Is a European Super League Inevitable In The Next Few Years?

Is a European Super League Inevitable In The Next Few Years?
Oct 6, 2017


Earlier this week, in a meeting between owners, the top six clubs in the Premier League attempted to change the way in which income from broadcasting is distributed among the 20 clubs in the top flight. When it became clear that the movement did not have the support of more than two-thirds of the clubs, the league executive chairman Richard Scudamore postponed the matter until the next scheduled meeting next month.

If the league refuse to meet their demands, there have been renewed talks of the top six breaking off to form a Euro Super League with elite clubs in Europe. Whatever is eventually decided, Scudamore and fans need to quickly accept that the Premier League is set for a drastic change in the next few years.

The compromise Scudamore came up with was for 35% of the overseas income to be distributed based on league position (rather than equally among the 20 clubs which is the current format). It’s easy to see both sides of the argument. The top six argue that they generate the biggest ratings so deserve a bigger share of the pot, whereas the smaller teams who oppose the measure argue that the popularity of the Premier League is down to the fact that the league is more competitive than rival leagues in Spain, Germany and Italy.

It’s true that a more competitive league makes for a better product. American sports leagues have all kinds of regulations in terms of recruitment and inter-team trading to ensure the field remains as level as possible. The NFL, NBA and even MLB are thriving more than ever, with unpredictable drama and unexpected outcomes commonplace.

An example in European football of how a competitive league is better for the game would be Serie A in the 1990’s. This was a golden age of Italian football. While it was true the league was won by either Milan or Juventus ever year from 1992- 1999, Parma, Fiorentina, Inter, Sampdoria, Roma, Lazio, Udinese and Brescia all had celebrated teams featuring world-class players.

In 1999 the rules were changed so clubs could sell rights to their matches individually. Since then Inter, Milan and Juventus have earned nearly as much broadcasting revenue as the other seventeen clubs in the league combined, and since Lazio’s win in 2000-01, and only those three teams have won the Serie A. The competition is considerably weaker while the quality of football has significantly diminished.

But let’s not overstate how competitive the Premier League. Leicester’s miracle season aside, the league is fairly predictable. And even out of the so-called top 6, it’s getting on for 15 years since Arsenal won the league, nearly 30 since Liverpool triumphed, and 60 since Spurs last lifted the title, and it would be somewhat of a shock if either of the three were going to win it this year. If the rules change, the gap between the top 6 and the top 14 will widen, but it could very easily create a bigger gulf between the top 2 or 3 and the rest.

But by compromising to ensure the Premier League remains competitive, the league is making itself less competitive within the over financial goliath, the UEFA Champions League. A competitive domestic league in England is the main reason why the cream of the world’s elite stay away.

A Premier League player has not appeared in the top 3 of the Ballon d’Or placings since 2008. Seemingly the world’s best players want their league fixtures to be easy where they can score bags of goals, and then prioritise the Champions League. Football is coming much more about star power, with individuals taking centre stage.

And this points to another huge factor in modern football. The way the game is consumed, particularly by the younger audience, is changing radically. Many young fans interact with the game online and follow players more so than teams. Paris Saint-Germain is a team designed for the Twitter generation. The score-line is almost meaningless, but an audacious step-over from Kylian Mbappé or a back-heel from Neymar will be all over social media.

It’s harder and harder for Premier League clubs to attract the next generation of die-hard supporters due to extortionate ticket prices. Going to a football match, particularly the top 6, resembles an Americanized corporate experience. To bring in young fans, clubs need superstars.

And this is the problem Scudamore is facing. By opposing the top 6, he risks them threatening to break away and joining a Euro Super League. However, if he gives into them he risks the Premier League losing its competitive appeal. City and United are already regularly dispatching teams 4-0, 5-0 this season, imagine what it would be like if they get richer and the rest get poorer?

A less competitive Premier League may see general interest wane, and a Euro Super League may become the next logical step. Meanwhile, if revenue does start to drop, it will be hard for the owners not to think about the prospect of White Hart Lane hosting the PSG, Milan and Bayern Munich week in and week out rather than Huddersfield or Swansea (no disrespect).

For fans of the other 14 clubs (and the rest of the football league) this is a nightmare scenario and still feels impossible. Football is more profitable than ever, why would they risk such a drastic change? Talks of a Euro League have been going on for nearly 2 decades, rarely in public, with efforts being spearheaded by Real Madrid.

Money will, of course, ultimately decide the future of football. Interestingly in recent years both Bundesliga and La Liga signed huge TV deals which were based on the Premier League even-distribution model. It will be interesting to see over the next 2 or 3 years if this affects the game in Germany and Spain.

But if the bubble has truly burst, the creation of a Euro Super League may already be inevitable and could be here sooner than we think. Today news emerged that Top 6 clubs may not comply with interview demands as a protest. It’s possible that neither outcome is actually good for the Premier League.


Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.