The European Super League (ESL) has been massively prevalent in sports headlines through Spring 2021, especially with the recent postponing of the Manchester United v Liverpool FC fixture. What was once a controversial idea in the minds of club’s owners, it became a reality in 2021, to the abhorrence of fans, players and pundits alike. Now most clubs have since rescinded. So let us take a closer look at what the ESL was all about in this article, the European Super League: explained.
On April 18th 2021, twelve of the most influential and financially prosperous clubs in England, Spain and Italy officially announced their intentions to break away from the UEFA governed Champions League. While it is not intended to replace national leagues, joining the ESL would likely involve expulsion from said leagues, threatening the integrity and stability of those domestic competitions moving forward and undermining a century of sporting history
Image source: The Comeback
Who Was Involved?
Ultimately, the ESL was the brainchild of Florentino Perez, the contentious President of Real Madrid .It was also endorsed by the owners of the registered Premier League clubs and Juventus. All of who would hold authorial positions in the league’s governing hierarchy. The league was conceptualised some years back with initial reports dating back to 1998. In 2021, during a trying time for the sport amidst the pandemic, the ESL was officially launched.
So, who signed up? You have the ‘big six’ of the Premier League, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Alongside them, you had Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid from La Liga. As well as AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus from Serie A. Eventually more teams would be added to this roster until a full line-up was established.
It is worth noting clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and FC Porto outright rejected the invitation to the ESL. So it would have been uncertain as to who would have taken their places.
Image source: Somtosports
How Would it Work?
The ESL would consist of twenty teams, fifteen permanent ‘founding clubs’ and five that would take part in a qualifying process based on their recent domestic success. This means that the core fifteen teams would be immune to relegation, regardless of their league performances. Meaning a club’s diplomatic role effectively is more significant than form, results and fair competition. Each year there would potentially be five new teams added with the remaining fifteen untouchable.
The competition would see the teams split into two groups of ten, with each club playing the other in a home and away fixture. The top three of each group qualifying for the quarterfinal round with two runner ups from each group competing in a qualifying round to follow suit. The teams left would face each other in double-pivot home and away fixtures before a one-legged final commences at a neutral stadium.
Image source: Deseret News
Gary Neville in his formal reaction claims “greed” was the motivation for the ESL, with the core teams rumoured to receive €3.5 billion and a 32.5% share in commercial revenues. Additionally, all twenty teams would share a further 32.5%. It is also reported that Real Madrid and Barcelona would receive an extra €60 million to other clubs for two years. AC Milan, Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund reportedly set to receive considerably less than the other clubs by comparison.
Effectively, this would further widen the already massive gulf in wealth between these fifteen clubs and the rest of the sport.
Image source: Birmingham Mail
Reception and Reaction
As expected, this breakaway league was heavily criticised by everyone else involved in the game. Fans, players, pundits and governing bodies were not shy in voicing their dismay. The respective football associations of England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany all declared their opposition to the breakaway league. This included the governments of said nations publicly declaring their intentions to attempt to block its progression.
Furthermore, UEFA threatened expulsion for participating teams from domestic and European competitions. Players from those clubs would be banned from participating in all national-team competitions. Non-participating clubs such as West Ham United and other previously invited clubs also voiced their staunch opposition to the ESL.
Fan’s organising bodies such as the FSE and those associated with the six participating English teams have followed suit in their condemnation to the ESL, targeting frustrations towards their club’s ownerships and launching accusations of corruption and villainy.
Protest banners have been hung outside several home stadiums, such as Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Camp Nou. Numerous fan demonstrations have also been reported. Most recently causing the postponement of the Manchester United v Liverpool FC fixture.
Image source: Financial Times
Aftermath and Final Words
The six English clubs have all retracted their involvement in the ESL and issued public apologies, to the fan’s understandable dissatisfactions. Many of which are now calling for their owners to leave. While a lot is left unanswered and unresolved, the ESL looks all but dissolved.
The long-term backlash and consequences that participating teams may face are yet to be fully known at the time of writing. Several club executives have left their positions and final rulings will likely be dealt out by UEFA. Watch this space for more to be uncovered.
So there you have it, the European Super League: explained. I hope this article has helped you in understanding the situation unfolding around the European Super League. The truth is, this is quite a complicated issue and this article only covers the salient points. However, I hope you find it beneficial.