A project ? Which project ? Here is, in summary, the response of the clubs contacted to discuss the idea of the Superleague, this private competition which would bring together the greats of Europe. In “ON”, as the journalistic jargon says, hardly anyone talks about it.
“The clubs cannot assert their ideas on this matter. That would put them in direct opposition to UEFA, which remains with the Champions League the main exposure and source of income, ”we justify in one of the clubs concerned by this project. But where are we really? And why is the subject coming back to the table? Response elements.
How and with whom?
The reflections around a closed league are not new. The G14, a former organization (2000-2008) bringing together major European clubs, in its time campaigned for this model, which would be closer to the North American leagues (NBA, NFL, NHL…). In 2018, a survey published as part of the Football Leaks by a consortium of European media reported, from 2015, a private European competition with 18 clubs. Also in 2018, Mediapart revealed a new reflection: 16 clubs, including 11 founders qualified for 20 years.
Finally, according to the New York Times, the creation of a private league of two divisions with 20 teams would have been negotiated by the president of Real Madrid, Florentino Pérez. Last revelation, that of Sky Sports this year, a “European Premier League” would come closer to reality with 18 clubs in the form of a championship and then a knockout tournament. All bringing together the best English, Italian, Spanish, German and French with 6 billion euros guaranteed.
A year of implementation is even cited: 2024, when the current Champions League should see its format evolve.
Who leads the dance?
The clubs present in the G14 fire no longer all play at the top (PSV Eindhoven, Valence, Leverkusen, Marseille, etc.). And despite the creation of the European Association of Clubs (ECA) and its 220 members, the “big guys” keep control, from Real Madrid to Juventus Turin, including PSG and Manchester United. According to the revelations of Football Leaks and the New York Times, Fifa would play an important role, pushing towards this European Superleague, all in relation with private actors. Which would therefore compete directly with UEFA and its European cups.
On the day of his resignation, in mid-October, former Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed the talks. “The management committee approved the acceptance of the prerequisites to participate in a future European Superleague between football clubs”, he blurted out at a press conference. Publicly, this statement was a first. Andrea Agnelli, president of ECA and Juventus Turin, had simply mentioned last March his desire to create a protected status so that the big clubs do not miss out on the Champions League and its financial windfall.
What does the economic crisis linked to Covid-19 change?
The main argument towards this Superleague is the financial security of the big clubs. The system of ascents-descents symbol of the European championships would be forgotten. And the clubs would still be engaged in a competition bringing together the best clubs and the best players. Less sporting risk, more attractiveness and TV rights, therefore. As for the period of crisis experienced by the coronavirus, it could have a more important influence for the future.
“All crisis situations generate opportunities for transformation. Like a big bang, recalls Vincent Chaudel, sports economist. The context lends itself to private actors seizing the opportunities. The association of big clubs, their media coverage, talented players… If we tell them, I can guarantee you X million euros per season, you are more inclined to listen today than before the crisis. With Joao Felix, Neymar, Sadio Mané, you can always seduce fans around the world. “
How do the opponents react?
UEFA, through the voice of its president Aleksander Ceferin, reacts strongly to each time it is questioned. “For me, the Superleague is out of the question. It is the dream of two or three clubs in Europe, […]. The idea is not very serious. It was born from the departure of the former president from Barcelona, but I think it was more of a populist or political idea than a serious idea, ”said the Slovenian recently. A speech that resonates with Javier Tebas, president of the Spanish LFP: “These underground projects only seem good when you consider them at 5 am after a night spent at the bar”.
Among the players in the game, past or present, the idea is not unanimous either. “We are only the puppets of Fifa and UEFA, recently won Toni Kroos, midfielder of Real. When certain things are working well, it is good to leave them that way ”. For Luis Figo, ex-Portuguese international of Barça or Real, the Superleague “would destroy the football that we know” and “everyone should oppose it”.