Soccer has quickly become one of my favorite sports since I moved from Los Angeles to Germany about three-years ago. I had always been a big soccer fan but by disconnecting from US sports and sporting formats, I have grown to really love the relegation/pyramid style format of European soccer and the pressure/importance of late season fixtures.
I think it’s a system that is traditional, exciting, and more importantly, it works here in Europe.
However, I do think the outrage surrounding the Super League announcement has been slightly reflexive and misdirected.
A lot of pundits and media personalities are calling this an attack on football. They are calling it despicable. The death of football as we know it. I held the same disgust toward the idea for the first 24-or-so hours.
I think, based on the facts that have been released, this new tournament, as a concept, represents a progression toward a more commercialized (eww) and global sporting event. Many are calling it an Americanization of Football. If that means more level competition, balanced teams, and more fan interest and revenue, is this actually a bad thing?
FIFA and UEFA are taking their ball and going home
I think a lot of the misdirected outrage stems from the premise that we might be losing our favorite teams and players from the existing tournaments we have grown to love.
While this is a fair response, it might actually be misdirected.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who is also chairman of the Super League, said COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of financial loss and is part of the reason for this new league. The clubs see it as a way to tip the margin scales from the associations to the clubs.
Its important to remember that UEFA recently announced a big change to the current Champion’s League which has sparked a lot of debate. Perez, for one, said the new format won’t create the necessary revenue to save football in its current freefall.
Perez also stated:
“Fifteen teams generate value, and five other teams will make the Super League through sporting merit. It is not a closed league. We believe in the merit of teams so that they fight to deserve to play in a competition like this.
This quote is important to me. This quote conveys that this will not be just for the top performing clubs from a financial point of view. It seems like it will include a merit-based entry system for select clubs annualy. If this is the case and they go through with it, a lot of the current distaste might be misdirected.
In my opinion, the direction (at least some) of the distaste should go toward FIFA and UEFA. They feel threatened. Like any threated entity who stands to lose power and money, they are deciding to pick up their ball and go home.
“If I am not the leader, you all can’t play with my ball.”
It’s unclear how far this super league will go but as of now, what we know is that it will be in contention of the mid-week champions league.
In my opinion, UEFA and FIFA did not need to ostracize the teams from everything else. Banning the players from international play is a big power struggle move. And it feels like a strategy to win over the fans. They have created the narrative that the super league participants are anti-fan and greedy. This might be entirely true but I think its irresponsible to dismiss the alternative perspective.
Who would you, as a sports fan, rather see get richer? Your favorite teams or UEFA/FIFA? With how some of our favorite teams are currently struggling, it’s strange to not be cheering for the fiancial well-being of the teams.
“Americanization of football”
A common rhetoric I have been hearing is that the current club owners are trying to Americanize football. People are saying their greedy and capitalistic desires are destroying the sport.
In my mind, American sports are doing it right.
I am a passionate NBA and NFL fan, which are two leagues that generate more revenue than any soccer league or sport in the world. Yes, I agree sports isn’t all about money but interest drives revenue. Revenue is a direct reflection of fan interest. If this new league leads to an increase in revenue across the board, that means that interest has been increased, across the board.
Sports is a business at the end of the day. We spend money to purchase the product of watching our favorite teams play.
Saying that there is no parity in American sports leagues is dishonest or ignorant. The Tampa Bay Bucaneers just won the superbowl as a wild card team. They aren’t a franchise oozing with history and financial support. They strategically crafted a team while abiding by the same financial stipulations as the other teams. The Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship 2 years ago and they aren’t even in the USA.
All the European sports fans who are saying “rest in peace” to football could lower their blood pressure by realizing the flaws of their current leagues.
Let’s just have a look at the “incredible” parity in the EPL and Champion’s League. Aside from Leicester City in 2015, the past 20 years of EPL winners does not look very balanced.
The loudest pundits at the moment continue talking about merit-based sports but I honestly see a much stronger link between finances and trophies in both of these charts.
The Champion’s League, in the same time span is slightly less predictable but still pretty blantantly top heavy.
Despite this, the Champion’s League is one of my favorite sporting events and I would be extremely sad if we were to lose it. And although domestic performance can catapult even the most unlikely teams into the tournament, we almost never see them succeed once they get in.
My initial reaction was to condemn the Super League announcement. I still think it’s a bad idea. But I think it’s a step in the right direction. American sports has done a wonderful job in capping, or at least slowing down, the unfair influx of external money from being the primary force in dictating the victors in our favorite sports. With salary caps, fixed conferences/teams, and player drafts, all teams have more of a shot at glory than any European fooball league/tournament. If such a format were to make its way into football, I am pretty curious to see the results.
I am not sure if it will work. It sounds greedy and capitalistic at a glance. I think an Americanization of football can help the smaller market teams overcome the massive disparity in fiancial backing. The Super League, as currently constructed seems to be more harm than good and will exclude smaller market teams.
I am curious to see a golden-mean approach that can narrow the financial gap we currently see in football (soccer).