The news spread across the globe in warp speed: 12 super clubs want to start a breakaway Super League replacing the UEFA Champions League. I say: Let them go! Here’s why.
Plans for the Super League and the new Super Champions League
Backed by JP Morgan the logic is clear: more stars more money. Timing matters, too. Many clubs have suffered severely from the Corona pandemic and lost hundreds of millions of Euros. So 12 of them plan to follow the invitation to establish a new, independent breakaway league.
European football clubs not only compete with their peers, they also compete with TikTok, Netflix and LeBron James for a scare resource: attention and viewers. In that environment it seems logical to gather the biggest stars and clubs in one place and become the world’s leading entertainment platform.
When the NFL makes $10 billion a year from its new TV deal, a similar league for the world’s leading sports with billions of supporters from China to Chile has the potential to triple the NFL’s deal and make $30 billion. A year.
Resistance if futile, is it not?
In a public response that can best be described as ironically, UEFA, FIFA and many, many stakeholders have condemned the plans for the Super league in order to protect the game. In order to protect the equality and chances of the game for all teams.
I call that defence of the status quo hypocritical.
Super League or Champions League: small clubs never had a chance to compete
The traditionalists shout: Football competitions need to be free of barriers. West Ham must have a chance to compete for the greatest trophies, they claim; West Ham must see a path to play Real, Barca, Bayern or Juventus.
The harsh reality, however, is that they don’t. West Ham has not played against one of those super teams ever. Germany’s traditionalist poster boys from Eintracht Frankfurt haven’t faced teams like Manchester United, Barcelona since once playing against Real Madrid sixty years ago in 1960.
What allegedly is a competition free of barriers never has been open for all. It is a closed shop. And with every extra Euro earned in Champions or Super Leagues, the competitive advantage of the super clubs has grown in the past 20 years and will continue to grow.
Concentration of power in European club football
Juventus has one nine in a row, Bayern is about to follow suit. Spain is dominated by Barcelona and Madrid. That’s not what it has to be. In the last five years the NFL has seen more different Champions than Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A combined.
- Different champions in the Bundesliga era (since 1963): 12
- Different NFL champions in the Super Bowl era (since 1967): 20
- Different champions in the Bundesliga in the last ten year: 2
- Different Super Bowl champions in the last ten years: 8
The domination of super clubs like FC Bayern in Germany, Paris SG in France or the power twins Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in Spain has become so overwhelming that for supporters of former powerhouses like Eintracht Frankfurt (last title: 1959 before foundation of Bundesliga) or 1. FC Köln (1978) competing for a title is no longer even a dream. Their fan existence has changed. Their dreams have been marginalised. Supporters of Frankfurt or Köln don’t see any path to a championship. Chance is high that a fan of Eintracht Frankfurt born in 1960 and supporting the club since 1970 may experience a life without his team becoming champion. A club with a rich history, 90,000 club members, millions of fans, yet no chance of winning, because Bayern is light years ahead.
Bayern is light years ahead of Frankfurt because the current Champions League modus protects them. The existing Champions League feeding the super clubs with endless money hinders national competition.
In contrast thereto the fanbases of the worst teams of the NFL all see a clear path to a Super Bowl. Currently only one team, the New York Jets, waits longer than five years for a playoff game. The San Francisco 49ers went from the second worst record in the league in 2019 straight to the Super Bowl in the following season, in which they lost to NFL’s Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City. Even notoriously losing Cleveland Browns see a path to glory after a couple of smart decisions.
A path that no longer exists (if it ever has) in domestic soccer leagues.
A change is needed so let them go Super League
Does anybody see a path back to a reduced Champions League? I don’t. Consequently I don’t see a path back to more competitive domestic leagues in France, Spain, or Germany pursuing the status quo.
So let them go. Let them invite 20 teams from ten countries and found a sponsored league. 20 teams, no relegation, Messi, Salah, Mbappé week-in week-out. Let them go. Insist that they leave the domestic leagues, though.
If domestic leagues with alternating champions are the consequence of it, I back the super leagues. Give us back a world where supporters of Leicester, Frankfurt, and Bilbao have a chance to win it all not once in 100 years but once in 10 years. Let them dream again.
And oh, I would watch it both. Why not? Cheering for my team from the stands on a Saturday afternoon and watching Mbappé vs. van Dijk on Disprimeflix on a decent hangover Sunday is a future I can envisage.