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Dream or nightmare – A European super League?

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Dream or nightmare – A European super League?

by Don McMahon,

Like it or not, we are almost certainly headed in  that direction and as the train, which has just left the station,  picks up speed, even Arsene Wenger’s prediction that a merit-based European Super League could be 9 years away, seems somewhat conservative. Here is my take on how it might happen, what it would be like and what consequences European Football would inevitably be subject to should this happen:

WHY AND HOW  IT MIGHT COME ABOUT

EUFA and FIFA have mismanaged European Football for at least the past 1decade. The original G14 was formed in response to the discontent and dissatisfaction felt by the bigger European Clubs at the greed, cronyism, nepotism, favouritism and bias shown by the governing bodies. They even discussed the idea of a breakaway super league back in 2007 and as the CL becomes more and more a pro forma exercise of the inevitable (Barcelona, Real, United and now City) their discontent grows. The CL monetary rewards do not represent sufficient revenue for the 3rd and 4th place teams and the avarice of these super clubs will only grow worse.

Once their tolerance level for the EUFA/FIFA travelling circus is surpassed, these clubs will likely threaten to breakaway and form their own League. Fearing the loss of revenues and reputation this would cause both bodies, the morons that manage both will quickly over backwards to accommodate their favourites. This means a Super League running with the blessings of FIFA and EUFA, after their palms have been sufficiently greased by the rich owners, of course.

WHAT IT COULD LOOK LIKE

We have to make a great deal of assumptions here, but one we don’t need to worry about is the composition of the League. It would likely contain between 24 and 28 teams. It would syphon off the top 4 or 5 clubs from England,France, Italy, maybe Germany, certainly Spain and possibly Russia. All these countries have big sugar-daddy sponsored teams (except for the Bundesliga) and that would be a hidden criterion for sure. Lets see which teams could constitute the first ESL season:

England: United, City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool

France: Lyon, Marseille, Lille, PSG

Italy: Inter Milan, AC Milan, Roma, Juventus

Germany: Bayern Munich, Schalke, Borussa Dortmund, Bayern Leverkusen

Spain: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Villareal

Russia: CSKA, Dinamo, Rubin Kazan, Zenit St.Petersburg, Anzhi Makhachkala

Other potential applicants could be from the Dutch Eredivise and the Scottish League. If they played each other home and away and had one Super Cup competition added in, the average season, including a mid-winter break, would be around 44 games which is certainly reasonable. They could start in late August and end in late May but in a WC year, they could start in mid August and end in late April,giving the players some time off before the start of WC hostilities.

WHAT IT WOULD LIKELY MEAN FOR THE CURRENT EUROPEAN LEAGUES

1)      It could spell the end of one or two leagues’ dominance in European football.

2)      It would spell the end of EUFA and FIFA’s dominion in International football.

3)      It could see local leagues having to merge their divisions to be more attractive and viable.

4)      It would syphon off any promising talents to the Super clubs.

5)      It would mean a realignment of power and therefore financial clout to the ESL Clubs (something that has already begun to happen anyway).

6)      It would be a paradigm shift in Football, forever condemning lesser Clubs to 2nd rate glory.

7)      It would invite and propagate enormous corruption, criminal involvement and subsequent loss of integrity as the match-fixing and referee manipulation could reach epic proportions.

8)      It would truly universalize the European game worldwide and generate unimaginable media and corporate sponsorships and wealth for the ESL clubs and particularly the title holders/Cup winners.

9)      It would permit, indeed foster a modernization of the Game and the Laws, particularly concerning video replays and goal-line technology. When an offside goal or unjust penalty could potentially cost a super Club up to 100m Euro in lost revenue, you can be sure the League management will be under enormous pressure to prevent such errors.

10)  It would see Club Youth Academies and nations who continually produce talent, become the feeder organizations for the ESL members to the exclusion of their local leagues.

As Michael Calvin said in his recent Mirror Football article on such a league, ¨The Euromillions League will emerge from a perfect storm of greed, globalization and opportunism.¨ A very insightful and astute observation and one that is on its unstoppable way to be realized, thanks to the blind stupidity, ignominious mismanagement and avarice of Football’s governing bodies.

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26 comments to Dream or nightmare – A European super League?

  • bob

    Bravo, Don!

  • Allan Churchill

    I believe that a European Super League will happen.
    However, it won’t last long in a simplistic one division format. There will be too many clubs not actually winning anything.

  • walter

    Like I said in another comment: I really can’t make up my mind.
    It could become a fair competition if all and everyone is interested in “fair competition”. But as it will be all about the money…who cares about fair competition? Is there any evidence that even suggests that the rich owners are interested in a fair competition? I really doubt it.

    So I think the dream could become a nightmare because once you have entered there is hardly a way out.

    Unless Wenger would become the head of this European Super League when he retires as our manager…. Now that is a nice thought…

  • BobbyP

    Don

    Interesting article, but a few points seem worthy of comment:

    1. You state that we are ‘almost certainly headed in that direction’. I don’t think we’re at that state yet. While the European League is certainly a possibility, the idea has been around for decades, and has always foundered on the recognition that local rivalries are of more interest to fans than European games. As an Arsenal fan, I’d much rather watch us against Tottenham/Villa/Leeds/Everton/West Ham/Newcastle than most teams in your list. I appreciate that for foreign based fans this may not be the case, but home attendances/atmosphere are still a major part of any clubs revenue.

    2. The idea of a 24-28 team league seems very misguided, particularly if there is no relegation/European qualification etc to play for. The vast majority of games in the second half of the season would be meaningless. Equally, unless a play-off system is advocated (meaning even more games), the title could be decided at an early stage, and there would be no flagship final game to draw interest (as the current Champions League final does). The current format suits TV as most games have meaning – a 28 team league would be precisely the opposite.

    3. The make up of the league seems a bit off – 5 Russian teams??? You would surely have clubs like Ajax and Porto (original G14 members and multiple former European champions), along with clubs from Turkey, Poland etc to cater for the large TV markets there. Again, whether Arsenal v Legia Warsaw in April would hold much interest to the average fan (unless we were in contention) is debatable…

  • I just can’t see 20 ‘big’ clubs chasing at best two trophies. Compared to the present situation where those same big clubs are probably entering 25 competitions between them.
    The present system where two teams from one league invariably compete for the championship, maybe six teams compete for the association cup and maybe sixteen teams in total compete for the big European cup.

  • bob

    Sorry to go off topic a bit but, as Walter’s world-class keeper stated yesterday, one look at Szez’s performance vs. Germany is well… beyond words!

    Surely the tapping up will begin right about now. This guy, our guy is a treasure – let’s sign him before there’s one year left on his contract. And, by every and any means necessary, make sure that Dein the Lesser does not become his agent — because he who makes a meal of our talent will definitely want Szez in his stable, and, on the strength of this performance, has to be making that move. I would bet the farm on it.

  • Abhishek Kumar

    sorry for being off topic

    BTW did any one read Merida shifted from Atletico one year after he left us.. And he was not asked to leave.. So tells our kids that they are not so special as they look..

    And yes Hleb goes again to another club..

  • RedGooner

    I do think a super league will happen at some point but I never envisioned it been anything like what you have mentioned above.

    I think if it happens it will replace all the champions league and uefa cup competitions with games played mid week.
    I think you would see a reduction in all leagues to maybe where the home country league consists of 16 teams for each top flight division therefore allowing teams to play in both say the EPL and european league.

    I also think there would be way less teams in the super league and it would initaly of started with perhaps 3 teams from the epl and look something like the following

    England: United, Arsenal, either of Chelsea, Liverpool

    France: 3 of the following Lyon, Marseille, Lille, PSG

    Italy: Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus

    Germany: Bayern Munich, Borussa Dortmund, Bayern Leverkusen

    Spain: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia,

    Russia: CSKA, Dinamo, Zenit St.Petersburg,

    Holland Ajax

    Scotalnd winners of the SCPL

    I could only see something like when the bottom 3 teams of the super league get relegated that replacements from that country move up as in the highest placed team in that league not currently in the super league.

    I couldnt see how teams should be allowed to join like fucking city ? I mean on what basis ….because of what they might do in the future ? this was originaly for europes top teams and just because you have a new owner shouldnt count for anything when all the other clubs are there because of world wide tradition built up over a life time.

  • Honestly, I’m not immediately opposed. If there were a relegation/promotion system — i.e. the top 2, 3 or 4 in a country’s national league, depending on the same “coefficient” system they already use for CL qualification — were in place, then it wouldn’t necessarily be the same teams over and over again. Things happen, clubs like Liverpool and Ajax have slipped (and recovered), clubs like Juventus (and now Fenerbache) have gotten penalized.

    It would not help the English game much, but it might save the game in Scotland and Spain, where they’d no longer have to worry about the same 2 teams being the only ones with more than a snowball’s chance in hell (or Spain, for that matter) of winning.

    And there would still be the cups, to give Arsenal, United, Chelsea (presuming Abramovich can keep himself alive, out of prison and solvent) and whoever is the 4th qualifier the classic domestic competition their fans will still crave. Nothing wrong with Arsenal playing Inter Milan at the San Siro in the Superleague on a Saturday night, Leeds at New Highbury in the League Cup on the following Wednesday night, and then Everton at Goodison in the FA Cup on the following Saturday afternoon. It could be done.

    The only thing different would be no midweek Champions League, because the Superleague would BE the champions league. Thus freeing up the schedule. Unless FIFA decides on more Interlulls, meaningful and otherwise… Oy.

  • elp

    the super league will be the “formula 1” of football, however even F1 racing has its problems, but i am pretty sure those problems are out-weighed by positive impact.

    and to those who fear that the super league will kill domestic leagues… I dont see F1 doing that in professional racing, and further more I believe F1 promotes racing all over the world.

    s super league will probably take the top clubs from their domestic leagues, but think about it, with Barca and Real M. out of the way, lower clubs will actually have a chance of winning la liga title.

    and one last thing: keep relegation/promotion

  • bjtgooner

    An interesting article Don. Is it possible to advise how much money FIFA and UEFA raise for their own use, just how this money is raised, how much they pay their staff and are they required to publish annual accounts? Also, what financial changes and safeguards would you look for in a new European Super League?

    Sorry for all the questions, but I am trying to get to grips with the flaws in the present unsatisfactory system and to understand just how any new system can be prevented from falling into the same pitfalls.

    @Bob – you made a good point about Sczez and his contract. Someone in an earlier discussion identified that VP, Walcott and Vermalen had only 2 years left in their contracts. These all need renewed now. It would be helpful to our overall understanding on this subject if another reader could advise on the remaining time left on the contract for each of our players.

  • Simon Bailey

    I’m slightly concerned about the effects of all the travelling every two weeks. I would like the current league structure to remain almost as it is, but with fewer teams in each league, maybe 15.

    I would like the super league to have 40 teams in 4 groups of 10. the groups are chosen randomly (or maybe geographically) at the beginning of each season. after these groups have played home and away matches, the winner of each group goes to a knockout for european champion.

    this will mean about 46 games per season barring fa cup and carling cup.

  • FinnGooner

    It sounds quite interesting but what I think is if these Leagues lose their top clubs how would it affect the league financially. What I mean is like EPL get lot of money from international TV rights and without top4 clubs they would have to drop the prize a lot to keep foregn channel buying the rights (but some leagues could easily notice that lot of people lose intrest for those leagues without their “super clubs” and stars.

    @bjtgooner I think I heard it end of last season that Arsenal was looking forward to start new contract negotiations this fall with all players who have 2 years left with contract. So now that transfer window is closed and players come back from where ever they were talks should start.

    Off topic I have to mention that RvP looked absolutely amazing last night. He played well too 😉 I guess I spent about 20 minutes watching back of his head rather than match itself (but to see him if I wanted to look at pitch, I was sitting right behind the bench and Robin sat front of me).

  • bjtgooner

    @FinnGooner

    Thanks for the info.

  • Jas777

    As I said in other post I think it will die a death after a few years.

    Though they could use the US sports conference system so competition has more riding on it with playoffs.

    Where you play the teams in your conference home and away and teams in the other conference just home or away and sometimes just some of the teams one year and others the next year.

    I live in New Zealand and here we have a rugby competition called the Super 15 with 5 teams each from NZ, Australia and South Africa. When it first started games between NZ and teams from Australia or South Africa were popular but after a few years they became less popular and the biggest crowds, TV audiences were for the inter country games.

    At first everyone played everyone else alternating home and away over 2 years. Now they have moved to teams in the same country play each other home and away each year and play only some of the teams in the other country once a year either home or away.

    The competition in NZ has regional teams which represent the teams that used to play in the countries domestic competition (which still exists but doesn’t always have the best players) At first the people from the smaller teams supported the big regional teams but this support has waned and moved to supporting the teams in domestic competition.

    With England being more tribal than NZ I can’t see anyone from a West Ham, Bolton etc supporting Arsenal, Manchester United in a super league so surely the domestic TV rights would not generate as much revenue for the super league competition.

  • Domhuaille

    This was a fishing expedition and NOT a formal prediction on my part for a European super League. These were excellent comments and posts and some really great questions from bjtgooner regarding the pound of flesh EUFA and FIFA wrench out of the overall revenue from matches, national association dues etc. I can’t answer any of them now but I’ll try and do some research and write another article entitled ¨The FIFA-EUFA vampire diaries¨or maybe ¨Getting blood out of a stone-FIFA/EUFA can do it.¨
    I am between a rock and a hard place when looking at this concept. On the one hand I really believe it is inevitable, simply from a financial point of view. On the other I am afraid that it will have serious negative consequences on European football in general and EPL Football in particular. What really worries me is that managers like Wenger,SAF, Guardiola and Mourinho seem to support or at least acknowledge the likelihood of it happening. they may not necessarily like it but they seem to believe,like me, that it will happen sooner or later.

  • bob

    Domhuaille,
    For my vote, do write the article on Vampirism. The time is perfect to go for the jugular, so to speak. 🙂 And, in that vein, you can call him Batty. — (signed) B. Lugosi.

  • Shard

    I think what MIGHT happen is that the Premier League, La liga etc become smaller, and that we play half the season in the Premier League and the other half in the Super League. There will also have to be some kind of system of promotion and relegation. Perhaps a model similar to that which used to be in Argentina. Two leagues (the Apertura and Clausura) and a points average of the last 3 years determining promotion or relegation. This would “reward consistency”. Basically act as an insurance that only big clubs would get into the Super League.

  • Shard

    Alternately, I liked Tony’s suggestion that the Premier League continues as usual, except the teams in the Super League field their reserves in the Premier League. (with perhaps some limited scope for transfer of players between the senior and reserve teams) As long as the Super League clubs agree to give a small percentage of their added revenues (from the SL) to their domestic leagues, I don’t think anyone would mind.

    It’ll give the entire league more money. The smaller clubs will have a greater chance to win the league. And the fans still get to see the local derbies. Plus with more matches being played, and more revenue coming in, the bigger clubs might actually reduce ticket prices so as to ensure continued interest in both competitions.

    The scheduling, and opportunities of promotion and relegation from the Super League will have to be worked out, but I think it seems feasible.

  • Shard

    For promotion, relegation.. I think the 3 year average works well. You’ll have an initially closed Super League, for 3 years. (which means big clubs are happy, and it gives them an adjustment period). And then the lowest ranked team in the Super League table, of every country, plays a playoff with the team with the highest 3 year points average in their domestic league. (the big clubs may not be happy with this because once they drop out of the Super League it might take them 3 years to come back, unless they have had a very strong reserve team)

  • Ed

    i mentioned in another post whether it would just be like the Top 4 of the Premier league.

    Unless there is strict Financial Fair Play, it would just mean that Man City, Chelsea, PSG, Barcelona, real Madrid and all other clubs with limitless billionaire owners, or miraculous bank loans which do not need to be repaid will still get the best players (we can see that from Chelsea, man City, Barca and Real even now). Even if Arsenal get an extra 150m from this Superleague, so do the others so it gives them no advantage by comparison.

    Would i prefer to watch them in the premiership right now where they have at least some hope of winning the title (we can always hope chelsea and man city have the first and second team injured and then bad luck with goalines and penaties)? or playing a meaningless mid table game whereby we have almost no chance of winning due to barcelona, madrid, man city, chelsea, psg, etc. buying up the best and second best players?

    some people argue you cant buy success… but its a proven strategy. you can buy and trial and error but eventually, you will have more chances to win.

  • Shard

    @Ed

    I am hoping that a ‘closed’ league , or almost closed league, will bring in a hard salary cap, like in some US sports. (the NBA has a player versus owners dispute going on right now on the issue)

    You are right of course, and even if the salary cap doesn’t happen, Arsenal don’t BUY success and you can argue we haven’t been succesful, but we still compete, and on an anything but level playing field. If that can be assured (through video replay, foreign refs, a more transparent system of ref allocation and review) then I see no reason why clubs like Arsenal, or even Ajax etc can’t compete.

    A more closed league also gives clubs greater power, as opposed to UEFA or FIFA having all the power. And I think most clubs will want fair play in terms of both on field, and off field issues. They will also be under greater scrutiny since all matches will be televised. Any clubs losing out due to unfair decisions will be big clubs and won’t take it lying down, especially in a scenario where they will have more power than they currently do.

  • Jas777

    Shard,

    A closed league has one big problem in that unlike US sports where people from smaller cities in their state will support a team in the big city in football supporters of smaller clubs such as QPR in London will not support Arsenal.

    To me the super league is geared towards foreign money through TV rights and will ultimately not be as successful as thought as the domestic market is neglected to a certain extent

  • Shard

    @Jas777

    The QPR fans don’t support Arsenal even in the Champions League. Yet it brings in money. The same thing applies to the Super League I think. Of course it is geared for the international market. But I don’t think it necessarily means the domestic market is being neglected. The scheduling and everything needs to be worked out. And as I said, with the sponsors pouring in more money (they do it mostly for the International market), and the risk that people won’t follow 2 leagues, the ticket prices might be reduced by the clubs.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    If you write down a long list of potential clubs ensuring that all countries in Europe (bar minnow states) have at least one club, you pretty quickly get a list of about 60 clubs.

    Which either works out as 3 leagues of 20.

    Or 5 ‘conferences’ of 12, playing 24 games before having a 16 team shoot out a la Superbowl in the NFL….

    It depends on the motives of who sets it up.

    The options:

    1. Billionaire sugar daddies.
    2. Sporting associations broadly run and owned by fans, ex players and administrators/marketeers.
    3. City/Regions.

    This is broadly Wild West capitalism; social democracy; and communism.

    There is only one thing certain: fans will not be asked what they want.

    It will be imposed by Mckinsey consultants working to the brief of whoever sets it up……

  • Tres interessant et moderne;tres spectatulers mais seulement europe occidendale ou europe des 15 avec 4 divisions a 80 clubs aller/retour les 4 premiers en 1/8 finale ou playoff et 1/4 finale ;1/2 finale aller/retour et la finale seul match suprimer le tir au but et retour le but en or jusqu au bout

    (Very interesting and modern, but only very spectatulers occidendale europe or europe with 4 divisions of 15 to 80 clubs to / in the first 4 1/8 finals or playoff and 1/4 final, 1/2 final go / return and the final single game simply remove the penalty and return the golden goal until after)