The Collapse of the European Super League

Florentino Perez –

David Prendeville

The last couple of months have arguably been the most tumultuous and turbulent in Premier League history. Outrage greeted the news that the league’s self-ascribed “big six” – Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, would break away, and with the top clubs in Spain and Italy form a ‘European Super-League’. The only clubs who rejected advances to join the league were Germany’s Bayern Munich and France’s Paris Saint Germain. 

While the founding members of the botched ESL did not themselves propose the Super League as an alternative to their respective domestic leagues, the governing bodies would inevitably have expelled them from said leagues for such a coup on the Champions League competition and UEFA itself. The aspect of the Super League that was most galling for supporters, and most appealing for these clubs’ owners, is the fact that it would essentially be a closed shop that would discard the notion of competition. The ‘founding clubs’ of the super league could never face the prospect of relegation and would remain in the competition forever. 

It was pleasing to see how swiftly these cowardly owners were put in their place and had to back down from these plans. Amid furious fan protests, Manchester City and Chelsea, were the first of the clubs to pull out, not even 48 hours after the plans had been announced. Arsenal, Manchester United and Spurs quickly followed suit. Apologies were dolled from owners to irate fans. AC Milan and Inter Milan in Serie A, and Atletico Madrid in La Liga soon followed the lead of the English clubs in withdrawing from the competition.
As it currently stands, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus are the only clubs who have yet to formally withdraw. Withdrawals won’t be forthcoming from that trio any time soon either. Barcelona are in financial disarray and are in desperate need of the guaranteed revenue streams a super league would offer them. Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid, who would have become the chairman of the ESL, has been angling for radical change to the structure of European football for some time and has surely spouted too much nonsensical defenses of the plans to now back down. Andrea Agnelli, Juventus chairman, has similarly been pushing in this direction for some time. He contends that it remains a “beautiful idea”.

The unrest and anger caused by the plans hasn’t been abated since it’s unravelling. In England there has continued to be mass protests at the grounds of the six Premier League clubs involved. The most notable of these protests was those which caused Manchester United’s home game against Liverpool on May 2nd to be cancelled. It will be interesting to see if these protests carry over into next season and if they can have any impact on getting rid of unwanted owners, a prospect that seems unlikely. Spotify founder Daniel Ek has already failed in a takeover attempt at Arsenal, with the deeply unpopular Stan Kroenke having no intention to sell.
There also remains the suspicion that this might not be the last we’ve heard of this super league fiasco, with Perez insisting it is not yet dead in the water. UEFA, have also, foolishly bowed to previous lobbying from the same clubs to change, from 2024 onwards, the Champions League format to that of the ‘Swiss model’, brainchild of none other than the aforementioned cartoon villain Agnelli. Under the new format, the group stage will be replaced by one large 36 team league. By the end of the tournament, it will have produced a hundred new games, and the finalists will have played at least seventeen matches, four more than under the current system. While the owners of the bigger clubs may relish the greater financial windfall this will incur, this new format has already garnered criticism from Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and İlkay Gündoğan.