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American Fingerprints on Europe’s Soccer Upheaval?

April 20th, 2021 · No Comments · Arsenal, Barcelona, Baseball, Basketball, Champions League, English Premier League, Football, NFL, Rams, soccer

At this moment, only one story commands the attention of European sports fans.

And that would be the misguided attempt by a dozen of the continent’s best-known clubs to break away from the European Champions League and form their own elite competition — which they plan to call the Super League.

Twelve clubs have announced their intent to play in this league, including English sides Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham; Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid; and the Italian trio of Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. Three members have not yet been revealed.

The idea behind the Super League is the usual — to gain more money. But the route to additional revenue, in hundreds of millions of dollars per team, could be said to owe its machinations to the example set by U.S. sports leagues.

Three of the six English clubs ready to break away are owned by American sports groups: Liverpool by Fenway Sports Group, which is headed by Boston Red Sox owner John Henry; Manchester United is owned by the Glazer family, which also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL; and Arsenal is part of Stan Kroenke’s sports empire, which also features the Los Angeles Rams.

What those three clubs have in common is deep experience in sports leagues run as “closed” entities in which member clubs keep their place in their league no matter what sort of record they compile.

The Super League clubs like that idea, and the league is dedicated to the proposition that its key 15 members never change. They take a place in the Super League no matter what; only five teams (taking the Super League to 20 total, per season) can have their status changed.

No “promotion” or “relegation” in the league would be unique in Europe.

The Old World prefers leagues that can move up and down the competition ladder. If your club has a successful year it can move up. But if things go badly, they could be dropped to a lower division.

This is the backbone of club soccer in Europe: Nothing is guaranteed.

The 15 clubs that cannot be relegated are in the Super League till … well, the end of time, in theory. Which would allow the league to operate like American sports clubs such as the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball — all of whom know what sort of cash flow they can count on, and that they can never be booted out of the league.

The Super League story is being watched by soccer fans all over the world, because European football is accepted as top of the heap, particularly England’s Premier League

I find it interesting that, so far, not many Eurofans seem to have made the connection between American ownership of those three prominent clubs and the rise of the Super League.

Most of the attention and anger seems to be directed at club-leading executives such as Andrea Agnelli of Juventus and Florentino Perez of Real Madrid.

Some fans are lashing out at coaches and even players, which is nutty because coaches and players have nothing to do with the decision-making process in this story.

What fans know for sure is this: The Super League wants to change soccer at a fundamental (and dynamic) level — one that includes relegation and promotion. They believe it is only fair to reward success and penalize failure. If their club is down, they can cling to the hope that someday they could be back at the elite level.

I agree with the fans in that no team should be able to enter any season (never mind all of them, going forward) with a guarantee that their club will be right back in the top 15 for the following season.

I would like to see promotion and relegation in the U.S., and not just for Major League Soccer (which is resisting). Too many U.S. professional teams know they don’t have to win, and take advantage of it.

That’s wrong.

I hope fans are able to roll back the tide, in Europe. The Champions League works just fine. A Super League is completely unnecessary.


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