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A blitzkrieg. This is how one could define the quarrel that arose between UEFA and the 12 ‘splitting’ clubs, which on the night between Sunday and Monday announced the creation of a Super League. A project which immediately provoked the reaction and indignation of the entire football world. From the institutions, led by FIFA and UEFA, from players and journalists, from fans who, with their protests have turned out to be the main reason for the failure of this competition. In this article we are not going to go through the whole chronology of an affair that has become tiresome; instead, we will analyse the situation from a 360-degree perspective, considering what would have been the pros and cons of a Super League in the European football scene.
This is why fan football is dead
“Football belongs to the fans” was a slogan raised like a flag by those who were against the Super League, effectively referring to a football that has been dead for more than 20 years. It makes one smile, to say the least, that this motto has been taken up first and foremost by FIFA and UEFA, the two main architects of the death of old-school football, so dear to us all. A football for the fans that has been buried by the increase in ticket prices imposed by some presidents; by the television rights that have forced supporters to subscribe to three different streaming services to be able to follow their team in every competition; by the imposition of tight calendars with matches on unrealistic days and at unrealistic times; by federations that decide to play national cup finals in foreign countries to earn a few million more; by presidents with influence in the institutions that allow themselves to falsify championships and cups without the slightest shame or respect towards the public.
On Monday, however, these institutions, both national and international, had the nerve to talk about meritocracy and sporting merit, when, as has been demonstrated, in recent years they have operated in a manner diametrically opposed to this ideal.
The positive aspects of a new Super League
But let us now get to the heart of the matter, analysing what advantages the Super League would have brought to the European football scene.
An elite Champions League would have provided spectacular matches every week and would have brought young people closer to football, which is increasingly taking a back seat to the spectacle offered by leagues in other sports, such as the NBA or the NFL. Each club would have received around 500 million euros a year just for participating in the competition. This money would have helped the clubs to balance their books in a short time and consequently nullify the current economic supremacy of 4/5 teams in each national league.
JP Morgan Chase, one of the most powerful US banks in the world, would support this programme and would be willing to make a one-off payment of €3.5 billion.
The financial fair play introduced in 2011 by UEFA to create fairness would be abolished. FFP has failed miserably in its objective, with the gap between rich and poor clubs widening more and more in recent years. It should be noted that Italian clubs (Inter, Milan and Roma above all) have been among the main ‘victims’ of this senseless rule.
The top European clubs, followed all over the world, would have been guaranteed a place in the tournament with higher revenues thanks to TV rights and results. The same clubs would also be guaranteed to play at least 18 matches instead of the six in the current Champions League. Sporting merit would be ‘respected’ rather than abolished, with five free places to be allocated annually based on the results of aspiring teams.
The downsides of an independent project
To sum up: The Super League is a new tournament proposed to replace the current Champions League. It would not abolish the UEFA competition, but it would inevitably deprive it of its most prestigious teams.
Twenty teams were to participate, divided into two groups of ten teams each. This was to guarantee the abovementioned eighteen annual matches (nine rounds in the first leg and nine in the second leg). Undoubtedly, therefore, even at first glance, these characteristics point to obvious flaws.
The privilege of being rich
Firstly: why could the fifteen favourites not have been relegated? Just because they have more fans and more money? And then, given that there would only be five ‘free’ places each year, how would it possible to respect meritocracy? Merit would be partial and very limited, with teams that might be worthy of participating being excluded because founding teams cannot be downgraded.
The potential, as mentioned above, is relative to an economic income. Football, however, in its purest and most elevated sense, is a sport and only later did it turn into a business. It is therefore not possible for the more romantic side of the most beautiful game in the world to be killed off. Those feelings and emotions that football makes us experience are of inestimable value, more than the billions promised by the banks.
Fans turn on the TV to follow their favourite team, dreaming that Torino can become great again or that Atalanta can one day beat the most important European teams. What would we say to all the excluded teams? What valid reasons could we invoke to destroy the magic of this sport?
Hope is not just an ideal
The last thing we would like to think about is an abstract concept that is as topical as never before: hope. In a football swollen by millions and billionaire enterprises, the possibility that a small club will raise a Champions League, even in the distant future, is very remote. That 1% chance, however, keeps alive the faith of the fan who adores his club.
What would be the point of Serie B or the Championship? What would be the point of Ligue-2? Let us explain: with what objective do these clubs play? The aim is to achieve promotion to the topflight and to try and climb to the top of the table. If that seems impossible, let us remind you: Atalanta finished 17th in 2014-15 and 13th in 2015-16. If five or six years ago you had told a fan that his team would be fighting with Real Madrid for a place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, would he have believed you? We do not think so.
Football needs to clean up the debts that the pandemic has caused to skyrocket. However, it is not right that this operation should be carried out on the backs of those who follow our sport purely and simply out of passion, even though they know that their club is unlikely to lift a single trophy.
The true essence of football
The talent of footballers has always been there, even when there were no billions of euros to be made. Players became players because they loved the sport, even when they were not paid. It is wrong to say that football could lose its level because the skills will remain forever.
Football is pure, all-embracing love, which takes you deep inside and is sometimes capable of turning your existence upside down. Money is only a consequence of talent, not the reason for it. Let us meditate and understand that football can never die, even if these big clubs fail. The child who grows up with a ball between his feet will never lose the passion that drives him to play. Let us always remember that money cannot buy feelings.