Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Here we go with this Superleague nonsense again [Updated]

Illustration for article titled Here we go with this Superleague nonsense again [Updated]
Image: Getty Images

It seems a little more serious this time around. Which means it’s a bigger threat this time around. But the news of the biggest European clubs forming their own sSuperleague” starting in 2022 is more likely to be used as blackmail to UEFA more than it is actual formation.The end goal is for the richest to become even richer, whether they have to threaten this rogue league or actually set it up. That’s pretty easy to identify.

Advertisement

We do this about once a decade, so you know the participants by heart at this point. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool. Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal (who must be looking around and praying no one sees them at the bar and asking who invited them), Juventus, A.C. Milan, and Inter Milan have banded together to form their own competition where they control all the TV contracts and can keep it pretty much a closed shop, where they never have to worry about not qualifying for it every season as they do now with the Champions League (and Liverpool, Arsenal, and Juventus have real concerns about that this season in particular).

The cabal would like to balloon their sSuperleague up to 20 teams, with 16 of the glitterati in it every year and four spots qualified for every season through domestic league success. This would guarantee what these big clubs have been after for a decade or more now. The first is more guaranteed games against each other, as there’s more money in the big matches between Madrids and Manchesters than there is in the fifth or sixth group game against Genk as the Champions League offers up now. Two, there’s no trap door for these teams of one bad season seeing them go without the TV money of Europe’s biggest club competition. Three, they can negotiate their own TV deals. Rumors of financial backing for such a concoction have been leaking out for a while now.

Before we get to the obstacles, and there are many, it seems even more obnoxious on the heels of UEFA already buckling to the wishes of the big clubs by mutating the Champions League from 2024 on. It appeared set that UEFA would adopt the “Swiss Model” for that competition, which would do away with the eight groups it has now for a single table, and increasing the number of guaranteed games from six to 10., That latter part would wreak havoc with some countries’ cup competitions, which are also played in midweek (England’s League Cup would almost certainly lose Champions League clubs participating, perhaps nullifying it all together), while also burdening players with even less rest in a schedule that’s already too packed. UEFA was even willing to give up some of the TV revenue and negotiating abilities to the clubs as well.

But that’s apparently not enough for vampire ghouls like Andrea Agneilli, chairman of Juventus, who has been spearheading both changes to the Champions League and this sSuperleague concept at the same time. Which apparently kicked into even higher gear as his quickly rotting Juventus team got their aged asses booted from the Champions League in the round-of-16 again by opposition that Agnelilli doesn’t consider worthy of the competition he couldn’t buy. So he’s going to form his own...which they won’t win.

As mentioned, the obstacles are enormous, which make it likely this never actually comes to pass. One, you’ll see some names missing. No German team is likely to be involved, because German teams are still majority-owned by their supporters, and supporters are never going to give the go-ahead on this. A sSuperleague without Bayern Munich is going to look a little weird. PSG and Manchester City have also, so far, passed on inclusion.

UEFA, and FIFA, have both threatened all sorts of penalties for clubs. One would be throwing sSuperleague clubs out of their domestic leagues. They have reiterated that today.

Advertisement

Is that possible? Only years of lawsuits and court arguments will decide that, but it’s possible. How eager the individual leagues would be to do that is harder to gauge. For instance, the Premier League’s existing TV deals are going to be awfully different without Manchester United or Liverpool or Chelsea in them. So the league might not be in a hurry to chuck those teams out. Same goes around the continent. It’s one thing to say it, it’s another to do it.

FIFA have said in the past that any player on a sSuperleague club could be banned from playing in a World Cup, or transfers to other, non-Superleague clubs. The hope behind that is that players would flee those clubs for ones that would keep them eligible to represent their countries on sport’s biggest stage (sorry Olympics, but it’s true). That’s not automatic either. Only the biggest clubs can afford the wages these players have earned, or at least a lot of these wages at once, and players might be forced into deciding what’s more important, salary or World Cups. Which isn’t something they should have to worry about at all, but in various club chairman’s ravenous and unquenchable thirst to suck up any remaining euro lying under the couch, those kinds of concerns don’t matter.

Advertisement

That’s what’s so frustrating about all of this, is that so few people want it. The fans don’t, but the fans’ wishes have never been a consideration. The players don’t want it, because of the position they’ll be put in and the added games and health concerns. The TV execs that hold league and Champions League contracts don’t want this. UEFA and FIFA don’t want this. Twelve or 15 12-15 boardrooms and TV execs already not in the party want this.

And it’s probably going to get a whole lot uglier before anything’s resolved. It’s hard to conceive of how they could further warp the Champions League to satisfy these greedy kaijus without essentially making it a defacto sSuperleague they’re after anyway, with guaranteed entry for the biggest clubs every year. Fuck, we’re almost there anyway. Go around the big five leagues and you can basically name the Champions League teams every year.

Advertisement

There is a school of thought that says to just let the big teams fuck off, and open up the domestic leagues and European competition to far more clubs and possible winners. It’s one that UEFA and the domestic leagues are certainly never going to take, but it has merits.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride, the conclusion of which will satisfy no one except those cashing the biggest checks.

Advertisement

[UPDATE]: The superleague has been officially announced:

Advertisement

And fans at Anfield are not happy:

We can't be too careful. Two guys in an airport...talking? It's a little fishy.