By: Rusty Gorelick
Last week, German publication Der Spiegel obtained documents from Football Leaks detailing plans from giant European clubs to defect from their domestic leagues in order to form a permanent Super League.
Bayern Munich, who have already ruined the Bundesliga with their trend of paying absurd amounts of money for their rivals’ best players, want to ruin club soccer as a whole for everyone. The Super League would decentralize clubs, making only the select few teams in the league true global entities, and all other soccer competitions would likely fall behind financially and in popularity as a result of losing their best teams.
Bayern started the idea, and they brought Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Juventus, Arsenal, Manchester United, and more into the cohort of teams seceding from the sport’s most powerful organizations, FIFA and UEFA.
As an American fan of European soccer, I believe that the Super League would be the worst thing to happen in the sport since the Qatar 2022 World Cup vote.
One of the most appealing parts of sports is watching teams go from the bottom of the pile to the top, and only in soccer can fans see teams do that in multiple leagues over a long period of time. The Super League would not have relegation or promotion, meaning teams not fighting for the league championship would have nothing to fight for since part of the deal is that every team receives an equal amount of TV money every year, regardless of how well they do in the league.
Additionally, the Super League would globalize the game further, but only for the handful of teams in the league. Eventually, the teams would all abandon their home stadiums in favor of playing regular-season games around the world to reach a wider audience for more revenue: a game in Beijing one week, Tokyo the next, and Los Angeles after that. Fans lucky enough to see a game would likely only see a couple per season, which will rid clubs of their vitally important core groups of fans who show up at every single home match.
The implementation of this league will take away the centrality of the sport, turning it into more of an entertainment service than an entertainment experience. Every team in any sport needs its Mecca: a home stadium with history where fans from around the world can congregate and cheer their team on to victory. Turning high-level soccer into a high-stakes equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters and screwing every other club in the world in the process is a bad look all around.
Implementing this league will take teams even further away from their roots than they already are. Location and the local fanbase make up two huge parts of a club’s identity, and not having a home symbolic of your favorite team makes fans feel, well, homeless. The commercially inclined Super League will cement the transition from clubs to corporations for any participants
A big question that players will need to answer is whether or not they will want to play in a money-driven league for a trophy with no historical or financial significance. In this league, there will be no stories like Leicester City in the 2015-16 season, since all the teams will have essentially infinite funds and a sense of complacency since no team would ever go under threat of relegation and therefore see a huge loss in revenue.
A billionaire’s club is the last thing soccer needs. It ruins the things people love most about the sport at the club level: underdog stories, the away days to clubs around the country, the sense of pride in club amidst the neighborhood surrounding the stadium, and the melting pot of fans from next door or across oceans who sit in the home stadium’s seats each weekend. If Europe’s biggest clubs decide to secede from everyone else, tradition in soccer will die.
Teams have to decide if greater TV revenue from a wider audience of fans – who, compared to current fans, would probably not care as much about the sport if a Super League forms due to the absence of traditional club values – is worth it. It may sound nice in theory, but it will irreparably change the game for the worse.