The Super League implodes

Two days after its unveiling, the Super League was suspended.

In the face of intense opposition from politicians to pundits, and players and coaches, from even within their own clubs, the project was all but dead.

All six Premier League clubs -- Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea -- in the group of 12 founding members began the process of pulling out of the new league.

In a statement, Arsenal, owned by American Stan Kroenke, said, "We made a mistake, and we apologize for it." It went on to say that "it was never our intention to cause such distress" but it had accepted the invitation because "we did not want to be left behind to ensure we protected Arsenal and its future." Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy regretted "the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal."

The about-face followed protests on Monday before the Leeds United game against Liverpool and on Tuesday outside London's Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea was playing Brighton & Hove Albion.

"I was affected," said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, "so I think the players were affected. We talk of nothing else but Super League before the match. Nobody asked about the match before. It is like this. You have to accept the distraction."

Chelsea's situation goes to the essence of the difference between the proposed Super League and existing UEFA Champions League.

Instead of earning automatic qualification each year to the new competition, the Blues are fighting to qualify for next season's Champions League. They played to a 0-0 tie with lowly Brighton, dropping two valuable points in their fight with Leicester City, West Ham United and Liverpool for the last two berths. (It would be ironic is that "distraction" costs Chelsea a berth in next season's Champions League.)

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, two of the most respected men in soccer, both came out against the league their owners hatched.

"It is not fair," said Guardiola on Tuesday, "when one team fight, fight, fight, arrive at the top and cannot qualify because success is already guaranteed just for a few teams."

Klopp said he grew up as a player with the Champions League (and before that European Cup) and has always supported it.

"I like the competitive fact of football," he said before the Leeds game. "I like the fact West Ham might play CL football next year -- I don't want them, to be honest, because we might want to do that, but I like that they have the chance."

The other founding members of the Super League were Italy's Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan and Spain's Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

The most outspoken proponent of the project -- indeed, it's only frontman -- was Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, the chairman of the Super League who insisted the league's goal was to "save soccer in general," arguing that the sport needed to change to draw younger audiences. Whatever the fundamental issues soccer has, in big countries and small, Perez, the president of the biggest club in Europe, was not the person to make that case.

To abandon the Champions League was to spit on 56 years of tradition, dating back to the conception of the competition -- by the editors of the French sports daily L'Equipe -- at a meeting with European soccer leaders on April 2, 1955, at the Ambassador Hotel in Paris. It followed the debate about who was the best club in the world following the "floodlit friendlies" English club Wolves organized against top teams from the continent.

Real Madrid won the first edition of the "Coupe des clubs champions européens" -- a straight knockout competition involving 16 European club champions -- in 1956. It also won the next four -- the greatest achievement in the history of European soccer.

What began as a 16-team tournament is now a 96-team tournament with teams from 55 different countries playing over five preliminary rounds before it even gets to the group stage.

On Friday, UEFA agreed to expand the group stage from 32 to 36 teams as of 2024-25. In a nod to legacy teams, it will offer (with some restrictions) wild-card spots to the two teams with the best record in Europe over the previous five seasons not qualified directly for the Champions League.

The new format was negotiated by Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, the president of the European Club Association, a lobbying group for European clubs and a close friend of UEFA counterpart Aleksander Ceferin, who was stunned by the about-face of Agnelli and the other heads of the Super League 12.

“I was a criminal lawyer for 24 years," said Ceferin, who is Slovenian, "but I’ve never, ever, seen people like that."

He had his harshest words for Agnelli, whose daughter he is the godfather of.

“Andrea Agnelli is the biggest disappointment of all," he said. "I’ve never seen a person that would lie so many times, so persistently as he did. It’s unbelievable. We didn’t know we had snakes working close to us, but now we know."

13 comments about "The Super League implodes".
  1. R2 Dad, April 21, 2021 at 2:42 a.m.

    Bwahaha! All the greedy heads of the big, bankrupt clubs will have to cut costs--just like the rest of us! Woodward is out, and there will be more fallout before they're through.Will FIFA/ UEFA kick them while they're down like the EU did to the UK during Brexit?

  2. Chris Wasdyke replied, April 21, 2021 at 7:56 a.m.

    I think they should be barred from European competition for one year.  I think it's a fair punishment.

  3. frank schoon, April 21, 2021 at 8:58 a.m.

    This was a failed effort which reminds me of  economic 'globalists' to have corporations run the show like corporations would like to run countries like a world governments, in the near future. Sooner or later, we'll wake up and open our eyes to the positive aspects of 'Decentralization' again.

    These types have no 'heart for soccer'. Soccer is more than just kicking a ball, it has to do with culture, your town, your Country, your team, your family's history of involvement for a team. If anyone ever looks at one of those Netflix or Amazon movies about a particular team,especially in England, showing the day to day operations for example Leeds United, ManCity, United or some first or second division team. My American wife who never grew up with the game watches these soccer movies intently, not so much for the play seen on the field, but the emotions, the ups and downs, of the running of the team's organizations, the injuries that effects that possibly could effect relegation, the day to day involvement of the fans and those who work directly for the team. By watching one of these movies ,you'll notice the "heart", the emotions, the feelings of support, and day to day feeling of the fans for their club. Those clubs have become part of the city's or town's culture, and family history, all intertwined with support for their country. 

      Just look at what soccer has produced as far as a 'subculture' in the States in past 50years. Just think for a moment, if we didn't have soccer,  of all the connections, socially or otherwise, that you wouldn't have, the stories, the laughs, the accomplishments, the tears, the let downs, the friends you've made. There is so much that goes along with the Sport itself, that isn't measured by money but by pride, accomplishment, by culture and love for the game, which the Mexicans are a perfect example of this.......Soccer, produces different styles, due to culture of different countries. Some are more defensive or offensive oriented, but all are in the pursuit of trying to become the best.  

     Foreigner buyers, who have no connection to that culture and just want to bust up something that's been around for over a hundred years of tradition, just to make money. And these foreigners remind a little of those who run our hi-tech industry and don't understand, 'democracy and fair play' because of their foreing backround.  They miss the culture ,the real 'Americana' so to speak....

    These foreign investors have totally overlooked that soccer has become an organism which has created on it own so much more than just being a money maker ,which is just one little aspect of the total thing.

  4. Charles Callaghan replied, April 21, 2021 at 10:19 a.m.

    That is beautifully well said, Frank. What you just wrote should be seen by every club owner

  5. Sam Bellin replied, April 21, 2021 at 2:22 p.m.

    Great stuff Frank.  Soccer is indeed about the love, not the money.  Thanks for posting!

  6. frank schoon, April 21, 2021 at 11:14 a.m.

    Guys, listen what this English Arsenal fan stated, he's right on......

  7. beautiful game, April 21, 2021 at 11:53 a.m.

    JP Morgan, American and Internatonal oligarchs have joined hands around the throat of the traditional soccer culture. They are all in the name GREED.

  8. Frank Coffey, April 21, 2021 at 12:29 p.m.

    Seconded, Charles. Frank nailed it. 

  9. Ben Myers, April 21, 2021 at 1:15 p.m.

    None of these greedy owners and the equally greedy financial backer Chase ever looked at any  numbers except the ones with Euro and dollar signs.  They did not look at all the numbers hard enough either.

    So how would this work?  First, let's assume that members of the Super League are excluded from their domestic leagues, so they would only play matches among themselves.  With two 10-team divisions, the regular season woule be 18 matches.  The championship rounds, poorly defined, would add maybe a dozen more matches?  That adds up to 30, not enough to justify players' salaries, and, really and truly not enough playing time for the superstars.

    Now let's assume that the Super League teams also compete in their own domestic competitions and leagues.  Leaving aside national competitions similar to the FA Cup, squads would play anywhere from 34 matches in the Bundesliga to 38 in all of the rest, for a total of 64 to 68 matches per year.  No single player can withstand 68 matches per year plus national team callups, so the super teams would need to water down their rosters with quite a few less-than-super players to make the match workload more reasonable.  So we get bloated team payrolls and a serious dilution in the quality of play.

    No matter which fork in the road European soccer takes, the net result of having this Super League is untenable.

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, April 21, 2021 at 10:19 p.m.

    It is all about money from broadcast rights. It is a zero sum game to siphon off money now going to the domestic leagues and the Champion League. The 12 big clubs would make more money but at the expense of everyone else. Making the richest clubs richer isn't going to help grow the sport.

  11. Santiago 1314, April 21, 2021 at 8:41 p.m.

    I was hoping for Breakaway Liga, that would play on Saturdays/Sundays... Hard to watch Champions League during the Week

  12. :: SilverRey ::, April 22, 2021 at 10:55 a.m.

    Ok - now do the African Super Leaugue

    Infantino just finished a month long tour of the contininent to set up the same thing there

    FIFA may have come out against the UEFA Super League on the one hand
    yet are doing the opposite with the other hand for the CAF Super League

  13. Kent James, April 22, 2021 at 2:15 p.m.

    While I agree that the superleague as it was presented was a really bad idea (6 EPL teams? No promotion/relegation?), I'm not sure the idea of the Champions League is a bad idea, at least for global soccer fans.  When the same few teams win the leagues on a relatively consistent basis, and they do so because they can spend much more money than the other teams in their league, the league competition is not as good as it can be.  While it might be good for Burnley fans to get a chance to see their team beat Liverpool 1 out of 8 times they play, as someone who is not a Burnley fan, that game doesn't hold much interest.  What I don't know is if the teams in La Liga that are not Real Madrid or Barcelona (or Athletico Madrid) would like it better if they could actually win the league championship every now and again.  

    While we already have a Champions League, the earliest games have too many weak teams and the later stages there aren't enough games (and playing domestic league, cup and CL games requires either a large team or puts a lot of strain on the players).  So it's good, but it's not ideal.  

    I could see a Champions League that included promotion/relegation being a great innovation for the global fan. It would certainly guarantee a lot of high quality games.  Would it destroy the domestic leagues?  I'm not sure.  Global fans would probably not watch the domestic leagues (so maybe a loss of TV revenue), but I would think it might even enhance the domestic fans' interest because of the more even competition. 

    A lot of the arguments about ruining tradition/history were also made about allowing foreign players into domestic leagues.  Sometimes change can make things better.  While I'm sure the latest fiasco has set the idea back for many years, I'm guessing it will come back at some point.  And that may not be a bad thing.

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