Football: ESL

With a couple of days to UEFA’s announcement regarding the changes to the Champions League, a group of the top European clubs announced the creation of a European Super League (ESL), which has since taken a massive hit with English clubs all pulling out.

Who were the founding clubs

The idea was – may still be – to have 15 founding clubs that will always be in the competition and monopolise all of the money, with a further 5 clubs having the opportunity to take part.

When the news broke out on Sunday, 12 of the 15 clubs had been confirmed:

England: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.
Spain: Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Italy: Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

The other 3 places hadn’t been confirmed, because PSG, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund had rejected the idea. How good must they feel now!

What is the ESL?

It is a competition, in which there are no relegations or promotions. A total of 20 teams would be split into two groups, and play home and away games against each other.

Top three in each group will advance to the knockout stages. Teams finishing in 4th and 5th will play against each other to determine the final team to make the knockouts.

The remaining 8 teams will play home and away knockout matches, with a final to crown the winner.

‘Grand Theft Football’

The initial reports were full of disgust and a feeling of betrayal. The supporter groups for all 6 of the premier league teams gave statements that condemned the ESL. Some Liverpool fans were seen burning the club jersey outside of the stadium before the Leeds game on Monday. Similarly, Chelsea fans marched to Stamford Bridge to protest, some of them holding posters with a spin on the popular game ‘Grand Theft Auto’.

Ex-professionals called for severe punishments to the teams that would play in the ESL, demanding point deductions and relegations.

UEFA warned that players who play in the ESL will be ineligible to play in all other European competitions, at both domestic and international level. FIFA went one further and said it will not acknowledge the competition, and ban players from playing in the World Cup.

In retaliation, ESL founders, and the JP Morgan threatened legal action against any organisation that stands in the way of this competition.

Sports Gent’s view

Basically it’s a way for the greedy owners to fill their pockets even more, something that shouldn’t surprise anyone. These owners do not care about the history and culture of football, or what people went through to create the game that is watched all over the globe. Add to that a financial corporation that has been in trouble for corruption, and you have a recipe for disaster.

For the ESL to go ahead, domestic leagues will need to accept that they have no control over their top clubs, which somehow includes both Arsenal, and Spurs. Guess every league needs some whipping boys, especially when creating a ‘super league’ with mid-table teams.

In the end, the reaction from UEFA, FIFA and the top domestic leagues were all negative. However, it was the reaction of the fans that was most telling for the fat cats that run these clubs. Such reactions combined with the possibility of heavy punishment was probably key in the ‘top 6’ deciding to pull out just a couple of days after confirming their participation.

Most ironic part of all of this is that the founding clubs – in particular the English contingent – have endlessly complained about fixtures, yet this adds more stress to them. If one of these clubs enter the Champions League at the qualifying stage, and then go on to win the title, they would play a total of 17 games. That’s one less than the number played in the ESL group stage.

What happens now?

With only the six teams remaining, the ESL is dead, even though Florentino Perez is adamant it can work. There’s no way to sell a competition as the European ‘Super’ League, when there are no teams from the best league in the world.

The backlash on the ‘top 6’ of England isn’t over yet. The other 14 teams that make up the Premier League are going to have a meeting – just like the top 6 did for the ESL. This meeting will likely result in some form of punishment for the top 6 for what they did.

It is likely the top 6 will lose their voting power. Currently, when voting on Premier League matters, the top 6’s vote counts as two, while the rest count as one. That will probably change.

More unlikely is that a salary cap will be proposed, and maybe even the ‘Beckham rule’ can be used in which you are allowed a certain number of players that can be above the salary cap. This may help the finances of clubs, and prevent future scenarios of a breakaway league.

As for the billionaire owners…learn what football means to the people of England.

Our clubs are not your toy.

Our clubs are our clubs!

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