Fans unite to oppose a new European Super League
Monday, 8th Feb 2021 10:09 by Tim Whelan
The idea of a European Super League has reared it’s ugly head once again, and UEFA’s ideas to head it off look nearly as bad. All these proposals will put more income in the hands of the richest clubs, at the expense of everybody else, and supporters groups across Europe have united to condemn them.
Plans for a new Super League, to replace the current Champions League were revealed Last week, and according to the Times, the main movers behind it are Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan. It would be divided into two groups of 10 with knock-out stages to follow, so the clubs would play between 18 and 23 matches a season, and they would still compete in their domestic leagues.
But unlike the current Champions League, when you qualify on merit, this would have 15 permanent founder members, and they would receive greater financial reward than the five annual qualifiers who would make up the numbers. A document making the case for the proposal highlights that the huge revenues for these clubs will help them offset losses they’ve suffered through Covid, but it’s not as if they’re the only ones affected by the pandemic.
It is believed the 15 founder members would include six from England — likely to be Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur — plus three from Spain, three from Italy, two from Germany and one from France (presumably PSG). So when Leeds are making plans to reach the top four in the next few years and qualify under the current system, we would see the drawbridge pulled up in front of us just as we get there.
In response to this power grab, UEFA are now trying to head off the breakaway with their own proposals for a revamped Champions League competition from 2024 onwards. But these will also mean more European fixtures for the top clubs and therefore affect everyone else, just to a slightly lesser extent.
The current group phase would be replaced with one big league, with each team plays 10 matches in a so-called 'Swiss system'. That where from the second round of matches onwards, teams would meet other teams with a similar record so far, so in theory the best two teams will meet in the final week. It’s explained in more detail here .
But where would the extra four games in the autumn be fitted in? It would probably mean that the Carabao Cup would either be abolished, or it would be limited to clubs not playing in Europe. The Daily Telegraph have claimed that six English teams would qualify under the new format, but two of them would be there via their UEFA ranking from previous tournaments rather than the previous season’s Premier League.
It may be that the biggest clubs wanted something like this all along and that the breakaway proposal was only a ruse to force UEFA to revamp the official tournament in their favour, to give them more guaranteed games against each other. Previous expansions of the group stages of the Champions League and increases in the numbers from the biggest countries have come after similar super league threats.
The Premier League have met to discuss UEFA’s proposals, but have yet to announce a decision as to whether they support them. But supporters groups have been a lot less reticent, and more than 200 fan groups from across the continent have put their name to a statement put out by the umbrella group ‘Football Supporters Europe’, opposing both the Super League idea and UEFA’s plan to appease the big clubs.
The statement said “We are all united in our opposition to the creation of a European Super League—an unpopular, illegitimate, and dangerous scheme in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of fans. A Super League would make European football more unequal, less competitive, and, ultimately, unsustainable. While reform is needed, it should not come in the shape of an ultimatum from wealthy clubs seeking to benefit from an unprecedented public health crisis.”
“The reasoning behind a closed breakaway league is simple: it allows big clubs to succeed off the pitch even when they fail on it. It would further undercut domestic competitions, exacerbating existing inequalities within and between leagues, by adding more European games to an already congested calendar and giving the wealthiest clubs an even bigger advantage through increased revenue. This approach is profoundly unjust and counterproductive.”
“We will also closely monitor all attempts to change the existing format of European club competitions, and will further oppose any attempts to impose a Super League by the back door”. You can read the full Football Supporters Europe statement here .
And let’s hope that somebody at the highest levels of UEFA takes note, because there is no doubt that both these proposals would indeed be highly damaging to the game we love.
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