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Fans reject Americanization of European soccer

In the NEW episode, number 219, Christopher Harris and co-host Kartik Krishnaiyer cover the failed attempt of The Super League to Americanize European soccer.

Everything that we dislike about the way American traditional sports is structured was encapsulated in The Super League. No sporting merit. No promotion/relegation. No authenticity.

We analyze why the Super League was rejected, the deciding factors in forcing change and the impact on fans in the United States.

Listen to the show via the player above or via this link.

Launched in 2006, the World Soccer Talk Podcast is the longest running podcast on the planet. Every week, we share the latest news about watching soccer on television and streaming, in addition to discussing what we like and dislike, and featuring your questions and feedback in our Listener Mailbag segment.

HEAR MORE: Listen to our archive featuring hundreds of soccer interviews

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Fechin Attuah

    April 28, 2021 at 7:50 pm

    @Chris Guardiano
    Nascar and the fox rights are up in 2025 along with NBC. Because I think FOX wants the XFL and maybe the NBA. INDYCAR said programming to them is more important than finances so maybe if NBC offers to stream along with peacock and USA and NBC simulcast rights then I think Indy will stay with NBC plus an increase in rights. But if CBS puts INDYCAR in cbs sports network then that’s a bad investment since the channel is only in 60 million homes and cable is dying anyways. INDY needs to be on CBS digital sports platform and Paramount plus and CBS. I only see NBC ditching NASCAR is the broadcast rights is more expensive and NASCAR doesn’t want to stream live races on peacock. Didn’t paramount plus say they want to other sports other than soccer because they need other sports than just soccer. Not everyone wants to subscribe to a service for players to just kick a ball you know?

  2. Yespage

    April 28, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    I was a bit surprised when I looked at the ownerships of English Clubs. Yeah, the EPL is mostly foreign owned, but the Championship… only 9 are UK owned. You need to go to League One to find a majority of local British owned and League Two to find almost no foreign ownership.

  3. Eric T

    April 28, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    @Chris Guardiano I think the EPL will want to remain with NBC considering they wouldn’t have to compete with Serie A, the Bundesliga, or possibly La Liga as well. Unless NBC wants to move on, I think they’ll retain the rights.

  4. JP

    April 28, 2021 at 10:31 am

    NBC didn’t seem all to sincere in even wanting the NHL back, reports their bid was only 100M vs the 225 from Turner.
    This either frees them up to outbid anyone to retain EPL, or another signal they’re getting out of sports aside from NFL, Olympics, and Golf. All of those are one off/tournament events for the most part, and even the NFL is only one night a week for a handful of months.
    If they do outbid everyone for EPL, will likely lose money again and further push to monetize it exclusively on Peacock.
    In turn, would the EPL be ok with their product going primarily behind a streaming paywall? Does that make them seriously consider other bids even at lower amounts.
    Should be interesting.

  5. Chris Guardiano

    April 28, 2021 at 2:47 am

    @Fechin Attuah however if NBC aren’t careful, they could lose the Premier League entirely to CBS or ESPN or even Discovery who want to break into sports and see the Premier League as the way to do it. The Premier League will only give the rights to the highest bidder and one that will broadcast the amount of games the Premier League wants. When it comes to NASCAR and Indycar, I definitely agree with you that they will be leaving NBC most likely within the next year especially Indycar whose deal ends at the end of this season. I think that both of them end up on CBS although in NASCAR’s case it would be for the 2nd half of the season since FOX already has the 1st half of the season until 2027.

  6. Fechin Attuah

    April 27, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    Nbc lost the rights to the nhl so they can use all that money for premier league. INDYCAR and nascar is on the chopping block next. NBC is strategizing because they won’t pay for rights to get less games. I do see them going big for NBA in 2025 though along with FOX, ESPN will get few games. NBC better simulcast games on USA network and peacock or it would be exclusively on peacock

  7. Eric T

    April 27, 2021 at 9:39 am

    With Turner Sports picking up the other half of the NHL rights, does NBC go all in on the Premier League now?

  8. Eddy Hooper

    April 25, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    Hey guys!

    haven’t listen to your podcast in a long time, so when the European Super League came up last Sunday I wasn’t surprised one bit. I knew this was coming from as far back as 5 years ago. With each American owner, as well as people on the influence of MLS, I knew they were going to try and change the European league one way or the other.

    My involvement in lower league soccer Happen when I supported the Dayton Dynamo FC for two seasons. Back club is no longer in existence and (I believe) big money from the American soccer landscape is out to silence any club that follows anything close to an open system.

    I have to believe that fans from the clubs involved with the super league would be up in arms over this transaction. Plus, there are too many people within the UK, Italy, and elsewhere that would not allow this to happen.

    What the future holds I don’t know, but I do believe that the transaction of this past week solidifies why the open system (which needs some tweeks of its own) is good for the game and is good for the fans.

    Although I am a Cleveland Brown supporter, I do have a distrust with the American system of sports and wish it would open up and allow other teams outside of its own franchises to face competition from other places. In my opinion it would make things better and give opportunities for other locations to shine and thrive.

    It was so good to hear your voices on this topic and I hope to continue to listen to you more frequently than I have.Sadly, because of the loss of our club, my heart hasn’t been into the sport as much until now.

  9. IanCransonsKnees

    April 23, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    It’s interesting what’s coming out now about the financial set up of the ESL, an extra £52m per year between Madrid and Barcelona over the other clubs, 7.7% of the initial payment from JP Morgan for the founder member s and 3.8% for the late comers/grateful to be invited.

    Clearly that egalitarian ideal of the franchise system debated above and elsewhere was being eschewed in favour of the gravy train rolling on for those with a superiority complex.

    For somebody with very little interest in football anymore it’s suddenly become fascinating for the politics off the pitch rather than anything occuring on it!

  10. José Cerrato

    April 23, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    A los futboleros no nos gusta el sistema estadounidense de no descenso.

  11. Adolfo Boutin

    April 22, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    Heard show that touched on European Super League and you gentlemen made excellent points on ESL agree with majority of them. One thing that was brought up was PSG’s rejection of the invitation to join ESL and what Marcotti from ESPN indicated real reason was because of their ownership of BEIN sports and how they stand to lose from a broadcasting and business standpoint, I guarantee you if ESPN had involvement in ESL not one of their commentators or insiders would have been on record stating why the ESL is so wrong on many levels they would test it as best thing since slice bread.

  12. Don Dickerson

    April 22, 2021 at 7:33 am

    One thing if nothing else I have learned is that no matter how much money a person has they can be dumb enough to overspend and need more.

    I get it that these owners actually do believe they have a real money tree even if that money tree is TV rights and high ticket prices.

    Instead of saying they need more money to pay players even more money, all they need to do is make the game what it is in every other city/town across Europe. Does players like Messi NEED to be paid 168 million a year.

    The best thing for this great sport moving forward is to tell the rich owners that their Amex Black Cards are denied and they need to start living within there means again.

    As for the players I’d suggest having them explain why Football is for the fans and in the next sentence why they deserve a 100k a week contract.

    I love watching the top Leagues however I get just as much joy watching the lower Leagues too. The best match this season to watch was Marine vs Havant Waterlooville. The match before Tottenham had to go to the small “stadium” and beat Marine 5-0.

    My personal thought is we only care about the big 6 is because it is what the media cares about. If the media started talking about Nottingham Forest 24/7 I wouldn’t be surprised if they were top 4 of the Premier League in 3 years just because money would flow in because everyone would care about every little thing they did.

    All this nonsense that I have wrote is just me venting. Being a regular person I can only do so much.

  13. Rich

    April 22, 2021 at 2:19 am

    Great pod for the most part.

    However, I want to rebut this idea that the teams need to be punished.

    Under US law, something highlighted during the college realignment saga of 10 years ago, it is illegal to prevent an entity from leaving an organization beyond actual damages. Allowing for the fact that English law may differ on this, in theory the 14 English clubs would have to prove some concrete loss due to the events of the past few days.

    As much of a scare it was to many of us who thought this idea was unsportsmanlike and boring, there’s nothing inherently wrong with them exploring another business venture (assuming they didn’t divulge EPL proprietary information in the process, which is a separate issue from the SL formation itself).

  14. Mercator

    April 21, 2021 at 10:25 pm

    Great post Ian. I think you are right about the experience at the stadium, you just aren’t going to find the same atmosphere at at these big clubs. Bridge and Anfield feel smaller, so they are a bit better, but Emirates and Etihad are already like an NFL game, I’m sure Spurs new stadium is the same. In my experience things are better at a pub anyway, its difficult and expensive to get tickets and you can get rowdier in a pub than in a billion dollar stadium. I’d say I’ve been to a dozen games at the Emirates over the years, but if I think about my best times as an Arsenal fan, none were in the stadium – all at pubs with fans, some in London, some not even in Europe.

    For better or for worse, these clubs are so big you can’t really expect most owners to subsidise them anymore. Even Chelsea and City, after initial splurges, have cut back. There are a limited number of people in the world who can even afford to own these clubs, let alone those willing to lose hundreds of millions for the good of the club and its fans. Ultimately these clubs will have to be let go, to play among themselves in a globally dominant league, and you are right they will in a sense be stolen from the match going fan. But I think that is already mostly the case for a lot of these clubs. How many of those Chelsea fans at the protest yesterday were regular match goers? Not as many as you would think I suspect – these people have already been priced out and watch the game at a pub nearby. Most of us, even most “real” fans, watch these big clubs on a screen now.

    But I don’t think you can just let these clubs leave without some arrangement in place. These funds are critical to keep a lot of clubs going and to ensure places like Loftus Road and Carrow Road can be maintained. It’s not about doing it for the money, its about ensuring the biggest English clubs cannot just leave without helping to secure the future of rest of the pyramid. Of course, the biggest teams don’t really want to leave as much if they can’t keep the bulk of the profits of their new league. I don’t see it as a question of whether they should or shouldn’t break off – they inevitably will. The question is on what terms, and how much will they be forced to give back to the rest of the domestic and European clubs.

    FWIW, I do think a lot of the domestic games are overdone and there could be more entertaining matchups in Europe. I don’t see the reason PL teams need to be in the league cup, it devalues the FA Cup in my opinion anyway. Champions league groups can be dull because of the seeding, there are clearly 1-2 teams who will go through. Seed the CL pots based on spending on wages and transfers and go directly to the QF’s, top 9 in pot 1, next 9 in pot 2, etc. You will end up with 1 pot of the 9 highest spending teams, with 2 going through. I wouldn’t mind that at all, even if it means not playing in the league cup, because it would make for more interesting matches in Europe and we would see smaller teams going to the QF’s.

  15. IanCransonsKnees

    April 21, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    Cheers.

    It’s not the most eloquent and it’s a little stream of consciousness but I’ve tried to give a perspective from somebody with boots on the ground so to speak.

  16. Yespage

    April 21, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    A very well written response IanCransonsKnees.

  17. IanCransonsKnees

    April 21, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    I have rarely commented here since the days of EPLTalk and probably not at all since WST focussed on being a discussion forum regarding how best to watch all the matches you’re interested in on TV.

    However I’ll stick my two penneth in here.

    It’s been coming for years. It’s a ridiculous concept but we’ve slowly crept towards it, and I don’t think this is the end of it. For those of us left behind it’ll end up being no bad thing. We’ll revert to some semblance of normality with regard to wages, to let prices, hype of bang average talent due to 6 months good form etc.

    Off the big teams scuttle to go and globe trot satisfying their televisual supporters at 2am, 6am, 11pm or whatever time it is around the world.

    The rest of us will be able to enjoy a regular kick off time with the odd adjustment here and there rather than suit another market’s time zone.

    The fans of the ‘big 6′ (what a ridiculous God awful moniker) in those cities affected are having their clubs stolen and shipped around the world but that doesn’t affect the rest of us, we’ll get on with it.

    It did all start in 92 but please don’t kid yourselves that Man City, Chelsea, Spurs or even Arsenal were particularly rich then, influential but certainly not above the likes of Everton, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest etc at the time.

    I’ve followed my team to Old Trafford, The Emirates, The Etihad, WHL and Anfield, there’s only Chelsea I haven’t been to. My experience of all of them, particularly the new stadia, stilted and sterile. What a letdown it was after years of waiting to break into the Premier League only to find that the atmosphere in these places only existed like the highlights on MOTD when the goals were scored.

    My favourite grounds to visit generally weren’t Premier League stadia; Rochdale – Spotland, QPR – Loftus Road, Man City – Maine Road, Sheffield Wednesday – Hillsborough, Nott’s County & Forest. Even better if they were night matches.

    I’m not saying this as a bitter fan outside those trying to breakaway, my perspective is from a fan whose team Chelsea fans would prefer to play on a cold wet Wednesday evening over a sultry sojourn in Madrid or Catalonia. We’re not likely to play Chelsea any time soon (unless the punishment is to relegate Chelsea) but I wouldn’t lose sleep over not being able to.

    The fans of these clubs have made their own bed, danced with the devil, had their cake and eaten it. Now it’s time to pay the Piper and clearly they can’t afford enough to satisfy their rapacious owners.

    I’ll take issue with a point above about people not affording to buy tickets anymore, if you’re “top 6’ that’s probably the case and the owners deem you a ‘legacy’ fan to be satisfied with a replica shirt and a TV subscription. If you ain’t corporate you’re scum sort of thing.

    That isn’t the case with most of the rest of us. My season ticket has remained £344 for the past 12 years whether we were Premier League or not. The away travel has been free for the best part of half a dozen years. Every 7 year old at every school in the city gets 4 match tickets and a replica shirt for free. All down to billionaire owners that could, if they were prepared, probably go toe to toe with most clubs other than Man City were FFP abolished.

    What’s disgusting about the above is that the billionaire owners of the other clubs in the same league system won’t do the same, they’re in it for the money not the glory. I think in the cold light of day that’s why the rest of the fans in this country at least were saying to them ‘go, but if you do don’t expect to come back’. The top of the pyramid can be knocked off, it won’t stop it being built back up again.

    The reason I’d be confident their ‘legacy’ fans at least would want to be able to return is the sterile nature of franchise leagues. I’ve experienced it first hand, in stadia where I don’t doubt the fervent nature of the fans, but the lack of that call and response behaviour made for a subdued pre season friendly atmosphere, I’ll concede maybe I took in the wrong match ups but your match going fan here wouldn’t likely swap. One of things we’ll mention when we talk about our visits to these matches is ‘imagine if we took 3,4 or 5000 fans there, they wouldn’t know what hit them.’. The people who are for the franchisation of the game don’t understand this, only money.

    Unfortunately only money is what most of the game is about at the top so at the end of the day it’s up to the rest of us to get over it, wave goodbye and good riddance and get on with the rest of it. It’s not the end of the world.

    I learnt during my time using the old iteration of this site that sport is consumed differently in the states, almost entirely through the small screen. The lack of promotion and relegation I believe I’d the root cause of this as why follow your minor league team if there’s nothing to believe in past a pat on the head for coming first, not being able to strive for the next level. In my opinion it’s a shame because the experience I have had over there is that your fan communities are second to none and the offer in the stadia in terms of treatment and value on offer is far superior to anything the smug Premier League offers.

    I couldn’t get my head around the snobbery either, the equivalent of £30 for 2 tickets to most of the MLS matches I’ve attended as opposed to the £400 I was told it cost to sit in the equivalent seat at an MLS game in Seattle.

    I’ll end with saying that this country has sold off its railways, water systems, utility companies, lottery etc to owners all over the world. We moan about, still pay the bills and still use the services. None of it has ever stirred up anything like the emotion of the past few days. I hope that attitude and atmosphere continues and some reality returns to the game over the desire to be a league of globetrotters ultimately satisfying only their paymasters and square eyed ‘fans of the future’, watching 15 minute quarters and being force fed the latest Hollywood diva’s autotuned garbage at half time.

    No intent to offend, just offering up a viewpoint from a tired and long in the tooth ‘stakeholder’.

  18. Anthony

    April 21, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    I still think some kind of Super League, as defined by more games played between wealthy clubs, is likely over the next few years. Here are the drivers:
    1) Clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Juventus, etc will need to continue to spend more to remain competitive without guarantee of success in Europe
    2) The growth of domestic league TV rights has slowed on a global basis, and leagues like La Liga and Serie A won’t be able to significantly increase the money they make on their TV deals, resulting in less revenue growth for Spanish and Italian clubs
    3) Spanish and Italian clubs will continue to try to lure various Premier League clubs into a Super League, and some will want to take advantage of that

    The next Super League will probably feature many more teams that can be invited (let’s say 15 founding members and 9 invitees), with relegation possible for consistent underperformers. This could make it more palatable to fans. It could even be structured as a replacement for domestic league competition for those involved, with 5 or 10 teams relegated/promoted every year (Super League teams would only compete in that league and in their domestic cups; if they are relegated, they go back to the domestic league)

  19. Brian

    April 21, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Roberto,
    To follow up, without the Americans, would the Europeans be able to live in freedom?
    Just a thought.

  20. JP

    April 21, 2021 at 10:42 am

    I was also steadfastly against the Super League and elated it’s dead. Have to echo some of what Brian has in his comment above.
    The problem the big clubs have is the need to continually spend in order to stay on top and in turn receive the money that comes with that. When the spending doesn’t correlate with results they are left in a bad situation.
    Seems the issue is one of cost and revenue uncertainty, and perhaps a salary cap would solve most of these problems as their would be cost certainty on no club could stray from the upward bound. Basically saving the owners from themselves.
    FPP was supposed to solve this but obviously hasn’t, or is probably too complex of a method to achieve the desired result….financially solvent clubs.
    I hate the idea of a salary cap. Love how global soccer is the most capitalistic of all sports and would not want to see it become like the socialized NFL model.
    Rock in a hard place.
    Happy for now the potential day of reckoning is pushed off.

  21. Roberto

    April 21, 2021 at 10:16 am

    This is the first time I have ever been disappointed with the POD. The two of you know the history of what is now called the EPL. In the early 90s the big six were threatening to break away and form a “Super League”. In 1992 the Premier League was formed that caved in to all the demands of this big six. It set up a system of money distribution that guaranteed the big six would always be on top. They were already the richest teams, due to being in the biggest markets.
    Back then if I remember correctly, there were no american owners. So to somehow blame this continuation of that process of being ever more greedy on the americanazation of the the game is far off the mark. With all the problems of franchise based systems, at least they distribute the money evenly and have a draft setup that tries to keep balance by giving the worse teams a chance to improve. In the EPL the richest buy the best players from the lower teams and stay on top. These last couple of years the EPl has had more balance due to some of the lower teams having better scouting and the rich buying the most expensive and not always getting value for their money and some serious incompetence.
    Lastly, what I have loved about football is its history as a working class game. With the formation of the EPL that has been eroded. Going to games is now almost beyond the budget of most working class people. Therefore they are left with a paywall for TV viewing that gives money to the people who created the EPL. Your friend John Nicholson in his book commented on the above and if I remember predicted this fiasco.
    Your blaming america owners for this second attempt of a super league is only partly correct. They were for sure very supportive of the plan. The MLS is a franchise system but the money from the fees does support all of the teams. There are and have been some teams that have stayed on top due to rich owners but also due to better management. Every year there are some of the same teams on top and some new ones. More teams can get to the top in the MLS.
    Billionaires owners and Billionaires in general are a problem. Nice people generally do not become billionaire.
    This has been a serious rant but the title the americaization of football was a bad start. This super league as I already said was part of a process that did not start last week!

  22. Brian

    April 21, 2021 at 9:54 am

    Gents, very good podcast as always. Excellent points all around.
    To play devil’s advocate, I think a Euro Super League is going to happen as some point. The clubs in question have grown to be global brands and have outgrown their hometown supporter base. For example, there are more worldwide fans of Manchester United than there are in all of the United Kingdom. Also, there is too much money on the table for the owner’s of these clubs to turn down.
    As a result of this, I think a closed league with 20 clubs is going to happen. It will be the largest clubs/brands from the across Europe. The clubs will withdraw from their domestic competitions and just play each other during the year, and like the American professional leagues, they will keep all the money for themselves. There will probably be spending limits on salary, revenue sharing, and other measures to keep the owners from bankrupting themselves (see Barcelona, Liverpool, et al).
    Is this a bad thing? I don’t know. The middle ground is the status quo, and that doesn’t seem to be working on the financial side for the large clubs.

  23. rkujay

    April 21, 2021 at 7:42 am

    I hear, over and over, of how the American playoff system has been rejected. I’m curious, then, about the promotion system in, for example, the Championship. Wherein, places three through six play a home and away? Isn’t that the same thing? Don’t get me wrong. This debacle should come with some very serious consequences, both financial and affecting the club’s standing in the league.

    I am a six plus decade United follower. I believe United should be relegated. Let the glazers see the football pyramid first hand, up close.

  24. Chris Guardiano

    April 21, 2021 at 6:31 am

    Hi Guys,
    When it comes to the European Super League, I am in total agreement with you guys and I think both of you made some excellent points about the negative impacts it would have. To add to your points, the Super League also would have done serious harm to the women’s club game in Europe because there were plans to create a European Women’s Super League to run alongside the men’s league with the women’s teams of the 12 original members and like the men’s version, it would have not included the current best team in Europe, Lyon. I heard Kartik briefly talk about during the pod about the possibility of what I term “North American Super League” with Liga MX and MLS. In my view the North American Super League is more likely to happen than the European one although there will be backlash especially among the supporters of Liga MX clubs. There will even be this backlash among MLS supporters, particularly among the more established clubs like Seattle (whom I support) that have strong ties to the community and have a history in some cases dating back to the old NASL days. As in Europe, a North American Super League would do tremendous harm to the club game here in the US because not only the expansion fee would go up for any club currently in USL that wanted to join but also once in, there is no guarantee that club would stick around in that city or exist due to business interests. Once the club goes away, interest in soccer in certain areas of the country may go away entirely, especially if there are other pro sports. For this reason I hope a North American Super League does not happen. Lastly I have a question for about promotion/relegation as it relates to MLS and USL. My question is: Do you see MLS and USL ever adopting it?

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