Policymakers have taken aim at 12 of Europe’s leading football clubs after they announced on Sunday that they will form their own ‘super league’.
In a statement published shortly after the announcement, the European Parliament Sports Group condemned the proposal and said it would work with “sports authorities, leagues, clubs, players and fans across Europe to ensure the sustainability and development of sport for the benefit for all and the promotion of European values.”
Parliament’s Sports Group co-chair Marc Tarabella (BE, S&D), a signatory of the statement, said, “I am against this super league. We must protect the European sports model, based on unity and solidarity, and the participation of all clubs in competition.”
Fellow co-chair and former professional football player, Tomasz Frankowski, added, “Sport is a right for everyone, not just an elite group. We must protect and promote the European model of sport, which is based on unity, solidarity and allows every football club to participate in an open competition.”
“I am against this super league. We must protect the European sports model, based on unity and solidarity, and the participation of all clubs in competition” Marc Tarabella (BE, S&D)
The proposal, reportedly championed by chief executives at Manchester United and Real Madrid, would see the creation of a new mid-week European competition to replace UEFA’s Champions League.
A key argument behind the move is that it would remove the possibility of these clubs failing to qualify for European football and consequently miss out on the significant amounts of money associated with playing in the competition. With many clubs heavily in debt, a situation exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic, this is seen as a lucrative opportunity.
However, critics say the proposal is fuelled by greed and is a slap in the face of fans who would be expected to now pay even more money to follow their clubs due to expected new TV licensing and associated travel costs.
Critics also say it would make the distance between bigger and smaller clubs even greater, meaning underdog stories such as Leicester City’s 2016 Premier League title win would become almost impossible.
Other EU policymakers have been quick to respond, including European Parliament President David Sassoli, who tweeted, “We need to defend the European model of sport. I stand against football becoming the preserve of a wealthy few, sport must be for everyone. #SuperLeague.”
EPP Group leader Manfred Weber tweeted, “A #SuperLeague in football is a bad idea, it excludes too many countries and too many great clubs. Europe’s football culture is not about the richest teams, but about the history and traditions of our clubs and especially the fans at all levels of the game.”
“Sport is a right for everyone, not just an elite group. We must protect and promote the European model of sport, which is based on unity, solidarity and allows every football club to participate in an open competition” Tomasz Frankowski (EPP, PL)
Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth tweeted, “The beauty of #football is that fairy tales can happen! A potential European Super League would inflict irreversible damage on the entire nature of club football. We must protect our European #Sport Model based on #culturalheritage, integrity, diversity, #inclusion & solidarity.”
So far, 12 clubs have signed up including England’s Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea, Spain’s Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and Italy’s Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. The dozen “founding members” are expected to be joined by another three later this week, with up to 20 teams expected to eventually take part.