If the image of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Barcelona president Joan Laporta taking a fireplace bellows to the Super League this morning makes you giggle, just know to get it in now because it’s going to get a lot more annoying at some point in the future. Yes, the Super League, that cursed idea of the spring of 2021 is only mostly dead, which means it’s slightly alive, thanks to the European Court of Justice.
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That’s because the appeal from the remaining carriers of the Super League flag, which is only Madrid and Barca, was upheld by the EJC, which ruled that UEFA cannot block attempts to start a competitive European league, as it’s against European law. This doesn’t mean that the actual Super League is being sanctioned by the court, but Perez and Laporta will certainly take it that way. There’s a lot of legalese to sort through if you’re into that sort of thing and the days in court are probably far from finished.
They and group A22, who are backing this thing in its current, barely noticeable sewage form, have already unveiled what they think the new set-up should be. It’s convoluted as all hell, but the gist of it is a 64-team, three-tiered monstrosity that will have promotion and relegation between the tiers. Though in the initial season of it, in whatever year their delusion says they can get it off the ground, all the places will be determined by, basically, European pedigree. Don’t expect to find Madrid and Barca in the third tier of this thing.
The kicker, and perhaps the biggest chuckle you’ll get out of this, is that A22 is promising that all matches in this competition will be free to stream! That’s right, an ad-only streaming service called Unify that fans don’t have to pay a fee for will broadcast every game in both the men’s and women’s competition (oh, they’re being fair, can’t you see?) Care to guess how long that would last if this thing ever comes to fruition? Over/under is at seven minutes.
The free streaming mishegas is an obvious attempt to cater to fans who, to a man, rejected the first attempt at a Super League, and were basically the main cog in sending it off to the land of wind and ghosts. Fans have gotten weary of all the different fees for streamers of various leagues and competitions, to be sure. But if Perez and Laporta think this is all it takes to win over fans to their massive ego project, it’s harder to guess whether they’re stupider than they think fans are.
All of this is simply masturbation, though, because there can’t really be a Super League without English clubs, and they won’t get them. One, the Premier League is the Super League, given the money it has dwarfed the money any other league has, and two, thanks to the last balloon-handed attempt to form this unholy creature of a competition, the UK government has forbidden clubs from joining a breakaway league. That’s part of what the whole independent arbitrator coming to an English shore near you has been about. And thanks to Brexit, it’s not like the owners of Liverpool or United can go running to the EJC, too (perhaps the only good thing Brexit has done for the UK). They’re locked in.
For now. Because if you look closely, the Premier League’s financial lordship over the rest of Europe and the world isn’t quite what it used to be, if only just. While the new domestic TV contract just announced for the Premier League to be broadcast by Sky Sports and TNT is the largest in total in history ($8.4 billion), underneath the hood one might notice it’s for four years instead of the three years previous contracts have been, and for more games. On a per-game basis, the deal is actually less than the one that is ending next season that the league is currently in. We’ll see what happens with their international TV deals, which is where the Premier League really dunks on their continental counterparts.
Lawyers, especially high-priced ones, can find a loophole out of anything, and maybe there’s a way for the biggest clubs in England to get out from under the government’s thumb on this issue, though they are the ones who put themselves there. Perhaps they’ll get a little jittery about that TV deal coming down ever so slightly, and more so if the international deals aren’t what they were (hard to imagine that’ll be the case though, at least given the US’ rising appetites for the game with a World Cup on the way).
And right now, the Premier League is the Super League. It has the best teams, the best players and it’s a place where even mid-table teams like West Ham, Brighton, Brentford, or whoever else, can afford $40 or $50 million transfers.
The only way the Madrids and the Barcas and Juves of the world can catch up would be to get their own house in order, stop having La Liga or Serie A function only to benefit those at the top with their TV deals. Not that the Premier League is the land of equality or anything, but the TV money is far better distributed to all the clubs instead of weighted to only those at the top of the chain. But that would take a long time to eventually work out, and Perez and Laporta and their ilk have no use for plans that will only come good after they’re dead and hence they won’t get the credit for it.
But a “Super League” without Premier Clubs isn’t super at all and will be seen right through by fans. No one’s signing up for Unify, even if it is free for a couple minutes, without City or Arsenal being there. This whole thing isn’t as dead as we wanted it to be after today, but it’s still going to take a very long time to get on its feet, which it likely won’t. Doesn’t mean they aren’t going to try, though.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social