On Sunday night, twelve of the biggest teams in European soccer announced that they would be breaking away from the current Champions League and forming their own Super League. The new venture would operate exactly the same as the current setup but with one key difference: the founding members would automatically qualify every year. Instead of having to earn a spot through success in their domestic leagues, the biggest brands in soccer would now be guaranteed a seat at the $6 billion table. Two days later, it looks like the league is already dead. After a genuinely unheard-of level of universal backlash, three teams that were expected to join have declined, and two of the original teams have backed out. For now, the fans have saved their sport.
While it was a shock to hear it come from the clubs themselves, this had been in the works for a while. A Super League was inevitable because of basic math. The Premier League has six major teams and only four Champions League spots. Every year, at least two major clubs missed out on a cut of one of the biggest TV deals in Europe. Even those that make it live in constant fear it will be them next year. The Super League split was undoubtedly sped up after the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked the world’s economy. Now more than ever the owners want financial security. Sounds a lot like that other kind of football…
I’ve talked before about the similarities between European Soccer and college football. It turns out, both sides of this drama have happened in college football already. The College Football Playoff exists because the major brands in the sport were tired of being left out. It was born the instant that two SEC teams made the BCS championship game and left the four other conferences out in the cold. And now it looks like playoff expansion is inevitable because, just like the Premier League, major money makers are still being left out. It turns out, college football fans have mobilized to stop teams from making coaching hires too. Tennessee fans were so incensed that the school was about to hire Greg Schiano that even the White House Press Secretary was lobbing personal attacks at him. Just a few months ago, Auburn fans created #StopTheSteele to prevent the school from promoting their interim head coach (who coincidentally ended up at Tennessee and got paid $900,000 for two months of work). Just like the Super League, these multi-million dollar organizations backed down because their own fans spoke out. AKA: their money was threatened.
At least for now, soccer fans have successfully stopped one of the greediest, most insulting moves in the history of sports. The spirit of competition lives on for a little while longer, but the clock is ticking. As long as the math works against the major teams, the Super League is a threat to the sport. Because, as we all know by now, money triumphs over everything.