European Super League Crumbles Amid Fan Backlash

Robert Musantry
Sports Business Editor

The idea of a European “Super League” consisting of the best soccer teams on the continent has been long rumored to be in the works. These type of plans can be traced all the way back to the 1990s, if not earlier, as television networks and clubs look to maximize the profit they can make with higher quality competitions. However, 2021 saw this idea taken further than ever before, with an announcement coming in April that teams had already agreed to join a closed off continental competition. This competition was to be known as the European Super League or ESL, and had 12 teams already signed on to compete beginning as soon as possible.

Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid, headed the ESL movement this year and now faces major criticism as the league faces failure (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

These teams included the “Big Six” from England (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur) as well as Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Real Madrid of Spain and A.C. Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus out of Italy. Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid, was the head of this project and was very confident in the league’s ability to take off and provide member clubs with more money than any competition previously, including the UEFA Champions League.

The release of this information was met immediately by major complaints, as fans saw their teams entering this league for the money and not for the integrity of the sport. Fans began protests outside the various stadiums of the teams involved, and the teams began to take notice right away. Even some players got involved, with Liverpool players posting a message reading “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen” across different social media channels. Various governments and sporting governing bodies threatened sanctions against teams that follow throw on participating in this league as they tried to protect the current leagues and competitions that exist.

Chelsea fans protest the involvement of their club in the European Super League, one of many protests around the world (Photo Courtesy of iNews)

Almost as fast as the announcement of the ESL was released, it was reported that it could be crumbling under the immense pressure of fan protests both in-person and online. On April 20th, only two days since the league’s announcement, all six English clubs removed themselves from participation, saying things like Manchester United stating that the club had “listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government, and other key stakeholders” in withdrawing and Tottenham Hotspurs chairman Daniel Levy saying that they “regretted the anxiety and upset” caused by their entrance into the ESL. April 21st saw Atletico Madrid, A.C. Milan, and Inter Milan officially distance themselves from the ESL, leaving only three of the original clubs left to try and salvage the league. It had been rumored that France’s PSG and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich were also invited to join the league, but all three clubs decided instead to join the backlash and signal their support for fans and the current structure of soccer.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin came out after this all happened and said that all 12 teams that had signed contracts with the ESL would face consequences, and rumors began to swirl that they could come as fast as removing teams from this year’s Champions League. This was not to be the case, as this year’s competition will remain as is, and future punishments have not been announced.

Ed Woodward, longtime Chief Executive of Manchester United, has announced he will step down at the end of 2021 as a result of the ESL controversy (Photo Courtesy of The Athletic)

Even though the league has now all but evaporated, fan protests have not ended. Manchester United fans protested outside Old Trafford, their team’s home stadium, as they try and force the team’s owners to sell the team and remove themselves from the operation of the organization. Many of the teams who were involved in this program have seen similar protests and calls for new leadership, but the protest at Old Trafford ended up with fans breaking into the stadium and rushing onto the playing field and the team’s game against Liverpool postponed because the situation had gotten so far out of control.

While this edition of the super league concept seems to be dead, it proved that the biggest teams in Europe are comfortable in fighting for profits instead of the wants and needs of their fanbases. These 12 teams are sure to face continued backlash, and it could be that many of them are under new leadership sooner than later.


Contact Robert at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest