My spidey sense is tingling. The 12 biggest clubs announce they are forming a breakaway Super League just hours before UEFA are set to ratify a new format for the Champions League, one with a suspiciously similar fixture structure, but with significantly less financial remuneration for these giants. Amid all the predictable outrage, we’re missing something. This is a full-on all or nothing gamble from the clubs to get the Champions League they want from UEFA.
Look at the statement from Juventus. They are floated on the stock exchange, which in Italy has some very strict rules about what can and can’t be announced. “While the founding clubs will use their best efforts to implement the project within the shortest possible timeframe, at the moment the Company cannot assure that the project will be eventually successfully launched or predict the exact timing of the project.”
Read the letter than the 12 clubs sent to UEFA, and match it with the FIFA statement calling for “calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game.” The letter does outline various legal threats to counter the ones from UEFA, but tellingly asks European football’s governing body for “urgent” talks to find a common way forward.
Cast your eye over the format for the Super League, and you’ll realise it is basically identical to the Champions League system that UEFA were set to ratify this week. It’s groups of 10, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-final, then play-offs for those in fourth and fifth.
There’s only one substantial difference here and that is that 12-15 big clubs are guaranteed qualification even if they have a shocker domestically. Plus, and it’s a big plus, those 12-15 would govern the league, able to carve out the money between them without the risk of missing out because they are, oh I dunno, quite bad at playing football compared to someone with a pittance of the budget. Sorry, Atalanta, your results-driven and profit-generating style isn’t welcome here.
We’ve seen it play out for years now, qualifying for the Champions League is infinitely more important than staying in it. As for the Europa League, until they gave a spot in the major tournament for victory, it was considered more of an inconvenience than a trophy to be won.
One wonders why Milan bothered working so hard this season to finish in the top four of Serie A if they’re just going to head straight into their very own Super League. It’s like renting a flat for a year when you’ve got a mortgage lined up. That is one of the things that has my spidey sense tingling. Something’s not right here.
Credit to them if this really is a balls on the table bargaining ploy to get more money and control from UEFA, because these clubs are risking absolutely everything to get a bigger slice of an already frankly unfairly divided pie. It could backfire spectacularly, especially with the angry response it has generated from fans.
I’m going to make a prediction here. The Super League will never see the light of day and it was not particularly intended to. Have you seen their website? It’s rubbish. No way did 12 giant clubs obsessed with image and revamping their logos sign off on that and think it’d be a selling point. This is a desperate ploy to force UEFA into giving in to their demands on the Champions League.
It’s ugly, tacky, classless, unsporting and everyone will hate them for it, but it will probably work and we’ll see them flock back for a hybrid Champions Super League, shoving everyone else into the Europa League and whatever pointless endeavour they are now calling the Conference League. I mean, Conference League, even the name sounds like it’ll be sponsored by a local double-glazing company. That will get combined with the Europa League, the big boys can play happily in their gated community with a few invitees and everyone else will just have to put up with it. At least it’ll stop people moaning about VAR for a while.