With a lifespan of just 56 hours, the Super League turned out to be a supernova, a dream that really just turned out to be a nightmare for most.
But whether you were either against it or writing "Yanks Out" on a Soviet flag and pinning it outside of Anfield, the fact of the matter remains: The Super League accomplished what it had aimed to provide for fans—a drama-filled spectacle that could rival a stale Champions League. It just turns out that the Super League didn't even need to play a game in order to accomplish its goal.
When the news of its suspension broke, soccer fans around the world rejoiced. Really, the Super League could be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize as the only thing outside of England's 2018 World Cup semifinal run that united Liverpool and Manchester United, and Arsenal and Spurs fans under one cause. So let's consider this a "One Shining Moment" montage of the grandest league to never exist.
It all kicked off Sunday afternoon when news broke of the pending announcement, just before Arsenal was about to show why it belonged in the European elite with a 1–1 draw against 18th-placed Fulham.
Years in the making, a European super league, extravagantly named the Super League, would be made up of 20 teams that included 15 founding members who could never face relegation or fail to qualify. The selection wasn't necessarily reflective of recent success, but more so brand recognition and global cachet. Four of the founding clubs were giants of the Premier League—Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea—along with Arsenal and Tottenham. They would join Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid from La Liga and Juventus, Inter Milan and, somehow, AC Milan from Serie A.
Within hours, the war had begun and the nuclear options were considered. UEFA threatened to kick clubs out of the Champions League—and Man United and Arsenal out of the Europa League—as well as participating players out of this summer's European championship.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government should "drop a legislative bomb" on the Super League and vowed to take action, a shocking step considering it was something he had yet to attempt during his time in government. French President Emmanuel Macron praised the fraternité of French clubs who were never invited anyway, other than Paris Saint-Germain. Even the British royal family giddily joined the chorus of boos as the news meant it was no longer the only British entity dealing with endless controversy.
Facing a downpour of criticism akin to a rainy night in Stoke, the Super League countered by issuing a statement confirming the worst of the news, reassuring the world that it would be funded by a superconglomerate U.S. bank in JPMorgan Chase, while also releasing a spectacular new logo years in the making, so groundbreaking that it would surely turn public support in its favor.
By Monday, the Super League hangover had begun and things were starting to get personal. After leading a mass exodus from the European Club Association, Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, whose greatest hits collection includes charging viewers to watch the last 15 minutes of Champions League games and being called a snake by his child's godfather, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin.
UEFA jumped at the chance to use the PR nightmare to cloak its rotten idea of adding four more teams to its Champions League format. Moments after stating it would do everything it could to protect the football pyramid and competition from top to bottom, UEFA announced a legacy option for "elite" teams who didn't qualify for Champions League but still deserved a spot.
All the while, José Mourinho made history by becoming the first and only Super League manager to be fired, living up to his self-proclaimed nickname: The Special One.
In the warmup before its match against Super League member Liverpool on Monday night, Leeds United spoke for soccer minnows everywhere by wearing shirts that read, "UEFA Champions League, Earn It," just months after spending more than Bayern Munich and AC Milan combined in the summer transfer window.
Looking to put a stop to all of the narratives surrounding his Super League brainchild, Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez went where any rational executive who wanted to be taken seriously would go: a late-night Spanish comedy show airing at midnight, where he gave a nonsensical, sanctimonious lesson in trickle-down Reaganomics.
"We have created the Super League to save football," Perez said on El Chiringuito de Jugones. "The television rights are what make us money. That money is for everyone. If those at the top have money, it goes to everyone because we buy players from those other clubs and we can be in solidarity.”
Meanwhile, clubs were happy to participate in some revisionist history, imagining past league tables without the Super League members as domestic leagues considered expelling its top clubs.
English side Wolves even claimed the 2018–19 Premier League crown in what was its first season after being promoted back into the top flight, when it finished in seventh—behind the Super League Six.
The calm before the storm settled in on Tuesday afternoon as pressure on the proposed Super League continued to mount. Outside Stamford Bridge, Chelsea fans protested the club's brazen attempts at a cash grab just months after celebrating a shopping spree of summer signings that cost nearly $300 million.
Following the protests, Chelsea played to a 1–1 draw with Brighton that could, coincidentally, wind up influencing whether the Blues earn their place in the UEFA Champions League next season. But just as the match was set to start, the BBC broke the news that Chelsea was preparing to withdraw from the Super League. Always guided by a sterling moral compass in the world of soccer, Manchester City followed with an official declaration of its withdrawal that opened the floodgates on a hectic night reminiscent of the chaos following Sepp Blatter's resignation as FIFA president in June 2015.
Around 10:55 p.m. U.K. time, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester United announced their official withdrawals in a series of perfectly synced announcements that proved to show more coordination than the Super League itself. Manchester United chief executive and Super League official Ed Woodward also announced his resignation effective at the end of the year, giving United fans yet another reason to celebrate.
By Wednesday morning in Europe, Atlético Madrid and Inter Milan dropped out of the Super League, and Juventus and AC Milan weren't far behind. From 12 to just two founding members in 56 hours, the Super League consisted of just Real Madrid and Barcelona, where El Clásico would presumably be played on a weekly basis.
In the end, the Super League was effectively suspended as Champions League sponsor Heineken reminded us all of the only possible explanation for such an ill-advised idea.
In all seriousness, fans earned the chance to rejoice as the clubs that have abandoned them finally listened; however, getting rid of this one idea will not solve the crisis facing the soul of soccer. Until fans put this same passion and protest toward other endeavors—exorbitant transfer spending, the ethics of club sponsors, ownership takeovers, season-ticket hikes—like the Bundesliga has done, there will only be more insidious attempts at changing a game that has already changed so much.
Leeds forward Patrick Bamford may have put it best after the club's draw with Liverpool on Monday. “Football is for the fans. Without fans, clubs would be nothing. It’s important we stand our ground," Bamford told Sky Sports.
"It’s amazing the amount of uproar that comes into the game when someone’s pocket is being hurt. It’s a shame it’s not like this with everything that’s going wrong in the game, like racism.”
If there's anything that the Super League has given us, it's the understanding that the same fans who built the sport are still at the core of it. And if you're an Arsenal fan, well, there might be an added bonus.
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