The European Super League Raises Its Ugly Head Once More
Where does this idea of a European Super League keep coming from? Scratch that, WE know where the idea comes from, The European Club Association, the collective of 135 clubs dotted around Europe, keeps trying to push for this dreadful idea to come into fruition. I can’t think of anything I’d rather watch less than a 3 league competition of 60 European sides week in, week out played out in front of empty stadiums on television.
It’s an idea that’s been thrown about since the formation of the Champions League back in 1992 and reappears with regularity to terrify national league associations the length and breadth of Europe. For me, it’s a complete acknowledgement that certain people who own or run certain football clubs have a complete disregard for the bread and butter supporter who turn up every week. According the reports that appeared in today’s Sun, it seems A.C. Milan are the main movers behind this attempt to put the wind up U.E.F.A aided and abetted by the quiet and modest owner of Lyon, Jean-Michel Aulas.
Aulas has been slating the strength of the French League this week, blaming them for Lyon’s exit from the Champions League. Whilst I appreciate that Ligue 1 isn’t as strong as La Liga, The Premiership or Serie A, it’s a bit rich for the owner of Frances richest club to blame everyone else for their tactical naivety in the Champions League. Especially as this season has seen the closest title race in France for 5 years and sees Lyon hanging on to the top spot by a point from Marseille and PSG.
The irony of the ECA is that the Premiership has 5 members, The obvious big 4 but oddly Newcastle United are our fifth member, which for me makes a mockery of the whole set up. I could understand Everton, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester City vying for membership, but Newcastle United? I have yet to meet anyone who supports a Premier League club who would swap the Premiership for a Euro League of 38 games, the appetite for such competition simply exists in the boardrooms of greedy football clubs, detached from the true feelings of the fans. Sure, European competition can give us some truly wonderful nights of great football, but that’s what makes it so special.
It’s the desert to the main meal, a delightful bonus that can offer continental delight to the fans and gives us a different type of atmosphere. I have to say Anfield and Old Trafford’s atmosphere in a Champions League game can be spine tingling, Liverpool have thrived on such atmosphere’s since their magical routing of St Etienne in the 1977 European Cup Quarter Final Second League. Yet, we’ve seen this season half empty stadiums in the group stages of the Champions League across Europe for games where the results didn’t matter, so how would the European Super League change that? Who would be in the top league? Surely it wouldn’t change a thing in regards to the traditional power houses of European football still carving the spoils between them every year, Porto’s magical win in 2004 excluded.
I honestly believe that if the clubs are so determined to break out of their national leagues, then the leagues should let them go. Would the Premiership really die if the big 4 left and allowed the rest of the league to suddenly become competitive overnight? Would French football really miss Lyon? The Catalans wouldn’t care for it if they couldn’t play Real Madrid, Athletico, Valencia and Espanyol, Italian football, riddled with corruption and rampant hooliganism, couldn’t seriously consider bi-monthly visiting sides and the protection of any fan brave and rich enough to attempt a visit to the Stadio Olympico can they?
The one trick they miss here is that in European football, they all whine about the strength of the Premiership but every other league is far more weighted in the protection of its bigger clubs than England. The Premiership’s collective TV deal allows everyone from Manchester United to Watford to receive a flat fee regardless of the clubs size. Sure they receive additional monies for TV appearances and finishing positions, but no other major league in Europe does that. All the major clubs have individual deals, which in turn makes the leagues weaker by comparison, making them weaker when facing English clubs in Europe. They have an easy ride at home, so can’t cope with the raised level of performance they meet against Premiership sides.
To make European Football more competitive, UEFA needs to re-introduce collective TV deals for all leagues, then Jean-Michel Aulas will really have something to complain about when Lyon finish 6th in Ligue 1.