Make no mistake, a football European Super League (ESL) has been on the cards for some time.
However, when finally announced last Monday (April 19) it was received so badly the project was effectively scuppered within 48 hours.
Personally speaking, and as someone with more than a passing interest in football – I’m a lifelong supporter of Man City, one of the clubs involved in the breakaway league – I was particularly surprised by how ill thought out it was. A closed league with no promotion or relegation, composed of ‘big names’ from only three countries and missing Bayern Munich and PSG, currently two of Europe’s leading clubs, it was clearly a non-starter. What was more, it smacked of desperation, with some of the founding members seeing it as the best, and possibly only, way of reducing the huge debts they have incurred in recent years.
There was also an incredible arrogance displayed by the founders of the ESL in assuming that the football authorities would accept the new league and allow its members to continue competing in existing national and European competitions. Furthermore, there was little if any awareness of the negative consequences on the rest of European football, which would be impacted financially and barred from participating in the new league.
The outcry against the ESL was particularly deafening in the UK, with even the government threatening to take measures against the six Premier League clubs signed up to the project. Man City and Chelsea were the first to withdraw, followed by Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, shocked no doubt by the fan protests they faced.
While the ESL would have undoubtedly boosted the finances of its members, football as a whole, already impacted by the pandemic for nearly two seasons, had much to lose. From a rights perspective, competitions such as the Premier League and Champions League would have been hugely devalued and lost their global appeal through the absence of some of their leading participants.
European football is in need of reform and a new league featuring elite clubs and integrated into its existing structures could at some stage be formed. However, if it is it will be nothing like the ESL.
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