The proposed new European Super League, which was founded yesterday to huge condemnation across football, will make Manchester United richer and pit them against the world’s best opposition week in, week out. So why is it such a bad thing if you are a Manchester United fan?
Plans for the league, which is set to comprise the ‘big six’ English clubs plus nine other permanent clubs (although three, to date – Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and PSG have not signed up) were outlined in a report by The Peoples Person in January and confirmed on United’s club website late last night. Essentially, United and these fourteen other clubs will be joined by five qualifiers each year, split into two leagues of 10, from which of each four will qualify for a knockout stage each year.
The minimum United would earn from the competition each year will be £130 million, which is more than the maximum that can be earned by winning the Champions League.
They will also receive an initial payment of between £89 million and £310 million to help with stadium improvements or to offset the effects of lost gate receipts due to Covid-19.
No more (or very few) trips to the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk, Fenerbahce and Basel each season; the world’s elite are guaranteed to come to Old Trafford. And all this in midweek, with United still taking part in the Premier League on weekends. What’s not to like?
The first problem is that there will be little incentive for winning the Premier League. The big clubs will not need to qualify for Europe and the small teams will hardly be able to qualify. The top four race will become irrelevant, meaning that there will be far more meaningless games in an already less relevant league.
Imagine United and Leicester are playing each other in the final game of the season. United are in third place with no chance of winning the league. Liverpool are winning the league. If Leicester win, they overtake Liverpool to win it, and be in the qualifiers for next season’s superleague. What’s to stop United just throwing that game? Wouldn’t you want them to?
Another issue is where the money is going. Many fans believe that the extra funds coming to United will just make the controlling shareholders, the Glazer family, richer rather than it being invested in the club. The fact that United get the money regardless of results leaves the Glazers with no incentive to invest in new players. Stick out the Under 18’s side, come bottom of the Premier League and the Superleague, hey guys it doesn’t matter, Joel and Avram are still getting their £130 million a year. Cha-ching.
Of course, you want to believe that’s not going to happen, and that the Glazers want United to win just as much as anyone else. But a lot of people don’t have faith that that is the case.
Probably the most debatable argument against the new league is the one that is most commonly being mooted – that it is taking more money away from grass roots football. These clubs will argue that by making the top of the tree more competitive and appealing to sponsors and broadcasters, more money will be generated that will filter down. Indeed, Joel Glazer claims that ‘the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid.’
It’s the same argument of old-fashioned party politics: is allowing the rich to get richer just going to make the poor poorer, or is it free trade, leading to profitability, which makes the whole market richer? Capitalism versus communism. That is what football is boiling down to right now.
There are certainly more questions than answers right now and UEFA are expected to make their own announcement today. This was expected to be a new format for the Champions League along similar lines to the superleague, but not going nearly as far. Now, it could be a response to the Super League announcement, which will likely be littered with threats of banning and general outrage.
Will there be a compromise, or is football about to change for ever, with Joel Glazer one of the main instigators?