Date: 18th May 2022 at 2:30pm
Written by:

European football is packed with some of the biggest and best players, teams, and leagues on the planet. It generates billions in revenue each year from television, merchandising, ticket sales, and sponsorship. It’s also one of the most popular sports for betting on the continent, often even beating out horse racing, which has been a staple of bookmakers for decades. In fact, sports betting has become one of the leading industries for sponsorship in football, with brands like Betway signing deals with clubs to coincide with the free bet promotions that they offer to fans.

With so much money on the table in the sport, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to anyone that something like the European Super League was even considered. Yet, when it was announced, just over a year ago, the backlash from just about every imaginable corner still took the breakaway clubs by surprise.

Within a matter of hours of the unveiling of the European Super League, all six English clubs (Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur) that were part of the founding 12 teams, withdrew from the competition. Less than three days later, the entire league was suspended.

Apart from a few additional statements from teams and officials, little has been said publicly about the ESL since. That doesn’t mean nothing has happened, in fact, quite the opposite is true.

Understanding the Rationale for the ESL

Before we can look at what has changed since the European Super League debacle, we need to understand what drove the teams to make the decision to break away and what caused the fans to be so upset by it.

The plans were widely criticised by outsiders for being a shameless money grab, with the founding 12 teams hoping to earn more money from television broadcast rights and sponsorship deals. But this is only partly true.

From their perspective, the current big teams know that they have it good right now, but there is a chance that they could fall from grace. In US sports, such a fall results in a good draft spot for the next season and a return to winning ways a few years later, but not so in European football.

The pyramid system means that even the best teams, at least in theory, could find themselves relegated. There is even an example of this playing out right in front of us this season with Everton, a club that’s won 9 top-flight league titles and five FA Cups, spending much of the year fighting to avoid relegation. Two decades earlier, Blackburn Rovers, were relegated from the Premier League just four seasons after winning it.

The ESL would help to shield these teams from this fate by giving them a guaranteed spot in one of the biggest competitions in the game.

However, for the fans and the other teams, this is seen as taking away the meritocracy of football. This allows, at least in theory, for a team to earn promotion after promotion, until it’s in a position to fight for some of the biggest prizes in the sport. The ESL would also hamper the efforts of other teams, since they wouldn’t have the same guaranteed income of its participants.

What’s Happened Since?

Here in England, steps have been taken to prevent another breakaway attempt and to address the underlying issues that caused it.

The government commissioned a fan-led review of the sport’s governance, engaging with 20,000 fans through an online survey and by speaking to various representatives from different groups.

This review recommended that an independent regulator, similar to what’s seen in the energy, telecommunications, and financial sectors. It would scrutinise the finances of clubs, approve takeovers, and introduce mechanisms for allowing fans to have a say in decision making.

Approved

Almost exactly 12 months to the day of the ESL’s disastrous launch, the government officially announced that it was accepting the key recommendations left by the review.

The Premier League has also agreed to increase the amount that it sends to the EFL in “solidarity payments” in recognition that clubs in the lower tiers are in vital need of cash.

This is likely only the beginning of a change in the entire landscape of English football following the ESL’s short life. Though how successful it will be in quelling further discontent remains to be seen.

Photo by Unsplash

 

Your Comment