After the hugely divisive and controversial ‘Project Big Picture’ was shunned, talks quickly turned to another ongoing proposal – the ‘European Super League’. The rumours have continued amidst the coronavirus pandemic, with one key factor in the talks being revenues currently lost through fans not filling stadia week upon week. Of course, with lockdown 2.0 now underway, football and sports’ fans in general have not been starved of action, with all elite sports continuing throughout this period. But what is the European Super League? Who is involved? And why would it spell disaster for the likes of the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League?
Premier League’s big boys in on the action
When it comes to the latest English Premier League odds, teams like Liverpool are always much fancied, given their success and finances. So, it’s no real surprise that the Merseyside club and Manchester United were two of the initial Premier League sides to express their interest. They joined more than a dozen of clubs across Europe’s big five leagues (Spain, Italy, France and Germany) who began negotiations on becoming founding members for the competition, which is expected to go ahead from as early as 2022.
How would it work?
In terms of English representation, members of the ‘big six’ have been approached, but no formal agreements are yet in place. That would see both Manchester United and Liverpool join Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester City in making up numbers.
The league is expected to comprise of 18 teams, with fixtures being played during the regular European season. Once the league format is complete, the top-placed teams would then play in knock-out style tournament, with the overall winners being rewarded with hundreds of millions of pounds.
In terms of La Liga clubs, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are said to have been approached, while former Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu accepted the invitation, before dramatically resigning from his post. He revealed in a press conference: “The board of directors yesterday approved the acceptance of the requirements to participate in a future European Super League of football clubs, a project promoted by the big clubs in Europe,” before continuing: “The details of these requirements will be available to the next board of directors, and the decision on participation in this competition will have to be ratified by the next Assembly of Compromising Partners.”
Implications on the Premier League
The possible introduction of the tournament has sparked debate, with many former Premier League players and managers uniting in their displeasure of the ESL. Former Aston Villa midfielder and Bulgarian international, Stiliyan Petrov believes it could be catastrophic. It’s a move that of course, would benefit the rich, and would see them continue to dominate their own respective domestic competitions. But this would ensure the gap between those top teams and the rest of the division would increase, and slowly, we wouldn’t see wonder stories like Leicester City winning the title, or Bournemouth cementing their place in the top-flight.
Of course, there’s no denying that fans would love to see Bayern Munich vs Barcelona on a regular basis, and Liverpool vs Juventus is far more appealing than Liverpool vs West Bromwich Albion – but Arsene Wenger summed it up nicely.
The former Arsenal boss who has since become Head of Global Football Development at FIFA told The Guardian: “The Premier League has a superiority. The project [Big Picture] wanted to reinforce this superiority. The other leagues tried to destroy the advantage the Premier League has. For them, the best thing to attain that is to create a European league,” before confirming what all fans know: “What are the investors’ first target? It’s to make more money. And so that the European Super League is one way maybe to make more money.”
In an interesting twist to the story, FIFA are yet to comment. It would be no surprise to hear that the rumours are much more than that, but the implications the ESL could have on each of the domestic leagues as well as the Champions League is massive – especially for those underdogs that edge their way up the table and seek European football each season.