19/04/2021

The end of romanticism in football?

2 min
Eric Garcia controlling the ball in the match between Manchester City and Fulham. The Catalan player can return to Barça in the summer.
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The football world has experienced this Monday an earthquake as it had not seen for many years after the announcement by twelve European clubs of the creation of a European Super League that would replace the current Champions League and would be controlled by clubs and not by federations. In this select club there would be six teams from the English Premier League (Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool), three from the Spanish league (Barça, Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid) and three from the Italian league (Juventus, Milan and Inter). These teams aspire to get three more to join the proposal (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and PSG), to form a matrix of 15 founding clubs that would be the owners of the competition and could not be expelled (if not for economic reasons). The Super League would be played between these 15 teams plus 5 more teams that would move up each year from their respective leagues, where in theory the founding clubs would continue to play.

The proposal has advantages and disadvantages and has provoked an open war within the world of football. On one side are those who defend the change to put an end to the opaque power of the state federations and take football to a new dimension of competition and marketing. On the other side are those who argue that this initiative means the disappearance of the last shred of romanticism in football and its definitive commodification, the devaluation of domestic competitions and the end of a system where, at least on paper, all teams started from scratch. The truth is, however, that, despite the fact that the aim of the promoting clubs is to increase their income, the proposal deserves an in-depth study in order to take advantage of its potential without losing the essence of football.

Among the potentialities, beyond the economic factor for the clubs involved, there are three important ones: it involves taking power from an organisation as opaque and dastardly as the Spanish Football Federation, which for decades was a personal fiefdom of Ángel María Villar, and also from the Professional Football League (La Liga), led by a shady character like Javier Tebas. Secondly, the Super League represents a further step in European integration, in the creation of a football identity that transcends state borders. And thirdly, it ensures that fans can watch the best players and clubs play more often.

However, the danger of creating a football aristocracy based solely on economic parameters, given that Manchester City, for example, has never won the Champions League and teams like Porto or Ajax have won but will not be part of it, is to adulterate the competition from the start, as these 15 would be forever and ever more at an advantage over the rest. We should also see what the fans, who are the heart and soul of football, have to say. And finally, we have to make sure that the new dynamic doesn't end up affecting the ownership of clubs like Barça, which still belongs to its members.

In short, it is a revolution that has perhaps come to stay but that has yet to resolve many of the doubts it raises.

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