Rise and fall of the Super League

Kelsey O’Loughlin, Senior Writer

In mid-April of this year, the landscape of European soccer briefly changed drastically. Twelve of the largest soccer clubs in the world, including Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and more, approved the creation of the Super League; less than a week later, nearly all the teams pulled out of the league, leaving many scratching their heads. Why had they attempted to create the breakaway league? Why had it failed? Will they try again?

Seemingly overnight, some of the richest individuals in the world manufactured the Super League in an apparent attempt to combine some of the largest and most popular teams in the world to compete against one another. Under ordinary circumstances, the top teams would only have the opportunity to meet if they were matched together in the Champions League, the most important European tournament. These matches were typically massively viewed events and ones that fans were always excited to watch.

In the proposed format, 12 specially-selected teams would compete every year, in addition to eight other teams chosen on an annual basis. Similarly to the normal European League format — in which the bottom several teams are relegated from the league — the bottom teams of the Super League would be unable to compete in the next season until they qualified again. However, the original 12 teams would be granted special allowances and would never be subject to relegation. Thus, they would always be competing in the competition. While it sounds at first thought like a completely separate association, the original plan was for the Super League to be one of many competitive venues for the teams in a season — each club would also compete in their domestic leagues and other competitions as well.

The mastermind behind the entire project was Real Madrid owner Florentino Pérez, who saw the Super League as an opportunity for the 12 clubs to gain enormous profits on the eve of the massive COVID-19-imposed losses. “When you have no income, only that from television, you understand that the solution is to have more competitive games, the most attractive you can have in the world. We have decided that in the week, instead of the Champions League, we can have a Super League with more games,” Perez said. The Super League was poised to have an investment of €3.25 billion from JPMorgan, and television rights for the matches were to be granted only to stations in which the owners and clubs had financial stake. Thus, the 12 clubs would receive significantly more revenues than in a typical season.

Once the formation of the Super League was officially announced, backlash from soccer fans across the world immediately followed. Many took to Twitter and other forms of social media to protest against the proposed league. Players and coaches, even on the clubs that were joining the league, held emergency team meetings and spoke out against the league. “This project is disgusting, not fair and I’m disappointed to see clubs I represented involved. Fight against this!” former Arsenal player Lukas Podolski said. Fans and players saw the proposal as a money-grab by the owners in an attempt to replenish the wealth they lost during COVID-19. Others saw the league as affording an unfair financial advantage to the top clubs, who could then use the money to buy the best players from non-founder clubs struggling financially. The heads of both FIFA and UEFA agreed, threatening to ban all the players on the 12 teams from competing in their domestic leagues, the Champions League, as well as any other international competition.

Not even a week after the proposal went public, the involved teams slowly began pulling out of the proposed league. Whether due to internal pressure from the players and fans or external pressure from UEFA and FIFA, several teams who helped to found the league quickly, publicly abdicated their support. Despite this, Perez remains adamant that the Super League is “not dead.”  No one knows if the owners will try something along these lines in the future, but for now soccer still belongs to the fans and the players.

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