European Super League: do you think it’s over? Think again
As the theme of the Champions League replaying, it suddenly inspires a different feeling. It is certainly not the same as at the end of April 2021, when Aleksander Ceferin’s impressive resistance to the Super League inspired a spirit of solidarity around European football. Let’s go. The revolution no longer feels in the air.
The protests at Old Trafford have dissipated, replaced by unconditional adulation for Cristiano Ronaldo. Daniel Levy, one of the key figures of the Super League, has just been elected to the executive board of the European Club Association [ECA]. UEFA is continuing at full speed towards controversial new plans for the Champions League. Above all, Europe’s governing body is now in open battle with Fifa for a biennial World Cup, an idea that had simply not been mentioned by any current player or group of supporters.
Those at the top of the game believe this is the ‘second round’ of the full scale warfare that brought about the Super League plan. So much for the new football unit after the pandemic. So much for the image of Ceferin as a great reformer.
A punch has already been fired in this fight.
While UEFA was initially acclaimed for announcing that some of the new Champions League plans would be reassessed, a series of sources said The independent that Ceferin does not intend to get rid of the idea of allocating places on the basis of coefficients. It is indeed a concept resulting from the same thought as the Super League. This means that some big clubs will not miss the Champions League even if they miss the qualifying places. This idea has already been used when calculating UEFA’s cash prizes, essentially awarding these clubs “royalties” for previous European performances.
All of this, added to the so-called “luxury tax”, doesn’t exactly mean that the high level of the game is prized away from the super clubs. They only strengthen the structures that widen the gap in football, effectively creating a de facto Super League.
This is exactly why we are starting a new Champions League season and it looks like even fewer clubs can win it: four from the Premier League, Paris Saint-Germain and maybe Bayern Munich.
“Where is the consistency in thought? Asks a source. “What happened to the idea after the Super League where it was about ‘winning it on the pitch’?”
If all this holds true, it will only prove one thing. Ceferin’s position is superficial. His words after the Super League were superficial.
Those who have worked with Ceferin say he doesn’t see it that way at all. “He really thinks he’s some sort of Robin Hood character,” is one sentence.
If so, that’s a curious interpretation of this story. It’s not so much about taking from the rich and giving from the poor, as it is about allowing the rich to take even more while keeping the poor – and most footballers – exactly where they are.
Other stakeholders in the game certainly don’t see Ceferin in this image just yet. Some feel a growing sense of frustration with the direction of the discussions. One point of view is that the agendas for UEFA and Fifa don’t seem that different.
They are basically supposed to be regulators who protect the health of the sport and make decisions for reasons other than financial, but so many high profile movements seem to be primarily driven by the economy. Right now the two bodies are literally competing with each other.
It should be noted that UEFA is really doing a lot of good to secure most of the European game, but it also shows the problem. Concessions at the high end impede mobility and vitality, and begin to damage the health of the domestic leagues which remain the lifeblood of the game.
The great irony of all of this is that a serious discussion about football’s calendar and the allocation of resources is needed.
The football world would be healthier if more of Western Europe’s money was distributed, even within its own continent. That’s why the Champions League will never see a Dynamo Kiev light up the competition again.
The calendar itself is a mess. Some of the ideas that govern it, like the spacing of international breaks, are outdated.
Since the post-2024 timeline has yet to be agreed, there should be considerable scope for this. There would be huge potential for something like a ‘utopian’ schedule if Fifa and UEFA really let go of their trade concerns.
This is unlikely to be the case. The situation is described by many as “upside down”. There is a conviction that federations must participate more to hold FIFA and UEFA to account and preserve the ecosystem, which is still based on national football.
Even Arsène Wenger’s recent proposals were in the wrong direction. They presented a solution before they even reviewed the problem. Wenger has raised many questions that need reform, but a biennial World Cup isn’t necessarily the answer.
There are too many competing interests, forcing the situation in certain ways. They all want control of the schedule because it represents control of the game and its economy.
Much of this is down to the market power of big clubs and the Champions League. “It all comes down to an industrial battle between UEFA and Fifa over who controls the club’s game.”
This is why so many club players think that the idea of a biennial World Cup is just a ‘bait and a switch’ to force UEFA to agree to an enlarged Club World Cup instead. . The big clubs are naturally open to this subject. They would earn a fortune. Playing in this situation is that Ceferin and Fifa President Gianni Infantino are running for re-election in 2023.
As always, given the scale of the modern game, larger geopolitical interests are also at stake.
One crucial detail is that “much of the current madness” – to quote a source – began in 2018 when Infantino believed he had a $ 25 billion loan from Softbank for new competitions, including a Cup. from the club world. It was felt that the post-2024 timeline offered potential for this. Softbank is a Japanese company, but the money behind its venture capital fund was entirely Saudi Arabian.
At the same time – during a period that represented the height of the Gulf blockade between Qatar and Saudi Arabia-UAE – feasibility studies were underway to increase the size of the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams. This would have required its spread outside Qatar and other Gulf states. It never happened, but Saudi interests remain ready to fund Infantino’s plans.
The idea in the game is that it would be in exchange for the organization of the World Cup, which would of course offer huge sports washing opportunities.
The looming prospect of a drastically different timeline has had other influences as well. It’s like a ripple in a financial market that scares investors, causing erratic behavior. Some clubs are worried about changing media consumption habits, as evidenced by Florentino Perez’s speeches on the Super League.
Financiers and private equity firms, on the other hand, are looking for investment opportunities, and they now see control of competitions – as with CVC and La Liga – to be much more lucrative than control of individual clubs. .
All these forces have led to these cuts and so many land grabbing attempts. And in all of this, very few of the people involved seem to behave like regulators. This is what Ceferin is supposed to be, and what he presented himself as.
This is why a huge opportunity may have been missed in the wake of the Super League, and the sport could be sent down a path that cannot be hijacked.
It’s also why we’ve seen the biggest divisions in the game for over a century, as it still settled into its modern form. It is akin to the factionalism of cricket. Unlike cricket, however, football does not need to create new competitions to increase its popularity. The problem is, everyone wants a piece of that popularity.
A central force runs through all of this. This is the knowledge that everyone needs to keep the great clubs inside. They renewed their influence on the ECA.
Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Khelaifi of Paris Saint-Germain has just been elected president. He is seen as so much smarter than Andrea Agnelli and likely to lead the game. There is a strong feeling that he will likely end up running for UEFA or Fifa presidency at some point in the future. .
As one source joked, “Nasser will never have to worry about financial fair play again.” The new strength can be seen in the way PSG rejected a huge Real Madrid offer for Kylian Mbappe, who is out of contract next year.
Many see it as a reflection of the extent of Qatar’s takeover of the game, to go hand in hand with Abu Dhabi’s influence in Manchester City, Saudi Arabia’s repeated attempts at influence, and then the remaining power of US venture capitalists and a Russian oligarch.
We’re really back where we started off, heading towards a Super League in a different form. It could well be within UEFA, however.
There will probably be at least another year of all this noise. Many believe that there will eventually be a deal between Ceferin and Infantino. They ultimately have some of the same goals, which is to preserve some power for their bodies.
It’s just a reflection of the modern Champions League that this month’s most important action probably took place last week, in the committee rooms, even before the group stage started.
None of the players, managers or fans involved, of course. That spirit is gone.