THE EUROPEAN Super League concept is controversial whichever way you look at it, but if a structure was implemented that could be aspirational and integrated, would the rest of football be so severely disadvantaged?
Most of the 12 initial advocates (six from England, three apiece from Italy and Spain) have dominated domestic football in their respective countries for generations, with the exception of Tottenham in England. You could argue that clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City are Johnny-come-latelies to the trophy-lifting game, but the super league is, to some extent, a symptom of the way football has evolved in modern times.
Whether we like it or not, clubs owned by wealthy owners is the model for multinational football. Those that have that model are succeeding, those that don’t yearn for it. What needs acknowledging is the fact this model is not going to disappear voluntarily. In another decade, there may have been another sea change and clubs like Newcastle United may have joined the elite.
Since 1946-47, the Super League 12 have won 79% of their domestic league titles – that’s an astonishing figure. If anyone thought that one or two-club domination is a new phenomenum are wrong, it has merely got more polarised. And let’s be frank, the wealthy have invariably risen to the top.
Furthermore, over the past decade, the big six clubs in England have won 85% of domestic honours, while in Spain, the big three have secured 90%. In Italy, 75% of prizes have gone to Juventus and Inter Milan.
What does this confirm? That most clubs do not have a cat in hell’s chance of winning a trophy. They have to be content with little victories and survival. So, by removing the elite clubs from domestic football, wouldn’t the rank and file have a better chance to win something? Could it not create a more competitive environment?
The elite clubs are generally unpopular with the rest of the league, largely due to envious opponents who resent their wealth, influence and power. On that basis, having them out of the way would surely please some people. But if football was just about football the game, then this would be a legitimate argument, but what’s driving much of the angst is the legitimate fear a super league would redirect money from stakeholders like broadcasters and major sponsors towards a glamorous product and dilute the attractiveness of those left behind.
Conversely, there is the possibility that without behemoths like Real and Barca, clubs of size and support such as Sevilla, Valencia and Real Betis could rise to the top and become a new generation elite? The more clubs of substance there are, the stronger a league can become.
Human nature tells us that change is not easily accepted. The clubs fear the loss of giants they know will always consign them in the role of also-rans and would rather tolerate the status quo than risk a new structure. The clubs “know their place”, even though that “place” could possibly be improved as a result of change.
This comes at a time when Bayern Munich have won the Bundesliga for nine consecutive years, Juventus recently saw a similar period come to an end in Italy. Likewise, Paris Saint-Germain have won the French title in seven out of the last nine seasons. The 2020-21 campaign did see something of a changing of the guard, with Atlético Madrid, Lille and Inter winning their league championships, but area these scenarios signs of healthy competition?
If we did but know it, there are two Super Leagues already in existence, the Premier League and the Champions League. Just consider the way the last 16 is shaping-up in the latter, with. Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Manchester City already qualified and Atlético, Inter Milan, Barcelona and Juventus possibly following. The super league 12 have provided eight of the last 10 Champions League finalists, the only other clubs to reach the final in that timeframe were Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain in 2020.
Of course, none of this would work if a European league – removing the word super would help get the subject on the table – wasn’t part of a fluid system where riches could be shared. And it is doubtful if a Champions League could sit alongside it. There’s a long way to go and the story is far from over, but don’t for one moment think the subject will go away.