Boy, to say that European football is in turmoil would be the understatement of this year. Just recently, there were two major developments.
First, 12 of the richest clubs in Europe said they will form a Super League and, a few hours later, Uefa, European football’s governing body, said it had approved changes to its lucrative Champions League, increasing the teams to 36 from 32 and using the Swiss model, instead of having a group stage.
What’s a Swiss model? It’s the format used for chess tournaments that assures the guy who finishes on top will have the same number of games as the guy who finishes at the bottom. And a Swiss model, sort of, assures a player that in succeeding rounds, he’d be facing a player of his caliber.
Because I think this is what the whole thing is all about, clubs wanting to play as many games with clubs of the same level.
Why? Money, of course.
Under the current group stage set-up, well, if you don’t advance past the group stage, bye-bye lucrative championship league TV rights. And oh, before you even get to the group stage, you have to, of course, finish within the top four, top three or top two, depending on the ranking of the domestic league.
And if you’re an elite club that somehow fared poorly in the domestic scene failing to gain an automatic spot? You’d be on the outside, looking in.
This is where the Super League steps in. The original 12—Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Man United, Tottenham of England, Juventus, AC and Inter Milan of Italy, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona of Spain—who are looking for three more members, want a competition where they can compete regularly, while the rest fight for the remaining five spots.
Those are six teams from English Premier League, which currently has four automatic spots to the Champions League.
Of course, the domestic leagues, Uefa and even Fifa—which is planning an expanded Club World Cup—are up in arms over the move, with greed being cited as the primary reason for the creation.
Football fans outside of Europe, like us in Asia, are on the outside looking in but I think this battle is ultimately for us. Why? European football and club football have grown tremendously so that the TV market is no longer limited to Europe.
What will happen next?
Well, let’s just say if the 1998 NBA lockout was billed as a battle between millionaire players and billionaire owners, this one is a battle between billionaire owners and billionaire entities like the Uefa, Fifa and domestic leagues.