European Super League: how the rich owners of the game scored an own goal

Soon, all six English Super League participants followed suit and bowed out of the competition. Only 48 hours after it was announced, the project was unleashed.

Arsenal were the most distant in recognizing the crucial role that fans had played in the club’s pressure to retire.

“The last few days have shown us once again the depth of the feeling that our fans around the world have for this wonderful club and the game we love,” began an open letter from Arsenal. “We didn’t need to remember this, but the response from supporters in recent days has given us time for deep reflection and thought.”

In an attempt to make European football more profitable at the expense of competitive drama – 15 clubs would be immune to relegation to the Superliga – the concept has taken football to a place where the wider sports community did not want to go.
Fans are protesting against the European Super League outside Stamford Bridge.

From fans, players, experts and politicians – not to mention rival clubs and the governing bodies of the game – the response to the Superliga has been emphatic.

While the fans took to the streets outside the stadiums with banners, inside the ground the players organized their own protests through T-shirts and post-match interviews.

On Tuesday, the Liverpool players, one of the 12 clubs that initially signed up for the exclusive competition, took to social media: “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen”, was the collective message, even if they didn’t mention explicitly Superliga.

Their manager, Jurgen Klopp, had shared his reservations the day before, while Pep Guardiola, Klopp’s counterpart in Manchester City, was against the way “everyone thinks for themselves” at the top of the game.

Broadcasters, including Amazon and BT, have distanced themselves from the Super League, as have some of the game’s most important TV figures: “If it actually happens, I will never work on this European Super League,” he wrote. on Twitter Gary Lineker, BBC and BT presenter.

With the disapproval of the virtually unanimous football community, politicians weighed.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said sports authorities would have “full support” from his government to take action against Super League plans, while opposition leader Keir Starmer called the withdrawal of clubs “an important moment” for the game.

The Super League fiasco has demonstrated not only how much power is held by the wealthy owners of top clubs in Europe, but also how football fans and stakeholders can fight back some of that power.

There was also resistance from some club owners. Paris Saint-Germain president and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi has urged football not to forget its fans, as it has promised faith in UEFA’s European competitions, and Bayern Munich, who beat PSG in the Champions League final of the year. past, he also rejected the Superliga.

Bayern and other German clubs operate under a 50 + 1 ownership rule, which means members and fans hold the majority of ownership stakes, rather than trading partners.

But what has been highlighted more is how the game balances the intentions of club owners with the wishes of fans – a continuous and existential question for football.

On Monday, the UK government announced a fan-led review of the sport following the launch of the Super League, which it calls “a general examination of football in this country”.

“Football needs to take its fans incredibly seriously and fight them in danger. I think it’s probably a lesson learned that will actually help the situation go forward,” said UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston. , for Christina Macfarlane of CNN Sport.

Huddleston added that the analysis “will come with a whole host of recommendations on football governance and also the flow of money in football. We will see what those recommendations are and, we hope, that they will help us to put ourselves on a firmer footing ”.

Possible results of the review could include the introduction of an independent professional football regulator in the UK.

“We’ve been talking for a few years, we’re not reducing it,” Huddleston added.

“Certainly there are problems in terms of responsibilities. I suspect that the idea of ​​a regulator would not go well with some of the football authorities who I think should probably do them alone.

“But I’ve seen too many failures and too many problems with English football in recent years.”

The Super League and the issue of ownership at the top of the game have united and mobilized the entire football community in a unique way, unlike other issues affecting the game.

Asked for his views on the Superliga earlier this week, Leeds striker Patrick Bamford wondered why the game’s decision-makers are prepared to take drastic action when football’s finances are at stake, but not against racism.

West Ham, one of the clubs that could have lost the chance to face Europe’s top teams with the introduction of the Super League, wrote on Twitter that it was time to “get back to what’s important and stand together to show that there is no room for racism. “

The Super League announcement also led to racial abuses against club owners on social media, according to the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which identified tweets “appealing to the classic troops of greed, parasitism and Jewish control, and references the Holocaust. “

“No controversy, no matter how great the passions, can justify the horrific anti-Semitic abuse of some Twitter users against football clubs and their owners,” said a spokesman for the Anti-Semitism Campaign.

When contacted by CNN about anti-Semitic posts, a Twitter spokesman said: “Keeping people safe on Twitter is a priority for us. We have clear policies in place – that apply to everyone, anywhere – that address threats of violence, abuse and harassment and misconduct, and we take action when we identify accounts that violate these rules. “

Twitter also said that measures were taken against the tweets referred to in the report for violating the company’s misconduct policy.

The balance of power between Europe’s ‘big clubs’ and the governing bodies of sport is a problem that will not go away any time soon, but it is far from the only problem that endangers sport.

There are a lot of others that have persisted for years, not least the level of investment in women’s play and the way decisions are made to host top tournaments, such as the World Cup.
Last month, for example, international teams took the opportunity to highlight the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

In late 2019, Nasser Al-Khater, executive director of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organizing committee, told CNN that the nation was “judged by the court of perception very early on.”

“Has Qatar been treated unfairly? Yes, in my opinion, a lot,” Al Khater said.

But with the tournament just over a year old, last month’s qualifiers will probably not be the last time Qatar’s human rights record comes under the microscope – and if the events around the Super League have taught us anything, it’s the biggest catalyst. for the change of football can be found in the game itself.