With the soccer world flooded with news stories about the European Super League, we want to help you understand who the main characters are in this soap opera. We also tackle questions like “Why is the Super League controversial?” and “What would a Super League mean for the Premier League”?
Updated April 21: This post didn’t age well! It looks like the Super League idea is dead, at least for now. The information below is still a good introduction to the key players.
What is the European Super League?
On the pitch, think of the Super League as a mostly permanent Champions League, with all the biggest clubs in Europe never getting relegated and a few swapping in and out via promotion and relegation each year. They would play midweek, just like the Champions League and Europa League do now, and in fact would directly compete with those on television — if they survive.
European Super League teams would be split into two divisions of 10 each, so 18 home-and-away games, followed by playoffs and a title game at a neutral site, which we assume would be one of the home grounds of a Super League club — the U.S.’ NFL Super Bowl model, more or less.
Off the pitch, think of the European Super League as the biggest European clubs telling the rest of the world, and mainly the European governing body UEFA, “F— you, we’re done answering to you, we’re going our own way, and you can’t stop us, but we will give you some of the money.”
Are Were in the European Super League?
Our bottom line (see below) is that something like a European Super League not only will happen in some form, but that in effect it already exists. Just look at the list of clubs in the European Super League, and then we’ll ask you two questions about them.
First question(s): When was the last time somebody not on that list won the Champions League, or even made the semifinals? How many years have virtually the entire quarterfinals been drawn from that list? So … is the Champions League not already in essence a closed league?
Second question(s): Two of those teams are playing each other on television, in any league, at any time: You’re going to watch, aren’t you? No matter what other game is on, right? Along these lines, if you want an example of a powerful few telling the masses to f— off so they can have almost all the TV money, look no farther than the Premier League, founded in 1992. And you watch that all the time.
A Who’s Who of the European Super League Controversy
Here is our attempt to introduce you to the cast of characters involved in this saga. This way, whenever you hear or read something from one of these parties, you can keep their role in mind.
The Worldwide Pool of Money, aka Wall Street or hedge funds, or whatever, who supply the money. Think of them as drug cartels. They pretty much always get what they want; the rest of us are just tools to them. Note that Juventus’s stock price jumped Monday morning on the Super League news.
The TV Networks can be thought of as the drug dealers of the story, handing out all the money the big clubs and leagues can’t get enough of. They also basically get whatever they want, and they care as much about fairness, competition, tradition and the supporters as their drug overlords do. To refute this, simply explain to me how Tottenham Hotspur or Atletico Madrid qualify for a permanent European league.
The European Super League Teams, whom we’ll just call the Big European Clubs. They can be thought of as the biggest addicts. Addicts always want a higher high; these clubs want money and power, and they know it is them the world wants to see. They want to break free of their home countries and governing bodies (see below). They get their money fix from the TV networks, and they want to squeeze more power from …
The Domestic Leagues, who of course are also drug addicts in this story, and who benefit greatly from having these clubs in their leagues. Despite their protestations of late regarding fairness and the supporters, they regularly screw over supporters and smaller clubs, because they know where their bread is buttered. Think of the Premier League when it changes game days a few weeks out for television, for example. They are also addicted to that TV money, which is why their talk of kicking the big clubs out of their leagues — you know, because of “integrity” — is laughable. Crucially, they share that TV money with …
The Smaller Clubs Not on That List, which is to say, the rest of Europe. These clubs also get some of the money, but less and less the farther you go down the domestic pyramids. The Big Clubs essentially do this to buy off the small clubs and the domestic leagues; that’s why all the European Super League press releases reference spreading the money around. This is also how they get leverage to use for more power. I mean, who wants to rock the money boat when everyone is in it?
The Big European Clubs Not (Currently) in the European Super League. Here, we mean PSG, Bayern Munich and Dortmund. The German clubs are majority-owned by the supporters, so for now anyway, they are making all the right noises about the soul of the game. The Super League teams were banking that the German clubs would cave if and when the Super League teams make it clear they’re going ahead. What does Bayern Munich aim for if not winning Europe? And wouldn’t Dortmund go with them to chase the money and glory? For now, we don’t know if this is true or not.
PSG are an interesting case, because the people who own them — essentially Qatar — are among the leadership of UEFA (below,) and they own BeIn Sports, which broadcasts the Champions League. So they are in no hurry to piss on UEFA, but they would 10,000% be in a Super League, because what else does PSG exist for at this point? They basically win everything in France every year. Give them the TV contract and a spot in the league, and they will tell UEFA exactly what to do with their competitive integrity.
UEFA, the governing body of European Football, keepers of the cash cow that is the Champions League. They are now making a lot of noise about competitive integrity and the supporters, and they are right, but also they are protecting their cash cow against somebody who wants to slaughter it. You know what they call the Champions League without the Big Clubs? The Europa League. You know who watches the Europa League? Nobody. So always remember, when UEFA open their mouths, you’re hearing the desperate sound of self-preservation. Their talk of kicking the Super League players out of domestic competition and the UEFA European Championships has as much validity as the Premier League booting out Liverpool; it was just a (successful) bargaining ploy to get the players on their side. UEFA has repeatedly reformed the Champions League, as recently as this week, to give the big clubs more more and power, to keep them reined in, because the Super League is, crucially, outside of UEFA, as well as outside of …
FIFA, the crime lords who “govern” world football, and whose addiction to power and money is legendary. Their cash cow is the World Cup, so when you hear them say they will ban Super League players from the World Cup, it’s even funnier than most of the usual nonsense FIFA spouts. Their approval is 100% for sale; just ask Qatar about the 2022 World Cup, which FIFA sold to them and then dropped in the middle of the European league season. Fuck FIFA.
The Media, whose hypocrisy here is staggering. They talk about England’s “big six” 98% of the time, then turn around and call them greedy. The media are just as much money addicts in this story as anyone else. They are also addicted to the drama, and they love being sanctimonious, so they’re doing fine right now.
The Fans. Remember them? To all of the above parties, they are either decoration for the stadiums — although all this money is without question killing the atmosphere in the stadiums — or simply replaceable consumers. They are also props to be brought out like voters just before an election, fodder for some high-minded argument about fairness or the heart of the game, then put back into storage. After all, if you don’t want to go to the games anymore because of all this, somebody else would love your seat. There are always more “fans” out there.
The Players, whom even the fans take for granted! Early reactions from them sounded in some cases similar to fans who are pissed off, in others like employees who never hear news about the company they work for until it’s already public, and in others like mercenaries worried about their contracts. Or all three. Normally, you wouldn’t hear much from them (or managers) publicly besides platitudes about and for the fans, because after all, these players work for the clubs and want to play in the highest league they can. Bt the European Super League was so badly handled, they actually broke ranks very publicly.
And all the above parties know what the fans know in their heart of hearts: that if a European Super League kicks off, everyone will be watching, and everybody on this list except The Fans will be getting paid. More than ever before.
European Super League: What Will Happen?
Updated April 20: This specific idea is dead. It looks like a few of the clubs involved jumped the gun, despite getting concessions from UEFA on the Champions League, and some of the others got nervous in the face of the global backlash. We’ll leave our previous prediction below, as it still reflects what we think will happen someday, in some form.
We think the path forward is clear. These clubs will stick to their guns and launch their league within a couple of years. Who’s going to stop them? This will effectively turn the UEFA Champions League into a second-rate Europa League, and the actual Europa League will probably be killed off for real, along with the nascent UEFA Europa Conference League. UEFA will be reduced to running World Cup qualifying and the European Championships. No one will mourn the near death of UEFA.
The German clubs and PSG will sign on sooner rather than later, FIFA will come around (they have no choice and will have their hands out anyway), and the domestic leagues and associations, as well as the supporters and all the other players, will adjust to the new reality, since they can’t stop it. That reality will look a lot like the current one, with big European games midweek, the rest of the world on weekends, and truly remarkable amounts of money flowing around, mostly to the Big Clubs.
Does Would the European Super League Mean for the Premier League and England?
Perhaps not much, beyond some loss of television revenue. Man City and Chelsea and the rest will still be there, and during the week they will play in Europe — just like now. The Premier League will make some noise for a while about punishing them, but money talks, bullshit walks, and when the Premier League talks about anything other than money, it’s bullshit.
The Premier League might even drop a couple of teams, because going from the current 20 to 18 would mean four fewer games for each club, which frees up more midweek scheduling spots for the Super League.
What the Super League does mean is really bad news for the League Cup and FA Cup, which will be reduced in importance that much more. The League Cup, in particular, will probably either die off or go ahead without Premier League clubs — which may kill it, anyway. Will Championship clubs care about League Cup games if they don’t get to play Premier League clubs in them? There are other such competitions in England — the League Trophy is just for Leagues One and Two, for example — but nobody watches them. And anyway, the Football Association, currently crowing about integrity, let Premier League clubs put U-23 teams in it, which led to supporter boycotts, which led to … nothing.
The Bottom Line: Get Used to the European Super League … Someday
Because it’s happening, nobody can stop it, everyone will watch it, the world will adjust, and we all know it’s all true.