A new 10-point manifesto for the resuscitation of a European Super League has again united the established powers in football, this time in derision. Described variously as a “twitching corpse”, a dispatch from “an alternative reality” and a wolf with “big eyes and big teeth”, the proposals, which claim to have rectified the issues that brought down the ESL in 2021, have been given short shrift.
That a new plan exists, based on “stakeholder dialogue” with European clubs, is undeniable. It is being driven by A22, a consultancy hired by the Super League company which has three of European sport’s biggest names – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus – behind it. Whether an act of desperation or the start of a second, less confrontational, campaign in a long war remains to be seen.
The pillars of a reimagined ESL would include a commitment to ‘open competition’ with no guaranteed permanent members. There would also be an expansion from the original 16 elite clubs to 60-80 teams, all also playing in their domestic leagues. A divisional structure would be implemented, meaning promotion and relegation. The ESL would commit to investing in and growing the women’s game. And there would be guaranteed €400 million annually in solidarity payments to clubs outside the ESL and the grassroots game.
In response the chief executive of the English and Welsh Football Supporters’ Association, Kevin Miles, which was quickest off the mark. “The walking corpse that is the European Super League twitches again with all the self-awareness one associates with a zombie,” he said. “Their newest idea is to have an ‘open competition’ rather than the closed shop they originally proposed that led to huge fan protests. Of course an open competition for Europe’s top clubs already exists – it’s called the Champions League.”
The scorn was soon piled higher by the European Club Association, which represents 245 clubs. In 2021, the ECA’s chairman, Andrea Agnelli of Juventus, was a prime mover behind the ESL. Since the plan collapsed, however, with Agnelli departing, the ECA has pivoted into closer working relations with Uefa.
“ECA notes the latest dispatch from A22′s alternative reality,” it said. “However, in the real world, this rehashed idea has already been proposed, discussed and comprehensively rejected by all stakeholders in 2019. This is just another deliberately distorted and misleading attempt to destabilise the constructive work currently taking place between football’s real stakeholders to move things forward in the overall best interests of the European club game.”
The president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, an outspoken critic of the Super League despite it being driven by his two biggest teams, compared the proposals to Red Riding Hood. “The Super League is the wolf, who today disguises himself as a granny to try to fool European football,” he tweeted. “But HIS nose and HIS teeth are very big.”
The Premier League kept its counsel, perhaps unwilling to dignify the news by acknowledging it. There is no doubt, however, that the financial success of England’s top flight is driving a continued desire to get the ESL off the ground. Numbers circulated by A22 emphasise the disparity in income between Premier League clubs and the rest of Europe; a new competition which – despite its increased numbers and ‘open’ principles – promises the best of European clubs playing each other each week, is seen as the antidote to the Premier League becoming a de facto Super League.
A22 cannot say which, if any, clubs are in support of its reformatted concept, and rumours circulate of another briefing document continuing to show a place for guaranteed members. Meanwhile, all eyes are on a pending ruling from the European Court of Justice. If the court decides that any new competition must receive the approval of Uefa if it is to be integrated into the competitive landscape, the Super League may find itself boxed in, however many tweaks it makes to its proposal. – Guardian