It is a competition no fans wanted. It is a competition no fans has asked for. But it is a competition that Europe’s “elite” clubs have continued to push.
The European Super League.
Now the Champions League is not perfect. It has become dull. Viewing figures and match day attendances are dwindling and it is in urgent need of reform.
But the answer is not a “European Super League”.
One of the biggest problems of the Champions League is that we continually get the same teams drawing each other, year after year.
Arsenal have been drawn against Bayern Munich 4 times in the last 9 seasons, despite not playing in the competition for the last 3.
The magic of Europe for a match going fan was that you might be playing a club for the first time. And if not it might have been the first time in many years.
Being drawn against the same teams over and over again makes it less exciting.
It is the same for away games.
We all want to do a Euro Away. A few thousand of you in a city. Few beers and watch the game. But does anyone really want to go to Munich again? Or Barcelona? Or Olympiakos or Marseille?
Prior to a draw, top of my list is “a club we have not played before” as it gives me a chance to visit a new city. But with the current set up of the Champions League, it is 80% of the same teams qualifying year after year.
And it gets worse in the qualifiers. Always the same teams.
It is a competition designed to ensure that Europe’s “big” teams qualify. And in turn ensures those teams get out of their groups.
And the proposed European Super League does not solve the Champions League’s biggest flaw. In fact it makes it worse.
In last nights statement, it was announced that just 20 teams would play in the ESL. With 15 of the teams being “founder” members.
So we now have even less teams able to qualify. Even less new cities to visit.
You have too much of something and it becomes boring, and that is what is happening in the Champions League and will be accelerated in the European Super League.
The same teams playing each other every season. No thanks.
The second issue with the Champions League is that it creates a two-tier system in domestic leagues.
Those that are in the Champions League end up with around £70million more revenue a year than those not in.
That in turn allows them to buy the best players, pay the higher wages. Which keeps them at the top and makes it hard for anyone else to break in.
Leicester City and / or West Ham might break into the top 4 this season, but it will be a one off.
Only once since 2005 has the Premier League top 4 contained a team other than Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea or Tottenham.
You either have to be very well run and get lucky with transfers (Leicester City) or have a billionaire oil baron turn up and finance your way to the top (Manchester City).
On the second one, the top teams hate that as well.
They do not want new clubs disrupting the status quo. A Manchester City coming in and financing their way to the top. As this makes their leagues more competitive. They do not want a competitive league.
Whilst the Champions League usually sees the same teams qualify, it does give the opportunity for other teams to qualify through a league position.
The ESL takes that requirement away and reinforces the “haves and have nots”.
Arsenal have not qualified for the Champions League for 3 seasons. This year it will be 4.
Tottenham have been top 4 just 6 times since the Premier League was founded. And with them unlikely to make top 4 this season it will be 4 times in 10.
Liverpool went through a stage of qualifying once in 6 years during the early 2010s and Manchester United have gone from every presents to qualifying just 3 times in 7 years.
Chelsea have also missed out 3 times in the last 9 years.
AC Milan are one of the founder members of the ESL. They have not qualified for the Champions League in 7 years. Likewise Inter Milan went through a stage of qualifying once in 7 years from 2012 – 2017. Juventus are just about hanging on to 4th place this season
Clubs are fearful of not qualifying and losing their place at the top table; and this greed is what has led to the ESL proposal.
These clubs have been pushing UEFA for some years to have “guaranteed” Champions League places regardless of league position.
They see themselves as the most important sides in the game. The ones that draw the big crowds, big viewing figures. They have the huge global places and therefore they should be compensated properly with guaranteed top level European football.
UEFA have resisted this, and correctly so. And this is their response.
The clubs are basically saying “we are bigger and more important than the rest of football. If you are not willing to guarantee us top level football and the riches they bring, we will set up our own competition”.
And it will fail.
It will fail because it does not resolve any of the problems the Champions League currently has. In fact it makes them worse.
They have over estimated the loyalty of match going fans. Fans will just stop going.
Whilst the competition might have interest from fans abroad, with them tuning into their TVs to watch – football is not a TV show. Those fans will not pump the thousands of pounds match going fans do to go week in week out.
There is a huge difference between someone in England, paying £1000 a year on a season ticket, money that goes to the club, and TV subscriptions, which again goes to the club; and fans abroad who might watch on a dodgy laptop stream and buy 2 shirts a year.
Games in front of half empty stadiums will not be a product they can easily sell to broadcasters and advertisers.
One final point is exposing a myth.
I have seen some say “but the ESL will generate more money which will allow us to buy more players”. No it will not.
Lionel Messi would already be at an ESL club. So would Kevin de Bruyne. And Cristiano Ronaldo. And so on
The founding members of the ESL already have the highest wage bills in Europe. The introduction of the ESL will not allow them to buy better players as they already have all the best players.
All the ESL will do is generate more money for less clubs. It will make rich players richer and their billionaire owners even more money.
Arsenal will not be better as a result of the ESL. It will not resolve how poorly we have been run. Same with Manchester United.
Manchester United is the perfect example.
They have the highest wage bill in England. They are a poorly run club. More money will not change that.
I hope if the clubs do go ahead with the ESL, then UEFA and the domestic leagues take a hard stance and suspend those clubs. Ban the players involved from playing for their countries. Ban them from joining other clubs.
Whilst UEFA and the Premier League might not be perfect, they are a darn sight better than having 15 teams guaranteeing huge financial windfalls for themselves and stick two fingers up at the thousands of other teams in Europe.
The European Super League. NO THANKS.