A few days ago, we looked at the most famous football teams in Europe in shock as they were launching their new league, the European Football Super League (ESL). The SuperLeague, as it is organised and commonly called, was to be an annual competition in club football involving twelve European football clubs.
It was intended as a renegade competition to compete with and replace the European Football League (EFL) and the European Champions League organised by UEFA. Plans to create a European Super League had been tried previously in 1998.
This week’s announcement that the Super League was to become a reality was met with outrage and horror. The teams didn’t start the league because they were struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the New York Times, US bank J.P. Morgan offered $4bn to launch a new league.
Led by Real Madrid boss Florentino Perez, the 12 teams who agreed to participate in the new Super League was as follows:
Fans called the 12-team Super League a “dirty dozen”, and the backlash was swift and brutal. The EPL said that any teams participating in the new Super League wouldn’t be allowed to play in the Premier League. Further statements followed, including the one noting that participants may be deemed ineligible for national teams.
Leeds players wore T-shirts reading ‘Earn it’ before a game against Liverpool. Non-participating teams stoked the fury of fans on social media. Even the players and managers of the breakaway teams seemed annoyed that they were not asked beforehand. Fan protests delayed the kick-off of Chelsea’s game.
Just 48 hours later, the idea of the Super League was crushed. Three days after the official announcement, the Super League was disbanded. Some teams said they had felt pressured to join the new league because they were afraid of being left behind. However, they contritely apologised to appease fans after the debacle was over. But is it truly over?
The damage to the reputation of these twelve clubs will be long lasting. They may each see attrition of fans as their supporters seek other clubs. The branding of the dozen clubs as “money-hungry” may be a tricky thing to shed.
Why did the Super League fall apart? The simple answer to that is: because of the passion of fans and the love of the game. Sure, money makes the world go round – but nothing trumps true passion. Now, the shifted power dynamics are for all to see, with billionaire club owners firmly put in their place, begging for forgiveness.
Fans now know they have the power to bring about change if they unite – that will make the future of football a very different playing field. Perhaps more of the tons of money made each year will need to be used as an instrument for social upliftment. Indeed, one can expect the charitable endeavours of the “dirty dozen” to be stepped up in the coming months.
Let’s not forget, though, that the Premier League was formed through a similar breakaway move. So, the Super League may not be the last controversial proposal put forward. The next one, however, may be better planned…and perhaps with input from the fans.