The push by elite European clubs to start their own league needs to be stopped. Otherwise, soccer could be forever damaged by such a greedy move.
Soccer is all about the fans. The pandemic over the past year has shown that after games were forced to be played with no spectators. The lack of crowds has made it a different experience.
The pandemic also has a lot to do, it turns out, with the greed being exuded by those who run 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs. Their announcement Sunday to form a breakaway league and spurn the Champions League triggered tremors across the soccer world.
Soccer’s Gordon Gekkos want to play in a league, much like the NBA and NFL, where they are guaranteed TV revenue and the ability to play high-profile mid-week matches even if they’re having a bad season. Admission to the Champions League, after all, is about merit. At the same time, diminishing the power of domestic competitions like the Premier League isn’t going to help the game.
It turns out that many people who own pro soccer teams have only a passing interest in the game. They care about making money, no matter what the expense to the sport or the fans, and that has now become abundantly clear over the past 24 hours.
Who are these teams? So far, there are a dirty dozen of them: Real Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool and Juventus have spearheaded the move, joined by Barcelona and Atletico Madrid from Spain, Inter Milan and AC Milan from Italy, and Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal from England.
Other big clubs, like Bayern Munich of Germany and Paris Saint-Germain of France, have not signed on to join the ESL. Instead, they are committed, for now, to playing in the Champions League next season.
Europe’s Super League could destroy soccer as we know it
If you build it, they will come. That’s the philosophy behind these greedy owners. The outrage is very real, as are the potential sanctions from UEFA and FIFA, but that doesn’t mean people won’t watch a rival tournament. Will the fans come? It’s quite possible they will, despite all the outrage, given the appetizing games they will put on the menu.
But soccer is also about tradition and prestige, and this league has none of it. What it will also do is destroy the revenue-sharing arrangements that currently exist that make it so that mid-tier and lower tier clubs with smaller budgets can also survive. TV money and marketing dollars have made rich clubs richer but also allowed everyone else to stay afloat.
The ESL guarantees revenue to the big-name clubs, no matter what happens on the field, and totally eliminates the risk that comes with having to qualify for the Champions League. It also means the elite would get richer, potentially bankrupting everyone else. This comes after a lack of ticket sales have hurt all teams amid the pandemic, making it an even more vulnerable time for money-struggling clubs.
The result would forever impact the sport, altering it in ways that would have reverberations across the world. After all, UEFA has threatened to fine teams and ban players. That means FIFA would impose bans on stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, meaning they would miss out on the World Cup should they play in the ESL.
The next few weeks and months will be tough for everyone who loves the game. This is a time of year where domestic leagues are wrapping up and the Champions League prepares to crown a European champion. This spring, this entire process has a dark cloud over it. It is tarnished by the actions of a few that could have a massive impact on everyone else.