The Irish Times view on the collapse of the European Super League

Europe’s big clubs have scored a spectacular own goal

Tottenham Hotspur fans stage a protest outside the club’s stadium  to the European Super League: Photograph: PA

Tottenham Hotspur fans stage a protest outside the club’s stadium to the European Super League: Photograph: PA

 

For a sport that knows few boundaries in its capacity to surprise and disappoint, the last few days have set a new benchmark in soccer as many of the biggest clubs in Europe saw an audacious plan to cash in on their popularity frustrated by a unique alliance of the sport’s ruling bodies, angry governments and outraged supporters. The decision by six top Premier League teams in Britain – along with Spanish and Italian giants Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and Juventus – to establish a European Super League had been mooted for a number of years. But few expected the extraordinary smash and grab attempt which first emerged last Sunday.

Eliminating any possible risk to revenues at the expense of so many others in football ... was never going to be a moral issue for the voracious clubs and their owners

As UEFA, the governing body for European football, prepared to outline its plans for an expansion of its blue riband competition, the Champions League, 12 maverick clubs broke cover with their own blueprint for a league that would yield an initial financial bonanza running into billions of euros. In also granting themselves permanent status in the proposed league – which meant they could never be relegated – they made a spectacular misjudgment of the public mood. Such an approach is alien to sport in Europe, even if it is in keeping with how US owners of Premier League clubs would wish to underpin their investments.

Eliminating any possible risk to revenues at the expense of so many others in football – players, clubs and leagues – was never going to be a moral issue for the voracious clubs and their owners. Despite some hollow apologies, they failed to understand that football traditions for many supporters go beyond maximising a brand image, or capturing a huge slice of money from TV deals.

But if supporters look upon the collapse of the initiative as a victory, they would be wise to keep a keen eye on what will emerge from its debris. The faux outrage of UEFA, FIFA and subscription TV companies in condemning the clubs and their breakaway action may yet come back to haunt them as they sign the hugely lucrative deals that will keep their best interests at heart, rather than those of the passionate fans of a game that seems in danger of cannibalising itself.

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