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Greed Takes Over – Ladies And Gentlemen, Its Time For The European Super League

October 12, 2009


Its a bit of a dirty subject

As a United fan, i will be accused of all sorts of things, but i truly believe that club football in Europe needs a great big reform.

I wrote a similar article for my ViewFromTier3 blog a few months ago. George’s Old Firm article and the ensuing comments have made me have a rethink about what i believe is an inevitability. And that is that it is time for the European super teams to break away from their FA’s and form the greatest football competition on the planet. The current Champions League has always been a precursor for this to happen. Once upon a long ago you were only eligible to play in Europe’s premier competition if your were champions of your nation. So this would mean Liverpool sitting out of the big one and competing in the UEFA cup if they were lucky for most of the past two decades. And of course, it would mean no 1999 Treble for United as they did not win the league the previous season.  The current format has always inched us closer, year by year, to what would be a modern day footballing revolution of sorts.

And here is my take on the format:

I would like to see two divisions in this new European Super League…SL1 and SL2 if you like!

SL1 would be the following clubs:

Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea from England. Real and Barca from Spain. Milan and Inter from Italy. Bayern from Germany. And also established ECL teams like Lyon, Ajax, PSV and Porto. All in all, id like to see about 16 teams in this top league.

SL2 would have the best of the rest. Arsenal (sorry Gunners!) Juventus, Roma, Dortmund, Valencia, Celtic, Rangers, etc, etc (please don’t have a pop at me about who deserves to be in which league..this is just a business model!)

And the important thing to remember here, is that  i would have no relegation or promotion back to the domestic leagues, effectively cutting off all ties back to the mother competitions. The reason for this is simple. This is about 32 or so teams forming a new competition. It is about elitism. Do we really want Hull in a European Super league at the expense of a Real Madrid? No. Not in a month of Sundays! But i would have relegation and promotion from the two new Super Leagues. Id have the bottom 4 of the top league replaced by the Top 4 of SL2. If this system becomes successful (and i see no reason why it would not) we could bring in a third tier of the competition (SL3!) and the likes of Tottenham, Aston Villa, and Man City could get in on the act. The expansion could be never ending!!! However, i would still have the FA Cup if possible for all teams,  if the domestic FAs didn’t implode at the thought of losing their prime assets in the league format!

The reasons why i want to see this happen is two fold. As great as the Prem and La Liga are, they are dominated by a handful of clubs. The marquee tournament for these big teams is the Champions League. We are all desperate to win our domestic championships, but nothing beats a night against a fellow foreign giant. This is of course, based on greed. Greed for the big games, rather than the cold nights in Burnley. Greed for the enhancement of one’s team rather than the collective good. Greed for something better, if not entirely different to what we already have in part. Maybe it is an indictment on our capitalist nature. Or maybe for the fan, it is about the competition…it is for me.

Secondary, i think this would freshen up the domestic set up. So yes! Spurs could become Champions of England. And yes again, maybe UEFA could keep the Champions League in its current format and include the top 4 of the Prem as it does today. The competition would be devalued on a European stage, but i think the domestic leagues would be enhanced…a more level playing field for the teams who are not used to treading the boards at a San Siro, or a Nou Camp.

Like most things linked to Change, most will not like this idea. But i put it forward because eventually it WILL happen. No governing body is perfect, but i think the FA and UEFA have already created monsters that will come back to bite them on the backside. Their original pursuits in the name of greed (The European Cup becoming the Champions League; The First Division becoming the Premiership) have trail-blazed the way forward. These competitions have been great and have improved the game, but the truth is they were created for the reason of economics. The reason of product enhancement.

Therefore, a European Super League is all but around the corner. I for one would welcome it.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2009 6:12 pm

    I think you’re right in saying this is an eventuality not a possibility. Evolution of the game happens all the time, and I clearly remembered the day when Division 3 became League 1, I was laughing my ass off thinking the name change would never make a difference.

    Lo and behold, here we are writing about Notts County and AFC Bournemouth of League 2. I would never imagined giving a hair’s thought about that back then but certainly over time it caught on to me.

    So while I’m in the group of people who would object the change initially, I don’t think we are in any power to stop it. Spurs could be champions of England, but the competitiveness would have rendered it meaningless.

    I definitely like the SL1, SL2 and SL3 format. My criteria would be slightly different, although I understand yours is a base model. One representative per SL. Heck, I can even foresee the whole SL format replace the CL, and still have these teams play in their domestic league. Champions in SL1, runner ups in SL2 and so on. So if you take this year’s qualifiers, you’d get matches between Real Madrid vs Liverpool, and Man Utd vs Barcelona, which isn’t too bad an attraction.

    However it is, I only see something like this happening in about 10-15 years. Cos ppl are stubborn. And the FA and powers that be are ppl like us (except we’re smarter!)

  2. October 12, 2009 8:07 pm

    This development is inevitable and perhaps even sooner than the timescale of 10-15 years glamorousdiss envisages. Because it’s virtually a foregone conclusion all we, as fans, can do is embrace it rather than resist it. The real power brokers in European football are the wealthy owners and chairmen, if they want it for sure it will happen.

    The structure of the thing though is an altogether more complicated question.
    In some shape or form an opportunity should exist for clubs excluded initially to take part, ie
    Manchester City, Tottenham, Everton, Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal, Atletico, Roma etc., the kinds of club in various European domestic leagues that just bubble under their respective elites.

    I think an initial “SL1” should be the starting point with the usual Champions League suspects forming the core. Thereafter, tricky!

    Me? I’m an old fashioned git and hanker after the days of the European Cup, Cup Winners Cup etc, where the holders are invited to defend their trophy and the competition does what it says on the tin, recent television money hasn’t necessarily been a good thing recently unless you’re a club chairman.

    If, for example, some of the current Premiership teams are compelled to sever all ties and throw in their lot with the ESL would that association preclude them from taking part in the FA Cup, and if so, would the FA Cup be devalued? If my lot, Tottenham, were going to win the Premiership or Cup, I’d like them to do it by taking more points of Man U, The Arse and Chelski.

    With luck this thread will run and run and throw up allsorts of counter arguments and questions.

  3. Shortbus permalink
    October 12, 2009 10:18 pm

    Would love to have a glimpse of this tournament also, but lets add a rule in there that says, “If your club is in massive debt like Man U or Liverpool or most of the other “Super teams” your exempt from playing in it” you know, like a debt/revenue ratio of like 10%

    • October 13, 2009 9:52 am

      well the ratio system is a smokescreen really. United operating profit to outgoings is about 9%, whereas Liverpool’s is around 28%. However United still carry the larger debt. United’s wage to earnings ratio is less that 50% whereas Chelsea’s is 88%.

      Its all about the structure of the debt. All business’ carry some sort of debt. I have no idea why people are up in arms about the issue. The Glazers loan is actually well structured and it would take United to be relegated sometime in the next ten year to stop that debt being serviced…they have also invested about £400m of their own cash which is no small commitment…same for Arsenal who stumped up a £350m loan for Ashburton Grove to be built. If the profits are sound, then a business will always borrow to further its ambitions. However, if you are Leeds Utd..borrow an extortionate amount to buy players with no operating profit, then you are going to go to the wall..simple economics.

  4. Jim permalink
    October 13, 2009 12:40 am

    Great post! I think this is something that is certainly going to happen as long as the debt bombs the big European clubs carry don’t explode on them. What about the effect of travel on the clubs? It’s one thing to travel for Champion or Europa league games over set periods of time during the schedule, but what about week after week and game after game over 8 mohts? This type of travel wears on teams that have to travel back and forth across the US with MLS and NFL matches.

    All of these clubs have it pretty sweet now in that they have their top one, two, three or four spots to qualify and can play against inferior competition year after year to keep that place. In order to make the jump to a new super league, you would have to provide the incentive of higher revenue streams and guarantee that there would not be regulation. Otherwise why take the risk?

    • October 13, 2009 10:00 am

      good point Jim

      however, travelling around Europe is not a problem, the Champions League has shown that. United travel everywhere by plane for Prem games, or they have a chartered train that takes them to cities. As we know it can take as long to get from Manchester to London, as it does to get to Spain or time and fatigue are not an issue.

      If the teams break away from UEFA they will be able to negotiate a tv deal that dwarfs what they get from the Champions league. Teams like United make about £30m from winning a Champions League, and the same again from winning the Prem. With sponsorship and worldwide tv deals they would probably pocket about £100m before a ball is kicked, so there is no risk whatsoever when you add that up with any prize money and merchandising revenues they could potentially make as well

  5. Rite$h permalink
    October 13, 2009 11:26 am

    Great post Rob, and I vote for such a thing to happen (sooner the better). But still Jim does have a point about the travel, fatigue is a big problem when teams have to travel to play games

    • October 13, 2009 11:29 am

      fatigue is used as an excuse. The big clubs have squad sizes big enough to cope. London to Moscow is only about 4.5 hours. This is the very furthest youd have to travel, unless you were drawn against a team like Tel Aviv.

  6. October 13, 2009 3:50 pm

    Actually I just realised one thing the ESL could have an effect on FIFA events like the World Cup. If the ESL was formed, and none of the FAs recognize it, their players could be barred from participating for their country! And although money talks, there are genuinely some players who would be very proud to be able to represent their country.

    If the ESL was formed today and the big four from England, Italy, Spain, etc all joined in and their players were banned from representing their countries, could you imagine the World Cup next year without the likes of Rooney, Gerrard, Torres, Buffon, Del Piero et al???

    Likewise, if the players are still interested in representing their country, they would seek a move to a club still under the FA, which then renders the ESL meaningless, as it would have lost all its stars!

    UEFA and the FAs may not be able to convince the clubs to not form the ESL, but they can certainly control the players!

    Oh and if someone from the FA is actually reading this, please give credit where its due. Thanks! =D

    • October 13, 2009 3:53 pm

      i think the players would say stick it to the World Cup

      It is an honour to play in it, but i think there is an increasing apathy from both fans and clubs when it comes to Internationals. Club football is where it is at. And its where the money is for the players. I couldnt see Wayne Rooney demanding a transfer back to Everton, just so he could kick a ball around in a white shirt

  7. October 13, 2009 7:48 pm

    interesting read and i sadly share your view that there is a certain inevitability to some kind of super league breakaway.

    however, you get close to a big downside in the comments when you discuss the burden of travel, but don’t quite get there….

    one of my biggest disappointments about sport in America, generally speaking, is the atmosphere at the games. i put this down to the lack of travelling support and that there is therefore no requirement for home and away segregation. the visiting support is largely restricted to implants and vacationers intermingled among the crowd. what you end up with for the most part are spectators rather than supporters. beer, hotdogs, occasionally shouting out “you suck!” *yawn*

    the clubs might be able to easily budget for flying around Europe, but the fans won’t and that will lead to the stadiums closer resembling what I’ve found in America and that will be a great shame.

    the beauty of European competition from the fans’ perspective right now is that it is something different and special that has been earned. if and when it becomes the norm and away games mostly means playing the other side of Europe the game will be dead for a lot of fans.

    • October 13, 2009 10:01 pm

      great point about fan travel

      i think what you will find for the English fan that the amount of money to follow your team home and away in every competition would cost thousands. It would get you to about 60 games in a season. One Euro league would be about 30 games. It wont be a problem for the English fans..they will still travel home and away. I know United fans that spend £5k a year at the moment for the full season plus travel…Utd and Liverpool always sell their allocations. The thought of these massive games rather than trips to Hull etc would guarentee fact i would be quite happy to pay a bigger fee for my season ticket to watch 15 or 16 home games against the best in Europe than what i pay at the monent to watch the 20 home games in the prem…quality not quantity. However, i think you are right for some of the other nations. You will find that on the mainland the away support is nothing like it is in the prem (please correct me if im wrong!) Having been to American Sports games i dont think football will become like that as the home support will always be vocal no matter what

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