Why The Super League failed while the Premier League succeeds

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While the concept of European Super League has been around since 1968, the failed launch of the 2021 rendition of such project between April 19 and April 22 remained to be first true attempt to create such league – despite the fact that the UEFA Champions League has essentially accomplished the exact goal of ESL while maintaining the tradition of association football. In fact, the concept of a closed club competition with the freedom from relegation essentially alienated the absolute majority of football fans across Europe sounded an alarm to the European football governing body, UEFA, and their sponsors. This got me thinking of the titular subject as to why ESL stunk up while EPL manages to sustain itself in spite of the financial gaps between the latter league and the lower leagues at-large.

As someone who was alerted of the formation of ESL on that fateful day in April 2021, unless I am a die-hard supporter of Major League Soccer (alas, I am not in terms of the formulae of MLS), a league with no relegation defeats the purpose of creating more competition for all participants in the sport, where complacency is considered as a major setback for both the league and its players alike. As such, my first thought was “what in the blue hell is this bullshit?” Upon revealing the dozen clubs involved with such project, it was obvious that the focal point originated with one, if not more, of the following clubs: Manchester United (the Glazer family), Juventus FC, and the pair of Spanish football giants, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. However, the most focal of them all was Barcelona and Real Madrid, with the Glazer ownership played the close associate, and the two former clubs have been known for overspending their ways into European dominance in the Champions League, while ManUnited’s constant insistence of taking dividends from the club earning by the Glazers plagued the club’s finances and their fortune in all competitions.

Other clubs who pledged their support included Arsenal Football Club, Liverpool Football Club, Inter Milan and AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea Football Club, Manchester City Football Club, and Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club, however, some like ManCity, Chelsea and the the Milans had reservations about commitment to the project. Almost immediately, FIFA, UEFA, and all other international football associations and domestic leagues voiced their oppositions, to the point that UEFA would have expelled all of them from European competition, as well as relegation to lower leagues, if not worse. To make matter worse, players and coaches alike have also voiced their oppositions to such lunacy, and the supporters of both Liverpool and ManUnited blocked entry to Old Trafford during their EPL match, sparking further speculations about whether their involvement worth the risk and the wrath of UEFA. On April 20, 2021, the first sign of cracks began to show when ManCity and Chelsea withdrew from the Super League, and then Tottenham followed, so did Liverpool, with soon-to-be ex-owner John Henry issued a video apology to their fans for getting involved with it; Arsenal and ManUnited followed soon after, by Tuesday morning, Atletico Madrid, and the Milan clubs also withdrew from the proposed league, leaving Juventus, Barcelona, and Real Madrid remained committed.

In the weeks that followed, all six Premier League clubs settled with the league and the English Football Association by pledging their allegiance to the Premier League and accept future punishments if they reverse their decision, Atletico and the Milan clubs have also made similar agreements to keep their places in their domestic leagues. Yet, the Spanish giants remained committed to the failed project and reaffirmed that the league would be revamped and improved their images so that those who withdrew would eventually return. However, as long as the vocal supporters, the leagues, and UEFA holds firm, the prospect of launching the Super League remained slim to none for the foreseeable future. This begs to question as to why the Super League was doomed to fail from the start while the Premier League was able to survive as long as they had, despite the financial disparity between the lower leagues and Premier League. In order to answer this question, we need to trace back to the decisions that became the foundation of the Premier League in the first place.

The founding of the Premier League was a perfect storm of several factors that has plagued the Football League whilst the English clubs dominated in European football during the 1970s and the early 1980s: dilapidated stadiums, hooliganism between clubs, losing domestic players to European leagues, English clubs got banned from European football following the Heysel Disaster in late May 1985, and ITV monopoly, and all of them resulted into the formation of the Premier League. At this point in time, not only the Football League operated the top flight, but also all three of lower divisions, which essentially monopolized the competitions with little commercial growth, this was quite problematic for the upper echelons of the top flight clubs, and especially for those who were screwed out of European competition as a result of Liverpool supporters’ actions at Heysel. At the same time, the likes of Manchester United began expanding their operations into beyond game-day ticket sales, which began its metamorphisms into business ventures to maximize revenue. Although they have slowly allowed shirt sponsorships during the 1980s, the impact of Hillsborough disaster became imperative for the top flight into seeking to increase revenue and their influences, especially after the European band ended in 1990, the cost of stadium upgrade as proposed by the Taylor Report made the breakaway league possible.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, none of the “perfect storm” existed during the failed launch of the European Super League, to the point that even Juventus Football Club had built their new stadium at the same site as the now-demolished Stadio Della Alpi, and Real Madrid has also commenced their own stadium improvement project, so what was the reason to push a league that the foreign formula by eliminating relegation altogether? The European Club Association has been benefitted from the revamping of then-European Club Championships (now known as UEFA Champions League) by expanding its format to allow more clubs to get involved, which led to increased involvement from commercial sponsorships, as such, what was the point of splintering into yet another alternative that mirrors the existing elite competition? The only rationale that I could think of relates to the overspending their expenditures in players salaries by many who were involved with this proposal, particularly with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid with almost 2 billions Euros combined, although the Glazer family may have had a hand into it, in a lesser extend. However, the parties involved had underestimated the values of football supporters and their voicing in opposition, this led to all six Premier League clubs from committing into the proposal. By April 22, 2021, only Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid remained, with the six pledged their supports with the Premier League and agreed future punishment if they considered another breakaway proposal. As of this writing, the notion of creating Super League for European football are a pipe dream, at the very least, an immaculate event at worst.



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