European soccer just got thrown for a loop
The soccer world was rocked on Sunday when 12 of the sport’s top European clubs announced their intention to break away from the UEFA Champions League and form their own annual competition called the Super League.
The prospect of a breakaway league for only the richest of the rich (plus five other teams invited to participate each year) threatens to throw the entire sport off its axis. Teams outside of this select group benefit significantly from the additional revenue associated with Champions League qualification. If the Champions League becomes weakened by the absence of the sport’s premier names, the teams excluded from the new Super League will be screwed out of potential earnings.
The proposal (which still faces some hurdles before officially going into effect) was met instantly with near-unanimous disapproval. UEFA and FIFA threatened to ban every team and player who participates in the Super League from playing in any UEFA- and FIFA-sponsored events, including the World Cup. Domestic leagues have threatened the breakaway clubs with expulsion. Global leaders like the U.K.’s Boris Johnson and France’s Emmanuel Macron denounced the concept, as did the heads of numerous national soccer federations.
The most powerful rebukes, though, have come from players.
Paris-Saint Germain midfielder Ander Herrera, formerly of Super League co-founder Manchester United, said the new league is “the rich stealing what the people created.”
Here is Mesut Özil, who used to play for another would-be Super League club, Arsenal, and now plays for Fenerbahçe in Turkey:
Dejan Lovren, who moved this season to Zenit Saint Petersburg after several years with Super League co-founder Liverpool, said the concept threatens the entire game of global soccer.
Here is Everton’s Yannick Bolasie:
Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville, now a commentator for Sky Sports, railed against the Super League for three full minutes, calling it “a criminal act against the fans.”
Rio Ferdinand, another United great, said on BT Sport that the plot was “a war on football.”
Luís Figo, who played for three of the teams responsible for the creation of the league (Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan) called out “self-interested owners.”
The proposed Super League will face legal challenges before it could actually go into effect, which means there is plenty of time for fans to make their voices heard on this issue. One of the many things European soccer fans do better than American sports fans is protest against their teams and owners. Liverpool fans have already gathered outside their home stadium and hung up banners denouncing the Super League.
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