The absence of sport, and particularly football, Europe’s favourite game, made last year’s lockdowns to stop the spread of Covid-19 even harder to bear. Since last summer, we have had the eerie spectacle of football without supporters. Lockdown football is better than nothing but, in the long run, organised sport has little value or purpose without fans.
That lesson does not appear to have been heeded by the owners of football’s wealthiest clubs.
Clubs across Europe have been badly hit by the pandemic. That has meant lower profits for the wealthy and bigger losses for the poor, particularly smaller and lower league clubs who are more dependent on the gate receipts they receive from filling their stadiums. Many are in danger of going out of business.
For Europe’s beautiful game to survive, football’s grass roots and local clubs need support to recover from the pandemic.
Instead, European football’s plutocrats think that even more cash should be concentrated in their hands by creating a European Super League that seems designed to alienate their supporters and risks killing off domestic leagues, the competitions which supporters most want their teams to do well in.
In doing so, Europe’s would-be cartel leaders have managed the remarkable feat of uniting supporters, governing bodies and politicians across parties against them.
The irony of this cynical money-grabbing project is that the competition itself would be a classic closed shop. The 12 founding Super League members will always be in the competition.
That is despite the fact that four of the dirty dozen have never won the Champions’ League – the competition they want to replace – while two or three of the English clubs involved won’t even qualify for it this season.
The 12 will be joined by three still-to-be-named founding clubs. Five teams across Europe will be able to qualify each year bringing the total to 20 clubs.
In the meantime, more wealth is concentrated in the hands of the 12 that will make it even harder for others to compete with them financially. It’s hard to think of a format better designed to stifle fair competition – without which there is no sport – and damage the quality of play.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez says that the European super league will “save” football from “low quality” matches. But “low quality” matches are primarily the result of non-competitive leagues and Spain’s La Liga is a case in point.
By negotiating their own lucrative TV deals as individuals, leaving other Spanish teams with the crumbs, Real Madrid and Barcelona have created a league where no one can compete with them financially. Perez now wants to perform the same damaging and anti-competitive trick at the European level.
There are few better ways to guarantee boring games than by creating an artificial tournament where the same teams play each other every year. Supporters will simply lose interest.
The furious reaction from players, supporters, UEFA and the national leagues suggests that the Super League blueprint is already dead-on-arrival. Good. The only thing football needs saving from is a group of owners who wouldn’t know how to pump up a football let alone kick it.
A message from VDMA: How SMEs can contribute to due diligence in value chains. The mechanical engineering industry in Europe fully supports the goal of protecting human rights. However, the upcoming EU legislation on due diligence must be manageable, and it must consider the limitations of small and medium-sized enterprises in particular. Read more.
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Look out for…
- European People’s Party Group holds its debate on the Future of Europe, with guest appearance by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Views are the author’s
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]