AND SO, the Super League project becomes a grander plan that will involve 60-80 clubs with 14 games. By conventional standards, that means 10 divisions of eight, home and away. Eighty clubs selected through meritocracy rather than sheer elitism. A scheme that could easily be wiped away by a bold restructuring of UEFA club competitions and domestic structures, which might have been the rationale for the revolution that will absolutely be televised.
There’s clearly a number of factors driving the urge for change, including: the need for more revenue to fund increasingly expensive teams; the fear of further imbalancing of European football that will erode the position of the big Spanish and Italian clubs in favour of the Premier League; and greater control for the big clubs.
It’s no surprise they fear the Premier League and the prospect of being consigned to feeder status to the English league across continental Europe. The spending behaviour of the league in 2023 so far has sent shudders through the grandees of La Liga, Serie A and other leagues. In January, the net spend of the Premier was £ 815 million, four times the total of the other main leagues combined.
Admittedly, this was exaggerated by the kid-in-a-sweetshop spending of Chelsea’s owners, but as the walls close in on the global economy, the Premier almost seems somehow immune from financial pressure. The revenues of the Premier total £ 6.3 billion, a tenfold increase on 1997. No other league has grown its income as much, the closest was the Bundesliga, which has risen from £ 393 million to £ 3.2 billion in that timeframe. But there’s a feeling the Premier League is pulling away from the rest, just consider the average annual wage of the Premier which comes in at £ 3.72 million compared to La Liga’s £ 1.86 million and Serie A and Bundesliga’s £ 1.59 million. If the current trajectory continues, every top player in the world will be playing for England’s top six – and a few more – clubs.
The new proposal of a multi-division model hints at possible fixture congestion for clubs who will have to balance European and domestic commitments. With the main leagues averaging 20 clubs, a 14-game programme (at the least) will mean the likes of Arsenal, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain as well as Monaco, Villareal and Atalanta will have 52 games before they even start to think about cup competitions or the inevitable TV showpiece play-offs in Europe. The truth is, a European-wide project is worthless without provisioning for domestic competitions, any attempt to disrupt has to be far more collaborative than the workings of a PR company.
The latest attempt comes with a checklist of the sort of things one would expect from a contemporary restructuring plan that meets most, if not all, modern day requirements: sustainability, player health, transparency, fan experience and women’s football. This could have come from UEFA as much as any independent body.
This whole episode has been so predictable in many ways. Firstly, no governing body is going to welcome attempts to undermine its position, especially when it seems to be designed to benefit the few. Secondly, the initial attempt was less than half-baked, sending the perpetrators away a little red-faced; finally, the second release, which has more credibility, is still “attacking” the position of the governing body. A European Super league may well be the natural evolution of the UEFA Champions League, but it needs to be aligned to domestic league transformation. And in case we didn’t know it, very little of this has anything to do with football the game, it is all about football, the business.
How it could look…
|Real Madrid||Manchester United||Marseille||Bayer Leverkusen||RB Salzburg|
|Manchester City||Chelsea||RB Leipzig||Sporting Lisbon||West Ham United|
|AC Milan||Juventus||Ajax||Everton||Dinamo Zagreb|
|Bayern Munich||Atlético Madrid||Benfica||Leicester City||FC Copenhagen|
|Paris Saint-Germain||Borussia Dortmund||Sevilla||Feyenoord||Viktoria Plzn|
|Liverpool||Napoli||Porto||Shakhtar Donetsk||Young Boys Bern|