The European Super League Controversy

The soccer world was rocked on April 18, 2021, as twelve of Europe’s largest soccer clubs announced their intent to form a separate, breakaway league, called the European Super League. The largest threat to soccer in this entire generation was soon eliminated by the overwhelming resistance of fans all across the globe. 

The European Super League, proposed by owners of a dozen of the most elite clubs worldwide would serve as direct competition for the prestigious Champions League. However, the fixed system that would be used in the Super League would eliminate a lot of the competitiveness shown in domestic leagues all throughout Europe. Real Madrid owner Florentino Perez would act as new chairman of the Super League along with four other owners acting as vice chairmen. The league was to consist of 15 “founder clubs,” with 12 confirmed by the time of the announcement. Five additional teams were to earn berths based on their performance in their domestic competitions the year before. The Super League’s plan was to follow a closed league system, meaning that the founding clubs were guaranteed a spot in this league every year, and could not be promoted or relegated to any other division. 

The announcement on Sunday April 18, was met with fierce backlash from across the globe. UEFA, the overall governing body of European soccer, declared that any players who participated in the Super League would be banned from their national teams, as well as any other competition sponsored by UEFA, such as the Champions League, the Europa League, or the European National Championships. Within hours of the announcement, the hashtag #saynotosuperleague began trending on Twitter, and fans attended their teams’ grounds in protest with banners and loud voices. 

The opposition is not without reason. However, the formation of this Super League was seen as elitist and non inclusive to the remaining teams. The exclusivity of Champions League games would be eliminated, as games in the Super League would be played weekly. When asked about the reasoning behind the Super League, Florentino Perez said, “Today, with the income from the Champions League as it is, we’ll die…” Perez also said on several occasions that this competition was intended to “save football (soccer).” The real driving factor? Money. The Super League format resembles that of American sports leagues, such as the NBA, NFL, or MLS. The merchandising and popularity of a league like this would assure massive profits for all clubs involved. The message “created by the poor, stolen by the rich,” was seen on signs across Europe’s biggest stadiums.

The fans had not finished. Even so, on May 2, merely hours before Manchester United and Liverpool faced off, supporters of the Manchester club broke into their own stadium, Old Trafford, in protest against the American owners in support of the Super League. A smaller group of fans gathered outside the team hotel preventing the players from getting on their bus to the stadium. The game was later postponed. It is apparent that the fans have gotten the attention from the owners, and their voices have been heard. When asked if the Super League would be able to continue, Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli spoke very honestly.  “I don’t think that the project is still up and running,” he stated. Nearly three days after the announcement, eight of the initial 12 teams have left the competition. Only Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, and AC Milan remain. While the fans seem to have secured a victory, greed will always be a driving factor. There is peace again, for now.