By Tony Attwood
The reason that Super League (which you may recall, included Arsenal for a while) was needed was that Barcelona (and a few other clubs) were in mega-debt and had no way of continuing, unless they could get their hands on not just more money but a lot, lot more money
With Super League taken away from them (temporarily as they are arguing), they’ve been selling the family silver. Odds and ends like around a quarter of the TV rights for the next quarter century in return for money now. Things like that.
In return they are carrying on with their standard “Business as Usual” model, buying players, and adding to their debts.
This “business as usual” approach includes the view that the European Super League remains their salvation. And at the heart of this vision is the notion that football in general and Uefa in particular, are not above the laws that the rest of Europe lives by.
The question is thus raised, what gives Uefa the right to be the sole organiser of top-level football? Their answer given is that football is different – it needs a monolithic structure so that clubs can be organised in such a way that they play each other and ultimately we can know who has won.
But this rule doesn’t apply to all other sports – some have multiple organising bodies in competition with each other, and although this might sound messy and unsavoury there is nothing in European law that says football in Europe should just have Uefa running international events.
So now, the Advocate-General of the EU will give his view on the case of Super League vs everyone else, on December 15 this year. The senior judges of the EU will then take that into account when they make a final ruling early in 2023..
Uefa’s problem however is that it gets things wrong (for example the Champions League final this year and Euros final last year) and like Fifa is bedevilled by charges of cronyism. Thus the “independent” enquiry into what were at least in part its own failings in the champs league big match, is now revealed to be organised by its own people – a group of pals who’ve worked with Uefa and are expert at excusing Uefa from any wrongdoing.
If Uefa lose the Super League appeal, then the clubs can organise their own Champions League and divide up the money as they wish. Which, to return to our opening point, is how Barcelona want to pay off debts that now total €1.5 billion or maybe more (no one is quite sure). If Uefa win, Barcelona are sunk. They’ve sold substantial parts of both their future TV and marketing revenue streams. There is not much left to sell.
If Uefa lose, the fines that clubs like Arsenal paid to Uefa for being in the event will be paid to the Super League, which currently consists of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus. Which helps get Barcelona out of trouble.
Of course, Arsenal and the rest would not be obliged to rejoin Super League, although the contract they signed with Super League is reported to include huge fines for leaving, which Arsenal etc have only avoided paying because thus far Super League has been ruled illegal.
And we shouldn’t just think this is Barcelona’s problem. As the Telegraph reported, “Real Madrid have sold 30 per cent of 20 years of future stadium revenue to [the global investment firm] Sixth Street,” adding that “Real’s debt is still in excess of £1 billion when the liability for their stadium rebuild is considered.” So not quite as desperate as Barcelona, but still in the stratosphere.
Having sold most of the future, Barcelona are now selling the rights to 49 per cent of their merchandising. After that, there is nothing more to sell. If Barcelona and its two fellow travellers win, they are saved, Super League is back. If they lose, Barcelona FC is a goner.
But there is still more.
The rest of Europe has long been annoyed at just how much Champions League and Europa League TV income goes to fund Uefa. If Barcelona win they will set up a Super Champions League which will pay out more money to the clubs than they will get for being in Uefa’s Champions League.
Maybe that seems just a transfer of power, but that gives Fifa a problem – its richest patron is suddenly no longer wealthy enough to pump mega billions into Fifa’s corrupt coffers. What then for Fifa?