European Super League comes apart as major clubs withdraw

The Super League

Just in a lightning manner it came to be born, the idea of a European Super League (ESL) died an even quicker death.

The English clubs Chelsea and Manchester City were backing out of the deal within 48 hours of the breakaway league’s announcement. As fan outrage poured into the streets, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur followed suit, leaving the ESL project in tatters.

The English Premier League is the most-followed domestic tournament in the world, commanding the biggest broadcast deals and was hence able to weather the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic better than any other league in the world.

Big losses for Real Madrid

The six English clubs, though, will miss out on the £300m ESL joining bonus they would have earned from the £3.6 billion JP Morgan handout to the 12 breakaway clubs. But that has not hurt them in the least as they still have money to spend. So, it is difficult to fathom why the big English six got into bed with Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez & co.

The scenario in Spain is quite unlike their English counterparts where Real Madrid president Perez revealed that his club had incurred losses of €300m courtesy a revenue drop from €900m to €600m – this coming at a time when they are spending €540m to rebuild their stadium.

Barcelona are tottering under debts of £700m (€803m) are beset with a situation where they may have to sell their best players. Atletico Madrid have still not paid any of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s loan of £170m (€195m) meant for their new stadium. In Diego Simeone they have one of the highest-paid coaches in the world and their total wage bill amounting to a bloated £300m (€344m) are weighing heavily on them thanks to the pandemic.

Serie A struggling

When it comes to Italy, the £300m bonus that AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus were due to receive would have infused direly needed cash into the country’s football economy. Inter were especially hit hard after their owners, Suning.com, were forced to halt operations in the Chinese clubs they ran owing to financial pressures.

In a worst-case scenario, they may be forced the sell their star-striker Romelu Lukaka to some English club.

At Juventus, much of the hate in Italy is being directed towards their president Andrea Agnelli for being one of the initiators of the ESL. But the Turin club are still facing the financial repercussions of breaking the bank to sign Cristiano Ronaldo over from Real Madrid a couple of seasons ago.

The 36-year-old Portuguese ace has twelve months remaining on his ongoing contract, costing Juve £27m (€31m) annually in wages and leaving the club’s balance sheet in tatters.

So, one can understand why clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus are slow to idea of withdrawing from the ESL as compared to their English counterparts. The €344m windfall would have certainly relieved much of their immediate pressures.

Will punishment follow?

The latest is that UEFA’s Executive Committee are reportedly against the idea of punishing ringleaders of the European Super League, Real Madrid and Juventus. Asked whether the project could still happen, Agnelli told Reuters that the league can no longer go ahead after the exit of the six English clubs. La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid have now joined the English clubs along with Italian sides Inter Milan and AC Milan in bidding adieu to the ESL.

But what the Super League has clearly done is the highlight the ideological fault lines present in global football now. Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal being American owned are driven by liberal free-market capitalistic business interests that stands in contrast to the social democracy of a country like Germany, where there is a more social-democratic model of governing football.

Which explains why Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund didn’t fall for the JP Morgan bait.

More than the owners, financers and the big stars dotting the major sides, the ESL fracas has proved that it’s their legion of fans and audiences worldwide who are these clubs’ biggest stakeholders beyond a doubt.

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