What Happened to Europe’s Soccer Super League?
The long-discussed, hastily-arranged, belatedly announced, much ridiculed and quickly abandoned 48-hour history of the European Football Super League was short in chapters but long in drama.
The battle for control of football’s billion-dollar economy – a fight that Rory Smith of the New York Times on Friday called the Sunday-to-Tuesday war – began with rumors of a successful new league, then broke into broad daylight talking about lies. , deceptions and betrayals; provoked street demonstrations in several countries; and produced threats of official government action and sporting excommunication in many others.
And then it all ended, just two days after the news broke, with a cascade of humiliating setbacks from half of its member clubs.
If you weren’t careful, you were missing quite a bit. Here’s a recap.
The idea of a superleague of the best European football teams had been discussed for decades, but never with the details and concrete plans that emerged on Sunday morning.
After months of secret talks, the separatist teams – which included some of the biggest, richest and best-known teams in world sport – have confirmed they are forming a new league, detached from football’s century-old league systems and of the continental organizational structure. They said the football economy was no longer working for them and their new project would create a rain of wealth that would reach all levels of the game.
European officials, national leagues and clubs left out – not to mention fans, who felt greed as the main motivation – have backed down.
The league they agreed to form – an alliance of the best clubs closer in concept to closed leagues like the NFL and NBA than the current model of football – would result in the most significant restructuring of elite European football since the 1980s. 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small group of teams in modern sports history.
Learn more about Tariq Panja, who broke the news.
Rory Smith noted not only what football would lose with big club play, but also why fans (and sponsors, TV broadcasters and media) were partly responsible for making the idea a reality.
And this is where those who hope to profit from closing the door, setting the rules of engagement, can’t take all the blame. Many who have spent Sunday spitting fury against the greed of the conspirators have been complicit, over the past 30 years or so, in making this – or something very similar to it – the only possible conclusion.
This is the case with the Premier League, which offered cash to anyone who could afford to buy a club, which took great pride in its ‘ownership neutral’ approach, which has never stopped wondering if this was good for the game. This is the case of the Spanish authorities, who have made it clear that the rules do not really apply to Real Madrid or Barcelona.
This is true, perhaps above all, of UEFA, which has enriched itself with the earnings of the Champions League, by bending to the demands of its most powerful clubs, by giving more and more power just to maintain the show. the road. That’s true, even, for the rest of us in the grip of football – the news media and commentators and fans – who celebrated the multi-million dollar transfers and massive TV deals and the conspicuous consumption of money and did not stop to ask where everything would go.
The fight begins
Monday morning, the battle to stop the Super League was launched. Governments and heads of state weighed in. FIFA too, which often sees itself as an independent nation. Secret information was shared, frantic phone calls were made and cries of “Judas!” And other slurs, such as “snakes” and “liars” added to the tension.
At the first light of day, the fight was on. In a letter written by the separatist teams, they warned football authorities that they had taken legal action to prevent any attempt to block their project.
Hours later, Aleksander Ceferin, chairman of European football’s governing body, UEFA, used his first public appearance to denounce the group behind the plan and vowed to take tough action if it did not turn the tide. He raised the possibility of excluding players from participating teams from events such as the World Cup and other tournaments, and threatened to ban rebel clubs from their domestic leagues. Sunday’s announcement, he said, amounted to “spitting in the face of football fans.”
Wait: What is a Super League?
Still don’t know what the Super League was? We can catch up to you very quickly here.
The tide is turning
With leading players, respected coachesWith ordinary supporters, sponsors and TV channels adding their voices to the opposition, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has been persuaded to remove the greatest threat from the arsenal of those fighting for the status quo: in a speech delivered at the European Football Governing Body Congress, he reiterated FIFA’s threat to ban any player who has participated in an outdoor World Cup competition:
“If some choose to go their own way, they have to live with the consequences of their choice, they are responsible for their choice,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a speech to European football leaders at their meeting. congress in Montreux, Switzerland. . “Concretely, that means, either you are in or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out. It must be absolutely clear.
Tuesday was a blur. First whispers, then street demonstrations, then news: Manchester City was out. Chelsea were looking for ways to get out of their contract. Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United are gone. Liverpool followed.
Forty-eight hours after the start, it was all over.
The denouement was a stunning implosion for a multibillion-dollar proposal that had sparked howls of indignation from almost every corner of the sport since its announcement on Sunday, and the culmination of a frenzied 48 hours of argument, threats and dissent ‘intrigues at the highest level. of world football.
what were they thinking?
How, Rory Smith asked, could the founders have been so blind? How had they not seen this coming? Where were the people who supported this idea? And do we have to take their threats seriously again?
On Monday, less than a day after the start of their new world, they had lost governments and they had lost the European Union. Shortly after, they lost the TV channels which, in the end, should have paid for the whole thing.
Then they lost the players and the managers, the stars of the series that they hoped to sell all over the world to grow further in the profits: first Ander Herrera and James Milner and Pep Guardiola and Luke Shaw then, in a question of hours, dozens more, whole Teams of players, breaking the blanket and stepping out against the plane.
On Tuesday, there was hardly anyone they hadn’t lost. they had lost Eric Cantona. They had lost the Royal family. They had even lost the luxury watchmakers, and without the luxury watchmakers there was only themselves to lose.
The tick tock
The story, reported in detail by Tariq Panja, was even richer, however. How Barcelona tipped everyone’s hand. How Paris St.-Germain and Bayern – after receiving offers to join – turned the league down and instead helped kill it. How an olive branch in a speech in Switzerland allowed English clubs to get by.
The full, definitive story reads like a movie thriller:
Still, the drum of rumors continued, and Ceferin felt he had to be sure. As he slipped into the front seat of his Audi Q8 on Saturday to begin the eight-hour drive from his home in Ljubljana to his office in Switzerland, he decided to get to the bottom of it. He called Agnelli. His friend did not pick up.
Ceferin – the godfather of Agnelli’s youngest child – texted the Italian’s wife and asked if she could ask the Juventus president to call her urgently. He had three hours of travel when his cell phone rang. Casually, Agnelli reassured Ceferin once again that all was well.
Ceferin suggested they issue a joint statement that would put the issue to rest. Agnelli accepted. Ceferin wrote a statement from the car and sent it to Agnelli. An hour later, Agnelli asked for time to send back an amended version. Hours passed. The men exchanged more calls. Eventually, the Italian told Ceferin he needed another 30 minutes.
And then Agnelli turned off his phone.
Friday, even the bankers apologized. But football’s problems were not over.
The plan drawn up by Europe’s elite clubs was wrong on almost every level, but its architects are right about one thing: the football economy, as it is, does not work.
Now let’s go. It is possible that by the end of this weekend, as Manchester City or Tottenham celebrate their League Cup victory, Bayern Munich are getting closer and closer to yet another Bundesliga title, as Inter Milan are getting closer to a Serie A crown, it will all feel like a feverish dream. On the surface, it will be behind us. The insurrection will have been defeated, condemned to the past. Everything will go back to normal.
But that’s an illusion, because although the Super League has never had the opportunity to play a game – they barely had time to build a website – it can still prove to be the catalyst for salvation. soccer. It has, after all, stripped the elite of their influence. They played their cards and everything turned into a bluff. Now, for the first time in years, the power lies in the collective strength of the little lights in the game.
They will have to use it.
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