The brink of collapse in the football world

Premier League

Written by Oliver Ferris (@OllieFerris12)

Well, what a whirlwind 24 hours it has been in the football world. We have gone from one of the most exciting, interesting seasons in recent history, to the potential collapse of a sport followed by four billion people.

Domestic football, European football, and international football as we know it is now at risk in an unprecedented way that has never been seen. 

For numerous years, the sensitive subject of a potential ‘European Super League’ has been on the cards. Rumours were whispered, thoughts on the project were shared. Now it has become a reality. Let us take a look a look at the facts first. 

On Sunday afternoon, 12 of Europe’s ‘leading’ clubs announced that they had agreed to establish a breakaway mid-week competition in the form of a European Super League; a competition directly rivalling the UEFA Champions League. Of the 12 clubs that announced their involvement, six of these teams come from the English Premier League: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea. The other 6 being AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid. 

This group of teams are labelled as the ‘founding clubs’, with three more due to be announced as additional founding members. It is proposed that there will be 20 teams, with the 15 ‘founding clubs’ and the other five annually qualifying. The 15 founding clubs cannot be eliminated from the league and are guaranteed a place every season. The aim is to begin as soon as possible, with plans to start in August this year.

Now a look at the numbers, and this is where it clearly shows the motive behind this formation, and the dark truth that perhaps as football fans we try to ignore. Cash is King. 

It is known that each founding club will be provided with $3.5 billion, solely to support infrastructure investment plans and to offset the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Just for agreeing to join this competition, clubs will be expected to receive between £250-300 million. Another key financial issue that would have prompted many teams to join is that of TV rights. The clubs will now have more responsibility, and greater pay cheques as they take more control of the broadcast rights as it is expected the figure will be between £200-250 million for each club.

An area that greatly angered many European clubs in relation to the UEFA Champions League for the lack of control they had and money they were receiving over the TV rights. Furthermore, it is understood the competition will feature uncapped solidarity payments to clubs, which will increase with league revenues. The more popular the competition, the more money the clubs will receive. 

It is very clear, and if it is not, read again, that money is the motive. Not the love for the game, not the love for tradition that stems from the working man, nor the love for fair competition. They have one love only, and that is money. These business owners that come from all over the world, see football as business. It is as simple as that and they see it for nothing else. We thought VAR was ruining the game, but now we know where the real problem is. 

The real crisis is now what happens? 

In reaction to the announcements, in agreement with multiple domestic football associations throughout Europe, UEFA have threatened that all clubs agreeing to join this establishment will be banned from participating in their domestic competitions. FIFA have also come out to threaten that players within the clubs will be banned from being involved with their international teams. 

So, from as early as the beginning of the 21/22 season, if this madness is set in stone and goes ahead, we will be looking at a completely different landscape of football. Nearly 150 years later from the origins of football we are looking at the biggest crisis to hit the sport. 

With all due respect to clubs and players around the world, domestic competitions will die. International football will die. The connotation of ‘super’ is accurate as these are the heavyweights of football (although some additions are very questionable), and the fact that these teams may not be competing in their own country competitions brings into question just how sustainable these leagues will be without these teams. The money and revenue going into the leagues will deplete massively without the top clubs. The standard of football will also depreciate, discouraging many to stop following the seasons and the teams. This will leave the remaining teams in the European leagues at a severe disadvantage to further forward their clubs and ambitions. Fans, players, and professionals in the sport all over the world have been forgotten by the power of greed. 

However, there is hope. The clubs have been battling with UEFA for a long time over reform for the UEFA Champions League, and the announcement came 24 hours before UEFA were due to discuss potential reforms. It does seem to be perhaps a tactical manoeuvre from these 12 clubs to show what other options there are, and that they have set a bar as to their needs and demands. The threat of the clubs being banned from domestic competitions and players from international football seems so extreme that if the clubs had any care whatsoever about the state of football, the fans that day in and day out support the club and the traditions and values of the game, then this threat would be too large to ignore.

What is important now, is that as a community we stand against this. As football fans, we hold more power than many people will be believing right now. We need to be together as one voice to say no to greed and corruption, and yes to all the values and traditions that truly make football the beautiful game. We must fight to ensure our clubs know what we truly want. The actions of a small minority amongst the worldwide football community are the only ones to suggest this is a good idea. All you have to do is scroll through social media for a minute, and you can see the uproar from everyone involved. This is not what the fans want, and it is time we stand against this monopolistic structure headed by those that do not understand our values.

Going forward, the ‘founding clubs’ have stated they “look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole.”

This will be very difficult as the founding clubs clearly do not know what is best for football. These will be crunch talks, and perhaps the biggest set of meetings to be held in football history. Only time will tell whether this is all power politics, or if we are truly in the midst of the collapse of the beautiful game as we know it.