lTalk of a European Superleague has been regular food for debate for 30 or 40 years now but where in the past, it seemed largely the stuff of science-fiction, there now seems to be something concrete about the structure.
The leaks from Der Spiegel that suggest a 16 team league is upon us look anything but far fetched now. Indeed, it looks nothing more than the logical consequence of the global ownership of so many of the major clubs. After all, if you are a Saudi or Chinese owner, do you really want to waste your valuable time and money having your clubs crushing Burnley, Guingamp or Leganes? Or would you rather be jet-setting to Madrid, Turin, Munich and London? Answers on a postcard from your latest exotic destination please…
Whether this is the moment or whether it comes another five years down the line, the European Superleague is coming. Because UEFA’s artificial construct, the Champions League, can’t hold it together much longer. Just as the oligarch owners aren’t interested in playing Cardiff, nor do they give a stuff about Red Star Belgrade. Or AEK Athens, or Young Boys or Viktoria Plzen.
All Aboard The Gravy Train
There’s a long way to go and plenty of FIFA and UEFA manoeuvring to be done around the big clubs to try and get them to stay. But one way or another, it’s coming so we better get used to it . Athough I’m not sure that Marseille or Borussia Dortmund have quite thought this through. How are they going to sell coming bottom every year to their supporters? Still, there’s a gravy train to catch, so let’s not worry about the details.
So, what happens when they’ve gone? Well, actually, it might actually be for the good of the game. That is unless you’re Daniel Levy who can currently be found sobbing into his blanket at the thought that he might have just built a white elephant on White Hart Lane if, as the stories suggest, Tottenham aren’t getting an invite.
As far as English football is concerned, the great overseas TV riches will, probably, disappear. That’s going to mean a few painful years of realignment for some at the top. Meanwhile hefty investors in Wolves and Everton might well reassess their positions.
The Great Leveler
But in the longer term, this could be the great leveling off that the game requires. More than half the Premier League and all the Championship are utterly irrelevant to anybody beyond their own fans. Even if you are, let’s say, Leeds, Forest, Norwich, big clubs in many respects, what do you have to look forward to?
A run at promotion followed by the almost inevitable stench of relegation within two seasons. And if you’re Newcastle, Leicester, Southampton, Palace, you get a few years bumping along the bottom half. You’re existing only to bolster Sergio Aguero’s stats, before you fall, go back to the Championship and try to do it again. Irrelevant.
But imagine a league without Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea. Ok, Spurs and Everton would be the big boys, but in this reconstituted world, maybe not so far ahead. Maybe the top flight emulates the Championship, a league where anybody might come out on top. Imagine bringing in a wage cap – possibly essential in more financially straitened times. Bringing back the idea of splitting the gate money might keep that competitive edge too, as would an even share of the TV money.
And if you think that smacks too much of socialism gone mad, you could just leave things at they are and watch two clubs dominate everything for the next 20 years and then start wishing they’d disappear onto the sunset too…