The European Super League is moving ever closer with an announcement expected on Sunday evening.
In what is likely to kick-off a drama the likes of which football has never seen, 12 of the world’s leading clubs are about to go head-to-head with their own leagues, federations, UEFA and FIFA for the right to make all the money.
The Daily Mail reported on Sunday that an announcement was expected at 9.30pm on Sunday and, while it is far from sorted as to how it will go ahead, make no mistake, there will be a European Super League.
I know this because I’ve been watching this story as it has developed over the years.
Stan Kroenke, who will become one of the league’s vice-chairman despite not being able to tell a football from an ostrich egg, wants it.
Arsene Wenger warned it was ‘inevitable ‘in his last prediction before he left Arsenal and, with Arsenal struggling to get to Champions League standard on the pitch, the idea of a legacy place that can never be lost will appeal to all those in charge of the purse strings at the club.
Back at the end of 2018, I wrote what follows. It details Stan Kroenke’s desire to move Arsenal (yes, MOVE Arsenal), the appeal of a legacy position, and more.
If you’d like further details on what the Super League will involve, you can read that here. You can read the Premier League’s statement here, UEFA, the FA, the Royal Spanish Football Federation, LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation and Serie A’s joint statement here and the Football Supporter’s Federation’s here.
Originally published 6 November 2018
Leaks detailing talks between top clubs about forming a breakaway European Super League were splashed all over the back pages for about five minutes before they were replaced by another story.
A few clubs moved to deny there were any such European Super League talks going on, but the denials are not ones we should take seriously.
In James Montague’s excellent book, ‘The Billionaires Club‘, he speaks about European Super League proposals. He talks about moves already being made to protect the ‘legacy’ clubs – the ones named in recent football leaks documents about a breakaway league.
Looking back over the book given these latest revelations coupled with what’s happened over the past 12 months, it’s hard not to see it all moving into place.
The worrying thing for Arsenal fans is the first example Montague goes to is that of Stan Kroenke and how Arsenal’s sole owner would love nothing more than to be able to move Arsenal the same way he can move his American sports franchises.
“In 20 years,” Montague writes, “why couldn’t Arsenal move to another city, or even another country to play its games?” He then quotes Neil de Mause, co-author of Field Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit, as saying “Kroenke would love to be able to take advantage of European cities and threaten to move somewhere else.”
I already looked at that issue more here in relation to Stan Kroenke, but it’s a stinking model of holding cities to ransom to gain tax breaks, incentives, and funding to build stadiums while the owners keep all of the profits despite their use of public money.
“The huge advantage in England is that you do not have the tradition of cities bidding against each other. If you go up to a mayor in the US and say ‘We want to talk about you giving us a load of money to move our team here,” they will say, ‘Sure, that is our business. Our job as mayors is to lure business here and win elections.'”
Six clubs in the Premier league are currently owned fully or partially by Americans.
Charlie Stillitiano, who helped found the International Champions Cup that takes place in pre-season across the globe, added, “forming a European Super League is being discussed by leading clubs across the continent. When they came up with the Champions League, the idea wasn’t to have PSV and Genk playing in the knockout stage…there are several different groups among Europe’s top clubs that want a fairer share from the Champions League. When you see the teams we have in the ICC, you’re going to want to go and see us.”
The Chinese are also trying to get involved, suggesting a competition to ‘usurp’ the Champions League. There are currently three Premier League clubs with Chinese owners or part-owners.
“Even more intriguing,” writes Montague, “was a proposal by the Dalian Wanda property group, owned by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, part-owner of Atletico Madrid, to usurp the UEFA Champions League with a brand-new competition with an expanded format that would see more big-name teams playing each other, and fewer teams from smaller nations appearing.
“The idea received a lukewarm welcome, but it is now out there, a pincer movement from China and the US that could change European football forever – assuming, that is, the investment is sustained.
“Both the American and Chinese owners are eager to join forces to push for a European Super League, where their investments in football clubs will be protected from the uncertainty of promotion and relegation.
“The uncertainty of merit is the enemy of profit. It was the threat of such a breakaway that saw UEFA announce proposed changes to the Champions League format in 2018. Now, the top four nations would be guaranteed four places each, cutting the number of champions from smaller countries who were already struggling to compete because of the huge inequalities between leagues.”
Stan Kroenke now has full control of Arsenal and, while it seems unlikely that a Premier League club would ever leave its home city, it’s not like it hasn’t happened before with Wimbledon’s move to MK Dons. The situation might have been somewhat different than that at the top of the tree but the brutal truth is the same – they moved because of money.
With Arsenal dropping out of the Champions League and not able to immediately return, the idea of a legacy place would surely be appealing. Arsenal have a reputation of being a ‘proper’ club, but they have always been agitators behind the scenes. They were in from the very beginning when the Premier League was conceived, some might even suggest they booked the table for the first date. Where there is a bigger slice of the pie to be grabbed, Arsenal’s hand will be one of the first to reach out.
As it stands in the Premier League we now have a top six and only four guaranteed places for the top table of European football. Two sides will continue to miss out unless something changes and you have to believe that it will, sooner rather than later.
The ICC is perhaps an extreme version of where we are heading but I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that the next generation of football fans could be watching their side play a competitive ‘home’ game 5,000 miles away with a middle-of-the-night kick-off, like we recently saw at Wembley with the NFL game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Philadelphia Eagles. Jacksonville, some 4,259 miles from Florida, were at ‘home’.
Stadiums can only fit in a finite amount of people and football is truly global now.
Where there is demand, there is money to be made. And when there’s money to be made, nothing else ever matters.