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Thursday April 22 2021
Super League: the clubs left off the guest list

The Super League seems to have collapsed, but Giancarlo Rinaldi argues, it taught us an important lesson about how the top European clubs are perceived.

It is the kind of conversation that usually gets heated over a few beers. Who are the biggest teams and how do you judge it? You can guarantee that no two people leaning against the bar in the wee small hours ever agree entirely about the stature of one side relative to another. The European Super League, though, was trying to end that debate once and for all by giving us no room for discussion - like the most brutal bouncer. If your name is not on the list, you are not getting in.

Many football fans reacted with revulsion while others did, quite simply, see it as a natural continuation of the direction of travel for some time. If the Champions League often felt like a closed shop - reserved for a handful of wealthy chums - the new set-up was supposed to actually be exactly that. Even the pretence of equity, fairness and allowing little clubs to dream of glory has been removed. Abandon hope, all ye who cannot enter here.

What was the basis of their logic in gathering up these “founding fathers” of a sporting revolution? You might, at first, be tempted to suggest that it was money and simple greed. However, was that even the case? How on earth do you decide - like those aforementioned pub disputes - what constitutes a big enough club to be involved?

A look at the most recent Deloitte's money list suggests that most of the continent's biggest earners were in there, for sure, but there were a few glaring omissions. No Bayern Munich or PSG, suggest their names must be top of the wanted list of the 12 clubs already committed. And on the flipside, of course, what about Milan's inclusion? Yes, a European giant, yes, but one without the financial clout - in that last study anyway - of even Wolverhampton Wanderers.

And there is the very hub of the debate, and what irks football fans. If anyone was drawing up our list of the best sides in the history of the European game there is no doubt that the Rossoneri would be included. But Manchester City? They were 34th in a recent UEFA study of clubs’ all time records in the European Cup. Tottenham Hotspur? A distant 66th. Their records pale in comparison with the likes of Porto, Benfica, Ajax or Celtic - none of whom so far have been invited to the party.

Maybe domestic success is the key? But then you could argue that Spurs two domestic league titles - the last of them in 1961 - don't make them much bigger than Roma, Napoli or even Fiorentina. They are all still awaiting their ticket to the big bash too.

Fanbase, then, is cited by the big boys who claimed millions of fans around the world. That's clearly the case for the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester United. But, again, there are a few teams who would think they could give Tottenham a game in terms of global support. I can almost hear the rumbling in Glasgow as I type - and justifiably so.

Of course, organisers said three more teams would have been added to their core group with the addition of five further invitations. But, no matter who they ask, they would never get us all to agree. We all have different ideas of what makes up the stature and standing of a club. Who made this group of mega-rich sides the judge of that? For those of us who have loved football all our lives, it felt like turning up at your own wedding and finding out a total stranger sent out the invitations - to people you do not know from Adam.

That was part of what made the Super League so unpalatable to so many fans. We love the debate and opinion but this wanted to pull the rug away from under that. They wanted to tell us who the best clubs were without leaving any room for doubt.

Even the make-up, with six English sides, seemed nonsensical to anyone with an ounce of the game’s history in their head. Countless teams across the continent could have made a strong case for taking part, many of them stronger than those that had been involved. It felt a lot better when this was just the subject of a daft debate after a couple of drinks too many. Thank goodness - in the end - everyone sobered up after a couple of days of this idea and came to their senses.”

Have your say...
3) Restructuring the game is inevitable, fans have to realize we are in a new post covid era and the $$ generated by clubs with huge fan bases either by ticket sales, jerseys, tv rights etc is just too much for smaller clubs. How can a Crotone or Torino compete with Tottenham a second tier giant or worse ManUnited. There is no shame in competing against your equals it is unjust to have to compete against Goliath, unless you are David. So bless football on any level & hope that is enough for fans
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 1:56pm
2) Smaller clubs just can’t generate the kind of profit to compete with the giants, even Leicester last small club champion in the EPL is owned by a wealthy company. How can the giants generate more $$ in the era of covid: more TV revenue, then they can continue to pay for players to compete with each other. The CL & EL is not enough for them, it won’t relieve their debt and costs, eventually their survival may depend on a Super league, regardless of the current lash out by fans.
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 1:46pm
1)The lack of in house fans has caused financial problems for all football teams.
TV $$ has sustained the teams but is not enough for teams with large actual fan bases to make a profit and compete for top players. The cycle causes top teams to go further into debt to survive and prosper. Few teams are backed by owners with deep enough pockets who are not concerned with profit or costs. Obviously smaller clubs are dependent on league revenue sharing based on TV rights on the continent.
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 1:44pm
@Maldini’s Heir I think the issue is with the Billionaire owners/Hedge Fund Companies. They put the money in and try their hand at football management. They are looking for short term gain. Winning is no longer the goal. It’s top 4. They take dividends and leave clubs in debt. Billionaire owners are business people not football fans. They decide the management structure. Maldini’s role is limited. He can only do his job which is almost impossible. The system is broken and out of control.
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 12:59pm
This really isn't that difficult. It's about the clubs that are the most marketable. Yes Milan has very little financial power anymore, especially compared to most EPL sides, but they still have a huge fanbase and are still revered, even if for the past 10 years they've been nowhere near their former glory. If Real Madrid or Man U also had a 10 year spell out of CL, they would still be included. Other sides included are less prestigious but have done well this past decade and have lots of fans.
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 9:59am
Thus proving once more than a super league needs promotion and relegation. If the likes of Tottenham or Arsenal belong there before Napoli or Ajax, then they would be able to stay up.

Give me a supra-national league under UEFA with promotion-relegation and generous revenue sharing to the national football federations and I'm on board. But those are absolute necessities.
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 3:16am
Thank you, FI, for finally putting a piece that condemns SL.
I still don't agree with Susy's blog; SL wasn't just a bargaining ploy, these vultures REALLY wanted to pull it off! Only governments & the wonderful English fans (& media) stopped them.

Serie A & La Liga are a disgrace.
Conte avoided press, Pioli was disgusting as Zidane, even the soon-to-be-fired Pirlo didn't oppose. What a disappointment!
Not to mention the garbage pro-SL fans here on FI! HOW HEARTLESS & APATHETIC CAN YOU BE??
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 2:54am
Spurs being in it showed up what an absolute joke the whole concept was. Sevilla, Porto, Benfica, Ajax should all be ahead of them for sure.

I imagine a more thought-out Super League will emerge eventually. But deciding who gets into it would be hard. If it's on history, then Spurs, M City, PSG would have no hope, while Milan would be delighted.

But if it were on current form over the last decade or so, the 2 Milan's would be in serious trouble.
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 1:58am
Everywhere I look I just see some of the most incompetent management. It probably doesn't help that the likes of Maldini and Nedved don't know anything about running businesses. If we want to turn football into a "business". Fine. But it will require 5-10 year plans and accountability at the top. I guess that's a "no" then.
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 12:57am
The billions spent hiring and firing endless managers and buying and selling endless players. The failure of most clubs in Italy to build their own stadiums and secure their own revenue stream. The total disinterest in developing youth players. The ludicrous decision making, especially in Italy, of allowing the team's best players join rivals (any of Pirlo, Pjanic, Higuain, Chiesa etc could have been convinced to move overseas for more money rather than reinforcing the 9 times champions).
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 12:55am
to manage risk. That is what CEOs and directors are paid to do - manage risk. We have about 10 directors at Milan and which of them are managing any kind of risk? How is hiring novice coaches, good risk management? If you hire a novice coach you're banking on a fluke. Anyone can do that. Just go buy a Lotto ticket. Budgets have got nothing to do with it. Budgets get blown when there is no plan. All of the financial difficulties these clubs find themselves is because of a lack of planning.
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 12:51am
we're dealing with. Did anyone, even on the back of an envelope, write up the pros and cons of this move? And this is the issue I keep coming back to. There doesn't ever seem to be a plan. Any success Milan were having (and if they do get into the top 4 that will be a success), is probably because of an accident more than any plan. They weren't even planning on sticking with Pioli. Milan could still lose out to Gattuso's Napoli. Sure these things happen even with a plan, but the whole point is
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 12:48am
The last 15 signings didn't work out what will we do? Another 15 signings.....ok.......Now...we are in financial trouble and need to get into Europe, what will we do? I've got an idea - we'll risk being thrown out of all current competitions and start some Super League that we're not in any way prepared for.....because....erm....nothing attracts the fans like seeing us being beaten 5:0 by Man City.....every year....for the rest of our existence.....which will be short lived....This is the level
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 12:44am
The last 15 signings didn't work out what will we do? Another 15 signings.....ok.......Now...we are in financial trouble and need to get into Europe, what will we do? I've got an idea - we'll risk being thrown out of all current competitions and start some Super League that we're not in any way prepared for.....because....erm....nothing attracts the fans like seeing us being beaten 5:0 by Man City.....every year....for the rest of our existence.....which will be short lived....This is the level
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 12:43am
Milan's defeat to Sassuolo shows how ludicrous the idea was. History has got nothing to do with it. It's about now. And right now teams like Milan and Arsenal are not at the same level as teams like Man City. But it points to a wider issue that has been Milan's undoing for the past 10 years. A total lack of patience mixed with half-baked ideas to achieve immediate success. Let's work through the logic of the past 10 years, Milan demand immediate success so......hire a novice coach.....ok....
on the 23rd April, 2021 at 12:39am
In UK they were laughing all the way to the bank with SIX English teams. Where were Napoli, Roma, Atalanta, Lazio or Fiorentina? All of them the same size as Tottenham and Arsenal. The Italian teams need to build new stadiums to earn money.
on the 22nd April, 2021 at 7:58pm
The 12 that signed up plus Bayern, Dortmund and Psg are the 15 clubs that were surely lined up.

They are the chosen ones because they are the 15 that 'today' are seen as the 15 biggest and most marketable clubs in Europe.
Sure Celtic, Ajax and Porto have a far greater and successful history than say Psg or City but unfortunately they would not have the marketability to draw in enough global interest if they played in the so called super league
on the 22nd April, 2021 at 6:52pm
Exactly. If it's all about history where is Ajax? Where is Benfica? Porto? Where is Nottingham Forest? Or Pro Vercelli? Hamburger SV and Moenchengladbach? Red Star Belgrade? Steaua Bucharest? Bordeaux? How can it be for the fans if clubs outside the ESL would never have played clubs within the ESL in European competitions again?
on the 22nd April, 2021 at 6:06pm

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