ESL: The Fallout

FanHub writer Ben Smart (@BenSmart1) gives us his thoughts on where football could still head in light of this week’s events.

Florentino Pérez said that Football needed a new competition to compete with the ever dwindling attention span of the modern man.

It is, therefore, fitting that the European Super League was created and disbanded within 48 hours. As everyone from fans to political leaders condemned the project, clubs began to withdraw their support and issued half-hearted apologies and blamed everyone from Ed Woodward to Clive Woodward for their mishandling of the situation.

As just about every footballing body seeks retribution for the attempted coup, just what does the future of football look like?

The ‘Swiss Model’

Borussia Dortmund unveil banner in protest against UEFA's plans to reform  Champions League as Bundesliga side set new club record in professional  football
Dortmund banner protesting UCL reform.

We were so rightfully outraged by the greed and arrogance of these twelve clubs that the news that UEFA had voted in favour of the Swiss model as a form of Champions League reform was buried. And it looks eerily like a ‘Super League’.

Firstly, because, well, it is a league. From the 2024/25 season, 36 clubs will compete in Europe’s premier competition, all in the same league where they will play ten games against ten different opponents based on seeding. Are you with me? From there, the top-eight will qualify for the round of sixteen with teams positioned ninth to 24th will go into a playoff round to determine who plays in the knock-out stage.

Teams will qualify through the league and all nations will have a shot at providing qualifiers, but there will be two positions for teams who may have missed out but have a good coefficient; and, considering playing in Europe’s top leagues and top competitions contributes to clubs coefficient, you can pretty much guarantee that those extra spots are going to any of the dirty dozen that miss out on the Super League Champions League will have a great shot at qualifying anyway.

Honestly, it is just sounds like Super League but with extra steps.

The Fate of the Clubs

Florentino Perez speaks out on Real Madrid's European Super League move -  Football Espana

Fair play to Florentino Pérez, despite being roundly beaten, he is still insisting that this goes through. In a statement he insisted that the other 11 clubs had entered into binding contracts and that the project was merely on standby. Perhaps it is something to with the fact that Real Madrid are an estimated €900m in debt, but they are determined to make it work.

Along with Real, Barcelona are in over €1bn worth of debt, whilst Juventus’s debt is around roughly €380m. This should clear up the motivations behind the Super League and UEFA have looked into increasing the budget for the Champions League to up to €7bn – double that of the proposed Super League. Given that money is already divvied up based on a club’s coefficient, this basically means that the ESL clubs will end up richer than their counterparts.

So far there has only been talk about sanctions and punishments towards these clubs. UEFA president, Aleksander ?eferin, appears keen to throw the book at them and has not hidden his disgust but so far, it has just been words. For English fans, the Premier League six are likely to face much more than a slap on the wrist. Ed Woodward may have stepped down but it appears unlikely that fines or points deductions will be handed out. Instead, it may be that the other 14 clubs look to ban these clubs from discussions about the fate of the league moving forward so as not to directly hurt the majority of clubs stakeholders who had nothing to do with the decision.

Will They try Again?

It looks likely that this is not the end of the European Super League. In what was a frankly pathetic apology, Liverpool owner John Henry apologised for the disruption he caused and took full responsibility from a Liverpool perspective. He did not apologise for the creation of the League and come out against it. Frankly, no club withdrawing has gone as far as to condemn the Super League and exclude themselves from any future breakaway.

John Henry apology sparks new Liverpool question over European Super League  plot - Theo Squires - Liverpool Echo
John Henry – Owner of Liverpool FC.

These owners do not understand fans; that has been made abundantly clear and the fact that it was built around the American ideals of sport is proof of that. All of these clubs have roots that run deep in their communities unlike American franchise teams that pick-up and move cities and states at the drop of a hat. The notion that you could take the worlds most watched sort and apply the principles to the most valuable sport are frankly ridiculous and ignores the development of the game over the past 150 years.

Unfortunately, the commercial power of these 12 clubs far exceeds that of most other clubs on the planet by some distance. These clubs can see that their marketability exceeds their current domestic leagues and European cup competition; ignoring PSG, Dortmund, and Bayern who were invited to join the league, the biggest social media presence outside of these clubs, is Napoli. The Naples club have approximately 9m followers, approximately 27 times fewer than Real Madrid. These clubs will not stand still and allow things to stay as they are when there are greater prospects commercial opportunities elsewhere. Sadly, we have not heard the end of the European Super League. Not by a long-shot.

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