Unless you’ve been on an artic expedition there is no excuse for having missed the news and outrage caused by the announcement of the European Super League. Here we explain why the Superleague failed and ask why European soccer can’t be franchised.
What is the European Superleague?
The Superleague was a newly devised concept by 12 of Europe’s so-called biggest clubs that would see them compete against one another season in and season out in a traditional league format; this would have been a marked difference from the Champions League that is predominantly a knockout style tournament.
The key variance to a traditional league was the clubs’ stance on relegation – there wouldn’t have been any, which would make it more akin to the American sports like NBA and NFL. On top of that, the self-selected dozen would also continue to compete in their existing domestic competitions whilst pocketing huge sums of money generated from their new league.
What clubs were behind the Superleague?
The Superleague was seemingly driven by Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona with Juventus another big player. On top of that trio there were another nine sides. They were Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and the ‘big six’ from England – Man United, Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal.
Why did the Superleague fail?
It might be quicker to explain the aspects of the Superleague that didn’t trigger a vitriolic response. We won’t though.
The major reason that sparked passionate reactions was the lack of relegation and, by association, promotion. In American sports, that’s normal. In Europe it is not.
The history of European football is built upon a pyramid where the smallest and most unfancied sides can rise up and reach the top; Leicester City are a good example of this as they won the English Premier League in 2016. Failure to honour these traditions not only takes away the dreams of millions but also means the ‘big clubs’ cannot fall regardless of how badly they perform.
On top of this you have the fact they’re guarantee of hundreds of millions of pounds each year just for being in the league. This then puts them at an unfair advantage in their respective domestic competitions.
Finally, also on the impact the Superleague would have domestically for the nations involved, the clubs had declared their intention to field their strongest XI in Superleague matches. By default, this would mean weaker teams in domestic competitions thus further diminishing fair competition.
Why a franchise model will never work
In American sports the franchise system has been in place for as long as most can remember. It works. It won’t catch on in European circles though. The origins of soccer are centred on giving working class people opportunities to participate and to support a team in their community; a soccer club is often the cornerstone of the town or area they’re located. Franchise modelling is seen to kill this with money and advertising becoming king over earning the right to dine at the top table. The reaction of fans and pundits associated to Superleague teams are proof this isn’t what they want.
Should American sports adopt the European format then?
If one half of the world are so against franchised sports then is the other half wrong? You’d think so but, actually, the answer is no. The histories of their respective sporting industries are just vastly different. The biggest thing American sports would have to lose in order to introduce relegation and promotion is the draft process; that’s one of the biggest events in the calendar.
Why doesn’t promotion and relegation work with the draft? Well, take the Timberwolves from the NBA for example. They were woeful last season and would have been relegated if such a thing was possible.
Under the current system they were able to rock up to the draft and take Anthony Edwards – the hottest college prospect about.
Nobody wants to see talents like him spending his early years playing at a level lesser than the NBA. He’s proven this year with his average of 19.0 points per game that he’s good enough to face the best defensive players in the league, despite being one of the youngest players in NBA history.
In summary, the Superleague doesn’t work for Europe but it also doesn’t mean American sports need a reform. They’re just different.
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