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Why the European Super League is a capitalist experiment doomed to fail

Eduard Bănulescu

The Super League, a new project involving 12 historic European football clubs was announced on Sunday. But, before investors in the new competition get too excited, it’s best they consider why fans watch the game in the first place. Anyone who viewed Arsenal and Manchester City’s 2nd teams in the FA Cup at the weekend, will tell you that it’s not for entertainment.

What’s the European Super League?

The Super League is a breakaway competition played by superclubs without UEFA’s backing or involvement. The plan has been touted for many years. In 2020, with the pandemic affecting clubs’ finances, the proposal picked up steam. On Sunday, 12 clubs jointly confirmed these plans.

Why is the announcement of the Super League made now?

It’s believed that the announcement is meant to arrive days prior to decisions regarding the setup of the Champions League. It is not yet known if the 12 clubs are looking to use their statement as a bargaining chip. Regardless, the plans to reevaluate the UCL format will either be altered or scrapped altogether.

What teams are involved in the Super League?

The 12 teams are Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Tottenham.

Why the Super League is doomed to fail?

What investors in the Super League, the majority of them American, misunderstand about football is that they assume that fans watch games in order to see the stars. This is not the case, but a by-product of the interest for the competitions. If it were so, the International Champions Cup would be a major football event. Do you know who last won the ICC?

Furthermore, investors are misevaluating their product. Some of the teams in the Super League, Arsenal or AC Milan, have not qualified for the Champions League in years. Tottenham is unlikely to qualify this year. Juventus have been knocked out of the UCL by FC Porto and Ajax Amsterdam. Around the clock, glorified friendlies between Arsenal and Spurs are not what people want to see.

Why in the long term clubs will lose money n the Super League?

Superclubs are in super debt in 2021. The new competition would provide them with a quick injection of cash. This money, however, is not free. It comes from investors willing to make the clubs partners in the Super League. It also arrives with the assurance that these matches will generate interest and commercial opportunities.

If, and most likely when, interest for the Super League decreases in favor of the Champions League or domestic competitions, sponsorships will dry up. When this happens prize money will go down. Paying star players will become more expensive. And, going back to compete in the UCL will be harder.

Bayern Munchen and Paris Saint-Germain both have announced they will not participate in the Super League. Both teams have embarrassed FC Barcelona in the past 12 months. If the scenario for the competition goes as planned, Bayern and PSG will, again, make easy work of Barcelona when they’ll encounter them. Playing Leicester City or Atalanta won’t be a cakewalk either.

What are UEFA planning to do about it?

UEFA has condemned these strategies firmly. So have fans across the world, including those supporting teams involved in the project. It is expected that UEFA will make a decision in the following days. The most drastic measure could be to eliminate teams from the competitions that they organize. This might mean that players taking part in the Europa League would no longer be eligible for the European Championship.

What is likely to happen?

The 12 clubs have pushed the trigger and repercussions are unavoidable. For decades a European Dream League was touted as a possibility. Now that it’s been announced, everyone, except for the 12 clubs and their investors, is furious.

It is possible that UEFA and the clubs reach an agreement. This might entail changing the format of European football to allow them bigger commercial opportunities. Paradoxically, this would be the scenario that produces the least amount of harm.

The more likely option is that the Super League goes ahead as planned. Regardless of UEFA’s intervention, the competition is doomed to fail. It’s not just because of the greed of the clubs. It is because fundamentally, the idea is flawed. Nobody wishes to watch a friendly between the reserves of Manchester City and Arsenal unless they are on the club’s payrolls, or there’s nothing better to see. And, with so many exciting football competitions across the world, it is doubtful that this will be an issue.

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