The European Super League, introduced Sunday night, sees some of Europe’s top soccer teams signing up to create a breakaway league that protects 15 teams from relegation and will follow an American style of competition with a regular season and a playoff round.
Currently there are 12 founding teams: AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid CF and Tottenham Hotspur, but they are set to be joined by three more founding clubs to make 15.
Although the soccer world was quickly taken back by this proposal, it came as a surprise to many that two of the world’s biggest clubs were not a part of that list. French side Paris Saint-Germain did not receive an invitation to join the league, and last year’s UEFA Champions league winners Bayern Munich opted not to take part in the league. The reason Bayern Munich, like the rest of the clubs in the German top division Bundesliga, are all owned with a ‘50+1’ rule which states that a club’s fans will always hold the majority of the club’s voting rights.
This rule essentially prohibits private investors from taking over a German football club. If a soccer club in Germany were to become privately owned, they would not be allowed to play in the German top flight. The Bundesliga was thinking ahead, as the importance of the fanbase really showed its strength when the vote came to join the Super League or not.
The Super League will consist of 20 clubs with a qualifying mechanism for five teams to qualify based on achievements in the prior season, according to the league’s website. Furthermore, there are plans for a corresponding women’s league.
With a planned start time of the 2023-24 season, there is a $6 billion fund backing the project headlined by JP Morgan Chase, with each club expecting more than $300 million a year during their participation. That money is crucial for clubs that found their top line crippled by the pandemic or are already hamstrung with hundreds of millions in debt.
Florentino Pérez, president of Real Madrid and the first chairman of the Super League, said, “We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world. Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs it to respond to their desires.”
Despite the statement, backlash was swift and booming from fans, ex-players, prime ministers, current players, managers, and other soccer organizations.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new league would “strike at the heart of the domestic game and will concern fans across the country.
Former Manchester United player and current pundit Gary Neville said, “I’m not against the modernization of football competitions, we have the Premiere League, the Champions League, but I think to bring forward proposals in the midst of COVID and the economic crisis for all clubs is an absolute scandal.”
Gary Neville is the people's hero right now. Unreal piece of television about the European Super League. pic.twitter.com/ypdQbdQfs7
— Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) April 18, 2021
On Monday, backlash continued to grow with mockery from various fan groups and a continued outcry from those around the sport. Why should Arsenal be in the Super League when they cannot beat relegation-battling Fulham? Why should Tottenham be in the Super League when they famously have never won a trophy?
On the afternoon of April 19, Liverpool traveled to Elland Road to play against Leeds United. That morning, Liverpool fans were seen outside of their home stadium, Anfield, with banners and signs saying, “SHAME ON YOU RIP LFC,” “LFC FANS AGAINST SUPER LEAGUE,” and more. Liverpool fans were also seen outside of Elland Road with similar signs and banners, making their voices heard outside of a soccer match in an empty stadium.
Liverpool fans protest the Super League before their Premier League match at Elland Road, Leeds. pic.twitter.com/shaDNA0lAm
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 19, 2021
Even the Leeds organization got in on the protesting, as before the match not only were the players wearing a shirt that said “Champions League: Earn It” on the front with “Football is for the Fans” written on the back, the team left these shirts out in the Liverpool dressing room for them to wear as well.
Leeds United's players are wearing these 'earn it' shirts in the warm up before their match with Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool players won't wear the shirts as 'the players are not involved'. pic.twitter.com/1PiGtEvyGp
— Goal (@goal) April 19, 2021
After Leeds came away with a late goal to tie the match, they used some choice words towards Liverpool on Twitter.
FULL TIME: #LUFC hold Super League side Merseyside Reds to a 1-1 draw after late Llorente equaliser
— Leeds United (@LUFC) April 19, 2021
Much of the criticism boils down to two main gripes: the greed and desperation of the 12 clubs to capture more profits, and the anticompetitive nature of the league itself. In addition, these major clubs, along with others who have not joined, are on a very lopsided end of the economic spectrum. These clubs carry most of the viewership, sponsorships, and revenues for their respective leagues and for smaller clubs in the league as well.
Billions of people all around the world play and watch soccer, no matter their race, religious belief, or economic status. With a very slim percentage of that demographic being wealthy and corrupt club owners and league owners, there has been conflicts between the fans and the owners for a long time. This Tifo was put up in 2017, during a friendly match between Tunisian side Club Africain and billionaire-owned French superpower Paris Saint-Germain, and although it was four years ago it is still a truly relevant topic in the sport.
Football: “Created by the poor, stolen by the rich"
Fans of Tunisia's Club Africain show off tifo before friendly against PSG pic.twitter.com/pUWH0FE1xm
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 5, 2017
Fans from all around the world continued to protest their favorite clubs into the morning of April 20. That morning, Chelsea played host to Brighton Hove & Albion at Stamford Bridge. As the Chelsea team bus was pulling up to the stadium, there was a large group of protesting Chelsea supporters that was blocking the bus from entering the stadium. While the protesters blocked the bus, former club goalkeeper and Premier League legend Petr Cech arrived in the crowd to beg the fans to let the bus in.
🔊 SOUND ON 🔊
Chelsea club legend Petr Cech clashes with protesters as he pleads 'give us time' pic.twitter.com/P37s663Yn7
— Fox Football (@FOXFOOTBALL) April 20, 2021
And his pleas were successful, as the team ended up making into the stadium and drawing Brighton 0-0. During and after the game, Manchester City was the first of the twelve clubs to announce that they were backing out of the plans for the European Super League. Rumors then started to go around that Chelsea was on the verge of being the second team to drop out. Later that afternoon it was confirmed that Manchester City and Chelsea were the first two teams to officially drop out of the Super League.
While this was happening, players around the world are speaking out in protest of the Super League, with the entire Liverpool squad posting the same image on social media, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson calling an emergency meeting with all other team captains across the Premier League, and it was the players’ mission to ensure the fans that they were on their side.
UEFA and FIFA were also not happy with the proposal of the Super League. As the two biggest administrative bodies in world soccer, UEFA and FIFA came together and threatened to ban all Super League clubs from playing in the UEFA Champions League. In addition, FIFA and UEFA threatened that they will be banning all Super League players from playing in the upcoming Euros that summer, as well as the next World Cup.
Then, later that night the English representation for the European Super League fell apart, with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur becoming the next two teams to drop out. Shortly after, Manchester United Chief Executive Ed Woodward announced his resignation from the club, with Manchester United announcing their withdrawal from the Super League afterwards.
With Liverpool instantly responding by being the last English club to state their departure, the Super League lost half of the teams within 48 hours of the first reveal. The nightmare day was not over for the Super League, as Italy saw its first club resign in FC Internazionale Milano. At the end of the night, Florentino Perez had to release a statement saying the Super League’s plans were no longer feasible with seven of the twelve teams no longer in.
BREAKING: The Super League release an official statement stating they are reconsidering the appropriate steps to reshape the project. pic.twitter.com/zuueIEYK4N
— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) April 20, 2021
The fans had won.
Wednesday morning and afternoon saw the owners of some of the Premier League clubs come out and apologize to their fanbases for their actions with the Super League. In addition, Atletico Madrid and AC Milan announced their departure from the League, leaving Juventus, Barcelona, and Real Madrid as the last three clubs.
The football world came to a halt on Sunday night after the announcement of the Super League. Although there were soccer matches being played during the week, it didn’t seem like that was the case because of the protests seen around Europe. One of soccer’s most legendary managers, Jose Mourinho, got fired during the week and that wasn’t even the biggest piece of soccer news. A classic example of the 99% versus the 1%, where this time the fans were able to stop the rich from getting richer.
Soccer as we know it has been saved, for now at least.