European Super League: The Final Verdict
With talk of the European Super League reduced to a whisper, fans have been left stunned by the lacklustre punishments dished out to those involved. Calum Muldoon explores why the saga has ended on a sour note.
As I woke up last week, I was not expecting to be furiously typing a European Super League article like I did a month or two ago, but news of the punishment dished out to the Premier League’s “Big Six” was too ludicrous to ignore. I turned on my TV in the morning and switched to Sky Sports News. Across the bottom of the screen, I read that the Big Six were being fined a combined £22 million by the Premier League for their part in the creation of the European Super League. Having to pay a share of £22 million is absolutely nothing to these massive clubs, who readily spend ridiculous amounts on transfers. While they also face a threat of a larger fine and a 30 point deduction, the Premier League confirmed their own place in this situation – below their biggest clubs.
As more details came out, I became aware that the actual penalty would be £3.6 million each. I then discovered that it was not even so much as an official punishment, but a “gesture of goodwill” from the six clubs involved, who in turn expected fans to be grateful for their minor contribution. Thank you, billionaires, for giving a fraction of your wealth to say sorry for nearly destroying the sport! How generous!
The fact that this payment to these clubs’ governing body is being considered as enough to draw a line through the matter just shows the imbalance that the ESL uncovered in the first place. These six sides feel that throwing a few days’ revenue at the feet of their “higher-ups” is enough to make everyone bury their heads in the sand and ignore their cutthroat and ruthless business practices, all so their owners can squeeze onto a Forbes list or two.
£3.6 million is not even enough to make these clubs feel bad about what they did. Manchester City can pay Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne that same amount collectively in about five or six weeks. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich owns a yacht worth nearly 140 times the amount that his club are paying the Premier League. This all clearly shows just how little this will faze the men who tried to break away from the league in the first place.
Only months ago, UEFA and the Premier League were threatening lawsuits and expulsion – now, they have resorted to lining their pockets with money from the crooks who tried to kill football, and that seems to be the unfortunate end to the story. These teams did not get the comeuppance they deserved. While they backed out of the project within 48 hours, this attempted mutiny by Europe’s elite cannot be so easily forgiven, especially when they only pulled out of proposals as a result of intense pressure from the fans and governing bodies of the sport. UEFA at least had the guts to suspend their revenue from European competitions. For only one season. And only 5% of that revenue. Maybe they barely did anything, actually.
The main takeaway from all of this is that football has become twisted. The people who run the sport are quick to condemn anyone who tries to escape their rule, purely because they would not get a slice of the profit. They are quick to pull out the rule book only when it affects them, and this is why UEFA and the Premier League do not genuinely care about the integrity of football. Both have played a role in damaging the sport for the past 20 years by letting these teams come to see themselves as bigger than the sport, and their pathetic attempt at disciplining them will merely confirm these beliefs. When you can get away with trying to block competition from growing purely because of how many zeros you can write on a cheque, you know the sport is on its knees.
While these teams have at least paid some form of due, UEFA have announced that they are suspending their proceedings against Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus, who all remain adamant that the ESL is alive. We have seen teams worm their way out of consequences on a scale we have never seen before. The 12 clubs who created the vision will go on. Football will go on. We will go into next season watching these sides continue to dominate their respective leagues and we will sit in awe at the wondrous goals from some of the best players in the world. Nothing will change. The only thing that can cause a shift in the balance is hard discipline. UEFA feebly clawed at their finances by withholding 5% of these clubs’ revenue for a season, shrugged, and are continuing to rake in the millions by enabling these teams to widen the divide between the elite and the rest of Europe’s clubs. While football was not killed by the ESL as many thought, it leaves the sport much worse off than before.
Chances are that these teams will not try to create the ESL again. The threat of a 30 point deduction is enough to make any team panic. If that happened to Arsenal this season, they would be four points away from being relegated. The thing that bothers me and plenty of other fans is that they now know they can get away with tampering with the game for financial gain. While their next money-making scheme might not be another ESL, it could be something else that could financially ruin their competition like the ESL would have done. The villains who allowed this to even happen in the first place are still in the boardrooms and on these governing bodies, and until that has been changed, fans cannot say that the European Super League saga has ended on a happy note.