“Today I can announce something that will change in an extraordinary way the future revenue of the Club for the years to come.
“The Board of Directors have approved the acceptance of requirements to take in a future European Superleague of clubs, a project put forward by the biggest clubs in Europe.
“The details of these requirements will be made available to the next Board, and the decision about participation in this competition shall have to be ratified by the next Assembly of Delegate Members.”
Outgoing Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu in his resignation speech last week. Barcelona’s entire board resigned along with Bartomeu, who said he was stepping down to spare the club’s tens of thousands of members from having to vote in a referendum on his leadership during the pandemic (NY Times).
So was he making shit up for the fun of it on the way out? Was he speaking the truth? Or was he adding mayo to an evolving story? Your guess is as good as mine.
Let’s round off this topic for the year with a brief Q&A, some of the questions from you the honest, loyal reader, and some questions posed by Gab Marcotti, esteemed football journo for ESPN and The Times in London (unless something ‘actually’ momentous happens in the summer, and you’ll be needing an Emergency Column from us again).
This won’t work without finance up front, clubs coming out about it and FIFA backing it right?
Finance, easy, clubs are staying mum until its time, and FIFA backing it, sure, haven’t said yes yet but haven’t said no – all three really possible and viable
Is it a domestic breakaway or a Champs League replacement?
Two ways of doing it, there’s my Sensible approach, then there’s the full Nuclear bomb. And lets use Liverpool as an example with each. Sensible, Liverpool plays in the EPL still, no change, they play FA Cup and League Cup, but, no matter their league finish they don’t qualify for Champions League or Europa League because they have their European Premier League games midweek, against the other big clubs who abandoned the Champions League too. So instead of playing maybe 10-13 Champions League games a season, they play 15 European Premier League games.
Full Nuclear option – Liverpool leaves everything and just plays a European Premier League on weekends. 30 games per season against the other good teams, on weekends, and maybe there’ll be a knockout finals-series at the end to award a winner. But no EPL, no FA Cup, no League Cup, a full an utter split from everything they do now.
Why would it be a closed league, and no promotion/relegation?
Juventus, Man Utd, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich are clubs who don’t worry about relegation anyway. Sure, there’s no jeopardy, there’s no hanging risk if you come last you’re out of this Super League, but right now there isn’t anyway for being relegated in their domestic leagues, or not qualifying for the Champions League, they aren’t now, nor feel, ‘at risk’. For example if you checked today there would be no such contingency plan in the PSG offices for if they get relegated from Ligue 1. Juventus got relegated from Serie A, for cheating, they got promoted back into it, and how’s that gone for them since? These clubs think they are more suited to an NBA/NFL style comp, and given how fair it is with those guys against the rest of European football right now, be it in their leagues or making the knockout of the Champions League, its not right that its true, but it is true.
There’ll only be one winner, how’s that going to work and satisfy everyone?
There’s only one winner of the Champions League right now, so tit for tat. No-one cares that Bayern won another Bundesliga, the fact they keep winning them is losing the gloss off that accomplishment with each passing year. But by breaking away from the Champions League, so taking my Sensible approach idea, it locks them in to the best comp every year, no need to worry about qualification, they all make a tonne more money, the stakes are higher but like the status quo they’re all still playing for top spot. Sure, whoever comes last the first year looks a bit dumb, but someone good right now has to be knocked out of the Champions League at the round of 16, worst still, some clubs because of the way qualification works don’t even make the group stages. So this is much the same, but better.
If you keep finishing tenth each year in the Super League, that’s not good though is it?
Well you’d be losing in the quarter finals or round of 16 each year in the current Champions League format, so you’re no worse off, but hopefully with the better finances you’re a much better chance to improve on that with the right people and strategy than being stuck as perennial quarter final failures as its structured now.
Teams just from the big five leagues makes no sense, if you’re doing it properly you have teams in Berlin, Moscow, and not double ups in say Manchester, Madrid or Milan right?
Start with the biggest 16 brands, it attracts the eyeballs, money and interest. Man Utd and Man City combined yield as much brand and commercial power as any other club. Why sacrifice a Milan club for a ‘startup’ in Berlin or by picking one of the existing Moscow clubs. But, like the NBA and NFL, just because you start with this 16, doesn’t mean you end up with the same 100 years from now. The NBA started with the Lakers in Minneapolis. They moved, worked out pretty well.
So does that mean one day Atletico Madrid moves, like a franchise, to Berlin? No. But if lets say, in a really awful and fucked up way its consensus that you don’t need Tottenham anymore, they suck and its bringing everyone down, and there’s scope to say ‘hey, Zenit St Petersburg, they tick the boxes, they are well backed and would be better in our league than Tottenham’, then sure, you vote someone out and someone in.
But I’d like to think there’s a reason why Hertha Berlin suck, yet both of the Milan clubs are global powerhouses. So sure, ideally, maybe there should be a Stockholm team, maybe Ajax is ‘big enough’, but for now, if you want to maximise interest, you need the existing 16 clubs which carry the most to generate that.
You don’t need Moscow to make money, no-one watches Liverpool-Tottenham two years ago and wonders how we didn’t have an Athens team making the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Can the Sensible approach or the Nuclear approach work?
For me, both work, but the Sensible approach is better because its an easier transition to it. Nuclear would create so much destruction along the way it would just cause way too much damage; it’d be counterproductive and counter intuitive. Sensible approach, far less impactful, it gives the big clubs what they want, it doesn’t impact domestic leagues at all, and the only downfall is the Champions League looks more like the Europa League. So what.
Does it happen, if so how soon, and do you think it’s a good idea?
I think it does happen to some degree, because the big clubs have wanted it for years and now with Covid their cash is drying up and the game’s super vulnerable. Given their wallets’ getting real thin and the opportunity to go will never be met with less force, the time is kinda now. Is it a good idea though? For the first few years at least, hell yes, Juventus vs. Real Madrid every year, guaranteed, immense. But, imagine if the Olympics was every year, or in the rugby league they played NSW vs. QLD each weekend. Could lose gloss pretty soon.
And ultimately, the issue here isn’t the Super League, its why we have Spanish league where literally only three teams can win it, or why no matter what PSG is the only French club who could win the Champions League, or why Leicester was such a ‘miracle’. European football should be far more sporting than it is, and if we fixed that, you wouldn’t even need to consider a Super League as a band aid.