According to Bloomburg, as of June 2020, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus had a combined net debt of €1.2bn as of June. But since then we have had the season of the virus, and now the excellent Law In Sport newsletter has reported that Barcelona on its own, has debts of over €1bn with Real Madrid not far behind, with around €900m debt. The debt which was already out of control is, in short, heading towards doubling.
Of course clubs can sit on debts for years and year but since SuperLeague was set up to get Barcelona et al out of debt, they seem to have a problem.
And part of their problem is that the clubs have not been holding anything in reserve. Nor do they have a piggy bank full of savings. Yet they have built up a situation in which their fans and the media that feed of the clubs, expect and demand new signings.
Which by and large is a bit dumb.
The problem, particularly for Barcelona is that they have run out of cash, and also seemingly run out of places to borrow it. They are looking a bit like a business that is too big to fail, and then, suddenly…
The idea of the needy SuperLeague clubs was that SuperLeague would generate immediate money through the instant sale of the first two years’ TV rights. That in turn would convince the bankers the clubs were going concerns to whom it could loan yet more money.
But banks don’t loan money to businesses without being pretty sure that they will make a profit out of the deal, and with the giants at the moment that looks very, very unlikely.
For the three clubs still in SuperLeague are now engaged in a legal battle with Uefa over whether Uefa actually has the power to stop SuperLeague. Uefa has fined the clubs, these three have refused to pay, and now …
Well, if Uefa win the court cases, they will have the option of mega fines against the three, in order to teach them, and indeed everyone else, a lesson. If Uefa loses, then there is no overseeing regulator of in Europe. Which would mean Fifa would step in.
Uefa is already in a weak position having lost its battle with Manchester City through the managerial incompetence of presenting its evidence too late. A defeat in its fight with Barcelona, Real Mad and Juventus could bring about its demise.
At that point Fifa, which has just replaced the entire executive of the Confederation of African Football with its own (largely non-African) people, would then go further and take over Europe.
But there is another thing not widely reported in the UK press but mentioned on Untold. On 1 July a judge in Spain ruled that Uefa has no power to dissolve SuperLeague.
The English teams that made up the bulk of SuperLeague agreed to accept further punishment if they ever tried to pull the trick again, but the Spanish court has demanded that Uefa and the individual national leagues withdraw all action against the SuperLeague clubs, irrespective of whether the clubs have agreed to the sanctions.
At the same time Sky Sports has reported that the Madrid court has put in a request to the European Court of Justice to determine if Uefa is in breach of EU law in banning SuperLeague and imposing fines etc against the clubs that did so. Arsenal have dutifully paid their fine, and if the ECJ rules in the clubs’ favour, it would get its money back.
Certainly, under normal European law, Uefa is engaged in a restraint of trade although my own understanding is that following Bosman it was established that there were times when sports law had to be more restrictive that non-sport law. Much as I’d like to see it, Poole Town can’t demand a place in the Super League and argue restraint of trade if they don’t get it.
Thus while the English media is, as ever, ignoring international issues, there are good reasons to think that this time Fifa and Uefa have overstepped the mark – not least because all this comes at the same time as Fifa has effectively turned imperialist when it comes to Africa.
In its excellent article considering these matters the Law In Sport newsletter notes that the current situation foreshadows “the risk of turbulence unless the path is carefully and sensitively navigated.”
Unfortunately this is Fifa we are talking about and sensitive navigation has certainly not been their hall mark either in the legal cases currently running in Switzerland, nor in their takeover of Africa.
Also we don’t know what Aleksander Ceferin at Uefa will do, although his statements don’t take any account of what Fifa is currently doing in Africa.
If Uefa does take action against Real Madrid and Barcelona what then? The Spanish league is a very minor affair without those two who have between them won 17 of this century’s Spanish titles.
Either Uefa backs down, or the big clubs back down, and thus far there is no sign of either doing so.
So here’s the question: are Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus being allowed into the Champions league in September? Seemingly not.
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