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Does European football really need a Super League?

Tuesday, 20 April 2021
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.

The creation of a European Super League has shaken the world of football: what will happen in the coming months? Let’s try to clarify.

The news was made official with a press release: the Super League was born on 19 April, 2021. The competition will involve 20 clubs, 15 teams as permanent members (the so-called Founding Clubs), and another 5 that will be selected each year based on the results achieved in the previous season in their respective local leagues.

The list of leagues from which these clubs will be selected is not yet known, but in all likelihood, it will be Premier League, Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, and Ligue 1, at least according to the intentions of the organisers.

The competition scheme includes two groups of 10 teams, the clubs will compete in home and away matches. Matches will be played throughout the week. At the end of the eighteen rounds, the top three in each group will automatically qualify for the quarter-finals. The fourth and fifth classified instead will face each other in a round-trip match for the two remaining places available, valid for access to the quarter-finals. Quarter-finals and semi-finals will be played in home and away matches, while the final will be a one-off match that will be played in a neutral stadium in May.

Whats the problem?

The problem is that a new European competition poses a threat to international football federations. “The clubs concerned would be disqualified from any national, European and world competition and their players would be prohibited from representing their national teams,” Uefa said in press release. After this stand, the most famous European clubs will have to choose whether to be part of the tournaments of the longest-lived federations or whether to be part of the Super League.

The whole ‘Super League’ operation is a gold mine. Clubs joining the new European competition will receive €3.5 billion to support investment plans and to absorb the impact the pandemic has had on the football clubs’ economy. The solidarity contributions that all clubs will donate to the Super League will grow proportionally with the competition’s revenues. Profits are expected to exceed €10 billion early in the tournament. These solidarity contributions will follow a new model of regular public reporting in full transparency.

Match broadcast television rights will reach enormous value in the entertainment market.

But then, where does the necessity to found a new football competition at the European level come from? The top European clubs have assessed that the proceeds from tournaments organised by federations such as Uefa have not been enough to guarantee the sustainability of their economy.

US bank JP Morgan has announced they are the financier of the European Super League (ESL) project. “I can confirm that we have funded the operation,” a bank spokesman in London reported in an email, quoted by El Mundo Deportivo.

According to the Spanish sports newspaper, JP Morgan agreed to finance the project together with Key Capital, a company linked to Borja Prado, a collaborator of Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid and first Chairman of the Super League.

Key Capital would offer insured income to Super League clubs of approximately €360 million. The British Telegraph instead reports that JP Morgan intends to use millions of euros to finance the project. The newspaper notes that Manchester United executive director Ed Woodward has worked with the US bank for 12 years.

A comparison is therefore needed. This year’s edition of the Champions League recorded an amount available to distribute to the 32 participating teams of about 2 billion euros: just over 60 million for each team.

The criteria for assigning Champions League proceeds to the clubs participating in the competition are influenced by several factors: the subdivision includes a fixed and a variable part. 25% (488 million euros) is awarded as a participation bonus in equal parts between all clubs; 30% (585 million) is calculated on the basis of the Uefa ranking based on the results of the last 10 years. A further 30% (585 million) is divided according to the results achieved on the pitch. The remaining 15% is part of the so-called “market pool” (about 292 million euros) linked to the national catchment area.

It is clear that between the two competitions, the one just born from the partnership of 15 European clubs is the most profitable.

At a time when the health emergency has bent the world’s economies, the richest European football clubs have decided to make even more money, trampling one of the noblest dreams: the chance that a poor club has to join the Olympus of football.