Twelve of Europe's top soccer clubs have announced the formation of a breakaway Super League last week. But the breakaway has been heavily criticized by soccer authorities, fan organizations and politicians across Europe.
So, what is the European Super League? Why has it been formed? What is its format? And who is financing it?
WHAT IS THE SUPER LEAGUE?
The idea of the Super League was for the clubs to remain in their national leagues, but also to play each other in a new midweek European competition, which would have rivalled the Champions League.
The ESL is designed so that it has a total of 20 teams, of which 15 founding members are permanent and never face relegation. Five other sides would qualify each year.
WHICH CLUBS ARE INVOLVED?
The Premier League's Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have announced plans to join the competition along with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus.
It is anticipated that three more clubs will join the breakaway group as founding members of the new midweek tournament, which organizers said would begin "as soon as practicable".
WHAT IS THE PROPOSED FORMAT?
The 20 teams would be split into two groups of 10, with each side in a group playing each other home and away in midweek fixtures.
The top three clubs from each group would progress to the quarter-finals, with the final two spots earned after a playoff between the teams finishing fourth and fifth in their groups.
From quarter-final stage onwards there would be a two-legged knockout ties home and away -- similar to the current knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League -- with a single fixture final at a neutral venue.
WOULD THE LEAGUE BE A 'CLOSED SHOP'?
One of the biggest points of criticism around the proposal is that only five clubs in the 20-strong competition would enter based on "sporting achievements". The 15 founding members would have their participation guaranteed.
HOW WOULD THE LEAGUE BE FINANCED?
U.S. investment bank JP Morgan confirmed on Monday to Reuters that it is financing the new league.
In their own announcement, the breakaway clubs said the founding members would share 3.5 billion euros "solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic".
GAME REMADE IN AMERICAN IMAGE
In an article published in The New York Times, columnist James Montague weighed in on the reason behind the announcement of the Super League at this time.
“But there’s a reason the Super League scheme is coming right now: the coronavirus pandemic. Europe’s leading clubs are thought to have lost more than a billion dollars in revenue since Covid-19 arrived,” he said.
He added that everyone from players to supporters to TV pundits to government ministers are re-evaluating how much power the game has ceded to billionaires.
“What is clear is that the game is being remade in the American image.”
“If the Super League goes ahead, it will be a virtually closed-off European Super League for the world’s biggest teams. What next? Clubs moving like franchises — like the Rams — to the city that offers its owner the best deal. Perhaps Manchester City will play some of their matches in Abu Dhabi? Or maybe Arsenal could spend the winter in Los Angeles? Or Juventus in Beijing?” the writer added.
David Goldblatt of The Guardian strongly critiqued the idea, saying that the already corrosive imbalance in most European domestic leagues will be made even greater by this hoarding of the spoils.
“The sight of any ruling elite making inequality ineradicable is contemptible, but set against football’s core mythology – of level playing fields and sporting chances – it is an act of cultural desecration.”
“No less so, is its careless destruction of 65 years of European football as a grand, inclusive, continent-wide narrative and shared ritual experience,” he said.
Meanwhile, columnist Henry Olsen wrote in The Washington Post that “This fiasco is actually the perfect template through which to view the ongoing debate between liberal globalism and national populism. As of Tuesday, it looked like populism won.”
He added that according to the UK football system fans believe the clubs are “theirs” in a way that most U.S. fans do not.
“Owners are often seen as “trustees” of the club and owe some duty to the fan base — especially to the dues-paying fan base. This is akin to a “stakeholder capitalism” model, which argues that decisions about a firm’s management must consider the interests of all investors, not just the owners,” he added.