FOOTBALL'S DARKEST HOUR: WHY THE EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE IS THE END OF ELITE FOOTBALL
The day ends in ‘y’, so people are talking about a European Super League again.
Yes, the much-discussed proposals have reared their ugly head once more, and as ever, have caused mass debate as a closed-off league threatens to destroy the very fabric of the sport we love.
It’s a topic which has seemed to come up almost monthly over the last few years, and in fact first came up more than 30 years ago, as I found when I was reading an old magazine recently with the headline ‘European Super League no longer a viable proposition’.
That could hardly be more ironic today as the billionaire owners of Europe’s biggest clubs continue to seek more of the thing that they certainly don’t need, money.
At the end of the day, that’s what all this is about, trying to put an end to any kind of competition and jeopardy in European football at the expense of more revenue for the elite.
The timing of the latest proposal comes as no surprise, with UEFA set to confirm the post-2024 format for the Champions League on Monday.
And the thing is, the changes these rich owners are trying to derail are due to help them even more than the current set-up does.
We’re in the midst of one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent memory, with the likes of Liverpool, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and even PSG all in significant danger of missing out on next season’s Champions League.
However, the new format that was set to be approved this week would mean the two clubs with the highest coefficient not already qualified would get a ‘wildcard’.
Although this sounds disastrous, it’s somehow infinitely better than any Super League proposal.
At the moment, any club across Europe can dream of working their way up and eventually qualifying to battle it out with the best teams in the world.
The likes of Atalanta and Granada are perfect examples, unfancied clubs on the doorsteps of European giants who have both made it to the latter stages of continental competitions recently.
Any kind of closed shop kills those dreams and makes everything else completely pointless.
That’s not to mention the proposed format a Super League would have. Whatever happens, it looks like we’re heading for a snoozefest of oversized group stages with endless dead-rubbers and very little to play for.
A harsh reality for us fans, who might have to find a new hobby, but the self-interested protagonists in creating the plans couldn’t care less about that, of course.
Another hugely negative point in all this is the actual clubs that are involved, with the English ‘Big Six’ narrative created by Sky Sports serving to further fill the coffers at those six.
The fact that distinctly mid-table Arsenal as well as their north London rivals Tottenham, who are undoubtedly on a downward spiral, are both part of the talks tells you all you need to know.
Whether that’s in a new Champions League format or a breakaway league remains to be seen, but preparations for the death of football are well underway.
Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli was quoted in last night’s press release giving his support to the move, which is all well and good until you realise that he also chairs the European Club Association, consisting of more than 200 clubs, who are strongly against a breakaway.
When the man representing most of the biggest clubs on the continent makes a move to strangle the life out of the vast majority of them, you know the sport’s not in a good place.
Reassuringly, FIFA have already stated that they wouldn’t recognise a Super League and any participating players would be banned from internationals.
They’ve been joined by all the major European leagues as well as several politicians in opposing the proposals.
When politicians that have neglected working-class sports over the last year make a stand against this, you know that the clubs involved in it really must have gone badly wrong somewhere.
However, all the negative reaction doesn’t have a hope against the money that the elite clubs can use to make this happen.
Something has to be done to put an end to this never-ending story, otherwise football as we know it will be dead.