The Not So Super League

The Super League would destroy what makes the Beautiful Game so beautiful.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Sophia Li

Imagine the streets of the small city of Burnley, Lancashire, nearly empty as supporters turn out to Turf Moor to cheer on Burnley F.C. in the Premier League. Famous teams the likes of Chelsea F.C., Liverpool F.C., and other consistently well-performing clubs come in and out of Burnley, boosting economic growth in the small city and bolstering a sense of community among the Burnley F.C. fans, hoping for a breakthrough in which Burnley may succeed in the Premier League. Turf Moor erupts in excitement every time Burnley faces the top teams of England, the entire city focusing on the match.

Now imagine Burnley’s stadium empty for months after the COVID-19 shutdown and only loyal supporters watching their team play against other smaller clubs around England as the top teams transition to a novel Super League. The fire of an ecstatic atmosphere around matches has been blown out, and the economic boost through team merchandise, broadcasting, food services, and more has died down as the big name clubs no longer pass through the city. Such is the threat of the creation of a Super League for the professional soccer clubs of small cities like Burnley.

The idea of a Super League, a continental tournament in which the top teams from Europe’s domestic leagues play against each other in an exclusive competition comparable to the UEFA Champions League, has long been floating around in the soccer world. Recently, the idea took one step closer to becoming reality. Real Madrid, Liverpool, Juventus, and Manchester United extended an offer for F.C. Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Inter Milan, A.C. Milan, Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Chelsea to join the league, creating the 12 founding clubs. The leaders of the project, Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez, who would be chairman of the league; Liverpool president John W. Henry; Manchester United president Joel Glazer; Arsenal president Stan Kroenke; and Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, all had hopes that three more top teams like Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Borussia Dortmund would join the league as well. The league was intended to have 20 teams in total, so five more clubs would be selected to join.

Ideally, the 20 teams in the league would split in half in two separate divisions and play until the end of a regular season, when the top four clubs from each division would play in a knockout round. The structure of the league is somewhat similar to the Champions League, except the league would only include predetermined top-performing teams right off the bat.

The announcement that club presidents would be going forward with the Super League plan quickly shocked the soccer world into protest and criticism, both online and in person. Stadiums across Europe were crowded with fans putting up posters and signs against the Super League with messages like “Give us our Arsenal back,” “MUFC / We adored you, and you sold our souls / RIP MUFC 1878-2021,” and “Created by the poor, stolen by the rich.”

Such global outrage was understandable. The Super League would severely disrupt the financial aspects of soccer, a major economic sector, especially for European nations. The top teams that join the Super League would no longer play in the Champions League as the schedules would interfere, and there is no guarantee that the clubs would continue to play in their domestic leagues.

The Super League would solidify a rigid and virtually unmovable hierarchy among European clubs. How can a smaller club join the competition with the famous teams of Europe if they’re already separated in an exclusive, rich league? How can the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Super League define a top-performing team? It is especially concerning that some clubs have signed contracts binding them for up to 23 years in the new league, establishing that current top-performing teams will remain dominant for over two decades. The new tournament would entirely eliminate teams’ mobility in leagues, one of the many beauties of soccer, as there would be no more chances for the underdog to defeat top teams. Lesser known teams occasionally defeat famous clubs, as seen in the 2019 Champions League Real Madrid vs. Ajax matchup, in which Ajax knocked out Real Madrid from the tournament. Even outside of large European competitions, matches like the 7-2 upset last year in which Aston Villa defeated the defending champion, Liverpool, are what makes soccer always exciting to watch.

Of course, top clubs in Spain and Italy like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, and others would prefer to join a Super League. The main factor in the creation of the league is solely financial. The English Premier League (EPL) has taken the main stage in European soccer, and top clubs from other nations cannot financially compete with the English clubs that make more money from the EPL than they do from European soccer. The Super League would give non-English clubs a level playing field financially and take away the international focus from the EPL and toward the Super League. Smaller clubs, on the other hand, would lose the flow of money from domestic leagues as the money surrounding top clubs would be transferred to the Super League. Is the financial benefit for top clubs worth the major detriment to smaller European clubs?

The presidents of the major European clubs have made a selfish misstep in attempting to follow through with the Super League plan. COVID-19 did take a toll, and these leading figures lost millions from the pandemic, but that loss does not justify a move that would potentially dig small clubs that also suffered from lockdowns into the dirt. Luckily, the Super League was suspended within the week it was announced as the “Big Six” of the EPL backed out of the agreement due to extreme backlash. Neglecting smaller underdog clubs and only focusing on finances, the Super League would destroy what makes the Beautiful Game so beautiful.