and bankers. In the end it will come down to commercial viability: who are they going to sell it to? Not Europeans, not for long anyway as other leagues will compete for advertising deals. Americans are not interested enough. Africans and Latin Americans are too poor to sustain it. So that leaves Asia. They’ll have to sell a commercialised imitation of European football to Asia. In the short term they may get advertising revenue but the mid/long-term sustainability is risky. That risk will be increased by hostility as can already be seen. And will global fans want to watch stars performing in empty, quiet stadia being appealed to to buy new mobiles every five minutes? No, this is a flawed business model. And its flaw results from its contrivance by people who don’t understand the game but think they know best.
The people who know best are football fans. There may be a case for scaling back national leagues and intensifying Europe-wide competition. Consultation for how this could be done might have had positive results. Watching the top teams on TV is far more attractive than watching Mansfield Town versus Walsall in February. But the secretive contrivance has already got this off to a bad start, one that feels deathly cold in its side-lining of those fans who, ultimately, whether directly through ticket sales or indirectly as the recipients of advertising, will fund it. Will this format of teams of elite players appeal to the public more than the identification to a localised football club? Hopefully we won’t have to find out but that is the risk. This is just the latest manifestation of local, citizens of somewhere in a confrontation with bankers and other forces of globalization. That confrontation may be more interesting to watch unfold than the matches themselves.

Saul D
Saul D
3 years ago

The Super League is hiding a secondary trend. Major clubs are getting connected into international networks (eg City Football Group on Wikipedia) that then act as pipelines for players and player recruitment.
So Man City links to feeder teams as talent pathways for young players across the world. What you’ll end up with is ‘Big League’ teams fed out of the local networks – they start to own all the talent pathways for promising footballers.
(With a bit of tweaking there are obvious naming identifiers for the networks – City, United, Reds, Blues, Arsenal, Real/Royal, Atletic/Athletic, A.C., Inter/International, F.C., Saints/Saint-Germain, with Bayern and Borussia as slight outliers). Your local ‘City’ connected team plays the local ‘United’ connected team with player cross-fertilisation into the ‘big’ teams.
The second trend, not so prevalent yet, will be to expand the system across into other sports. Men’s football naturally links to women’s football. But if you look at what FCBarcelona has trying to build – it runs teams in basketball, handball, ice hockey and has even dabbled at rugby. What you get at the end are mega-sports franchises, and a Hollywood-type system for delivering sports entertainment worth a lot of money.
My guess is that a lot of thought has gone into the breakaway plan beyond the initial league set up, and that it’s not going to be easily dissuaded now it has been announced.

Saul D
Saul D
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

With clubs pulling out, looks like I was wrong then.

Christopher Hilton
Christopher Hilton
3 years ago

Chelski!!! Ha, ha, ha. Never heard that one before. Such brilliant journalism.

wrwills
wrwills
3 years ago

As Terry Eagleton, who recently wrote a piece for this site, has said “football is the opium of the people”. It does seem odd to care much about what happens to it, or to any other professional sport.
That being said I take some slight exception to your claim that football clubs have souls which in the context it is written seems to claim that teams in North American teams do not. I can’t really speak for the NFL, but I can certainly say that teams in the NHL do have historically different playing styles.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 years ago

The author is consistent in his arguments and campaigning on football ownership. But otherwise, what a load of hypocritical cant has been uttered in response to this proposal!

I look forward now to the rapid disbandment of all separate, ‘Premier Leagues’, set up in the 1990s entirely for financial reasons and separation from the lower orders of football….

Chris Eaton
Chris Eaton
3 years ago

I literally couldn’t care less about soccer…errrr…football, wherever it is played.

Sam McLean
Sam McLean
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Eaton

Thanks Chris. Good to know.