Despite a thriving European football scene where the Premier League, in particular, has transformed the match going experience, there’s one discussion point that won’t go away. For years now, Europe’s best clubs have long harboured the ambition of forming a breakaway Super League.
Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and more have never hidden their desire to take things to another level, but the notion of a Super League doesn’t appeal to anyone except the 20 or so clubs who could make millions of euros from its existence.
Back in 1992, the Premier League was formed and was hailed as the future of the game in England. Predictably, over time, the clubs at the lower end of the English football pyramid have suffered badly though, or gone out of business altogether.
Those that have managed to keep their heads above water are mired in debt and don’t have the greatest future projection. Then there are those clubs who get relegated from the top flight and find it hugely difficult, because of a lack of funding and support, to get back up at the first attempt.
Most now find themselves at the bottom half of the Championship table or in Leagues One and Two. We’re talking big clubs too. Middlesbrough – a club who brought Juninho, Emerson and Ravanelli to these shores in the 90s are now in the Championship’s bottom five. As are Wigan and Stoke, both of whom were in the Premier League not so long ago.
Bolton are rock bottom of League One with a single point after 15 games, thanks to financial irregularities which almost saw them go bust. Sunderland, Portsmouth, Coventry and Ipswich all find themselves in the third tier despite being in the top flight not so long ago too.
A European Super League serves only those teams that would be likely to be in it. The rich get richer and all that.
What we would see is the same thing that’s happened in English football, but on a European scale. In simple terms, it would destroy club football as we know it. And think of the fixtures that would be lost too. No more Milan or north London derbies as a starting point.
One of the issues that UEFA face is their perceived unwillingness to revamp the Champions League. Its format has stayed the same ever since it was rebranded from the European Cup in the early 90s, and many of the member clubs think an update to the competition is long overdue.
All the while that the governing body prevaricates, it gives the clubs more ammunition in moving their Super League discussions forward. A ‘well it will never happen’ type attitude from UEFA is a dangerous ploy too, because those were exactly the newspaper headlines from a couple of years before the Premier League came into existence.
Recent suggestions that the Champions League could be expanded in 2024 have been cautiously received, and the worry from those clubs interested in a breakaway is that the reforms won’t go far enough. Clearly, any clubs that were willing to resign from their current leagues would only do so if it were of huge financial benefit.
However, football is nothing without its supporters. At present, with the Champions League and Europa League, the average fan travelling across Europe to watch their team can do so maybe once or twice in any given campaign.
We’ve already seen a lack of away support at many European games, and were this to be replicated for a Super League, when supporters would be expected to travel away every other weekend, matchday revenue would be seriously hit.
Even the most fervent of fans might prefer the relative luxury of a comfy armchair rather than 2-4 hour flights every other weekend. In short, football doesn’t need a Super League, and most fans wouldn’t want one either.
It is imperative then that UEFA get around the table with its member clubs soonest, and come to an accord that suits all parties.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the future of football as we know it is at stake and if there are any more delays in trying to thrash out an agreement, the spectre of the European Super League will become a reality.