The ‘Super’ League: The Beautiful Game is Gone [UPDATE]

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Late at night on Sunday — April 18th, 2021 — as most football fans across Europe were getting ready to lie down in bed with dreams of new success at home and abroad, twelve of the biggest association football clubs in the world all announced that they were forming their own isolated European ‘Super League.’

They did this during a global pandemic in which fans cannot let their voices be heard in stadiums, in which smaller clubs around the world need the help and backing of major clubs to survive, and they did it knowing the backlash that would inevitably happen. This was a sad day for football.

They have all caused irreparable damage to the ‘beautiful game’ and I am both embarrassed, disgusted, and upset about this. Make no mistake, to some extent, this is a point of no return for football fans around the world. Things will never be the same.

These 12 clubs (6 English, 3 Italian, and 3 Spanish clubs) were:

  • Arsenal Football Club
  • Associazione Calcio Milan
  • Chelsea Football Club
  • Club Atletico de Madrid
  • Football Club Internazionale Milano
  • Futbol Club Barcelona
  • Juventus Football Club
  • Liverpool Football Club
  • Manchester United
  • Manchester City
  • Real Madrid Club de Futbol
  • Tottenham Hotspur Football Club

The so-called ‘Super’ League, which is meant to replace the UEFA Champions League (though UEFA has obviously not agreed to this), has reserved three spots for other ‘super clubs,’ though it remains to be seen which clubs will accept the invitation since all German clubs have seemingly declined their invitations (the French league champions Paris Saint-Germain Football Club have also supposedly declined the invitation). An additional five spots will be open for not-so-super clubs to earn based on their achievements each season.

Those twelve (or, in due time, fifteen) ‘founder clubs’ will not be able to be relegated from the league. The founder clubs will be in the league regardless of how they perform in their respective domestic leagues. In fact, we’re not even sure if there will be domestic leagues for these founder clubs to compete in. You see, UEFA and the individual football associations of Italy, Spain, and England have all condemned the foundation of this new super league as it is inconsiderate of the fans, the future of the sport, and the rest of the clubs in each of those leagues.

UEFA — and the FAs — have threatened these clubs with severe sanctions. Everything is on the table. Important individuals have suggested both points deductions and even expulsions from both the UEFA competitions and the domestic leagues. It stands to reason that without those Big Six (which perhaps ought to now be referred to as the Sinister Six) English clubs, the Premier League would not be so lucrative for sponsors, and that is probably what these major clubs are betting on. But UEFA and the FAs are not backing down. Soon the Euros could be without the players from twelve of the biggest clubs in the world. Soon three of the four semi-finalists of this season’s UEFA Champions League (and two of the semi-finalists of this season’s UEFA Europa League) could be kicked out of the tournament. Soon twelve of the biggest clubs in world football could cease to exist as we know them if push comes to shove.

This seems to be all about money. This seems to be all about making sure that you never have a down year like an underachieving football club can have from time to time. This is an attempt to fundamentally alter the game in favor of the richest of the rich. Reports have even suggested that it was the most historic clubs that essentially backed the ‘nouveau riche’ clubs such as Chelsea F.C. and Manchester City into a corner. I am not sure if this is true, but it is true that when Chelsea F.C. released the ‘Super League statement’ all of the comments in the article were made by key individuals from other clubs.

In any case, this feels like a selfish and inconsiderate act of greed that makes it plain for all to see that for the owners of these clubs the mottos and slogans that fans around the globe have latched onto to support their individual club mean absolutely nothing. To some of the key individuals in charge of Liverpool F.C. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is just a catchy tune. To some of the key individuals in charge of F.C. Barcelona ‘Mes Que Un Club’ is just something it says on one of the stands of the Camp Nou. To some of the key individuals in charge of Chelsea F.C. ‘Keep the Blue Flag Flying High’ means nothing. I could go on and on. The point is that the culture surrounding the clubs doesn’t seem to matter to them. The leagues that they have helped to build don’t seem to matter to them. Even the games themselves don’t seem to matter to them if they are willing to have their clubs kicked out of tournaments that they may be close to winning. The future of grassroots football clubs doesn’t seem to matter to so many people in charge of the biggest clubs in the world. This is a slap in the face of all football fans around the world and a stab in the back of the fans of these very clubs.

As a Chelsea F.C. fan, I am afraid for the future of football. Whatever you may want to say about my club, I think that most fans of other clubs will agree with me when I say that the owners have irreparably damaged the bond that fans have to these clubs. This club has become a part of my personality, and I know that millions of people feel the same way. While it may feel like we are powerless that isn’t necessarily true. Fans of all of these clubs have to stand together as one and voice our disapproval before our clubs and world football are so Americanised that they are difficult to recognise or continue to support.

These owners still have the opportunity to prove me wrong. They just need to listen to the thousands — possibly millions — of fans that are now speaking out — screaming — and saying that this is not right. That this is not the way their football club should be run. If just one major club backs out, the rest of the club representatives will start to feel their knees buckling. The domino bricks will fall. This is the moment. Stop this madness while punishments have not yet been handed out. Stop this madness before fans lose one of their most precious outlets for pure emotion (for many it is a necessary escape). Stop this madness before fans lose something that they cannot regain. Please stop this madness before it gets out of hand. I hope that these owners do back out of the Super League. I hope that they realize what they have done before it is too late.

Because right now what we love about football is being taken away right before our eyes. The beating heart of football has been cut open, and it is difficult for the sport to heal without these clubs realizing their mistake. Right now my football heart is hurting.

MAJOR UPDATE — April 21st, 2021 01:33 AM: The Domino Bricks Are Falling!

Rejoice football fans! Because on Tuesday April 20th, the European Super League started to fall apart. Following massive criticism from football associations, fans, pundits (Gary Neville deserves high praise), select players and managers, politicians and more, we started to hear confirmation of previous rumors. Apparently, Chelsea F.C. and Manchester City, who were allegedly ‘backed into a corner’ when they signed up as founding clubs of the Super League, were reported to be extremely nervous about the direction in which the situation was headed.

What would be the straw that could break the camel’s back? Appropriately, it was the fan outrage and fan protests that made it impossible for the people in power to ignore the backlash. Ahead of a Premier League game between Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea F.C. hundreds-if-not-thousands of Chelsea F.C. fans gathered outside Stamford Bridge to have their say. These many fans screamed, shouted, and, for some time, prevented the team busses from getting into the stadium. In fact, these protests were so effective that Chelsea F.C. legend and current Chelsea F.C. technical and performance advisor, Petr Cech, approached the fans to assure them that the club needed time to ‘sort it out.’

(What felt like) Minutes later, Dan Roan of the BBC tweeted that Chelsea F.C. were, in fact, “now preparing documentation to request withdrawing from the ESL.” As Chelsea F.C. fans celebrated in the streets of London, the first domino brick was falling. After Chelsea’s intentions were announced by multiple journalists, Manchester City apparently followed suit, and later it was announced that Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman of Manchester United F.C., had resigned. Soon select Spanish clubs were also rumored to leave. Then the first official club statements were released in the middle of the aforementioned Premier League game. The domino bricks were falling and, at least for now, football fans around the world could celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief.

If you need a more complete explanation of events, I highly recommend that you seek out this timeline of events on The Guardian‘s website.

– Article Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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