A recent meeting of club chairmen. EFE
'Saving' European football
A Look at LaLiga

'Saving' European football

For now Real Madrid and Barcelona are the only remaining cheerleaders for the Super League idea

Rob Palmer, Commentator ESPN


Friday, 5 January 2024, 17:40

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The best way to describe the proposed new European Super League is like a royal family building a castle for football's blue-bloods with a moat to keep out those who don't belong.

Forget the meritocratic, the plan was to make the game aristocratic.

No longer would teams aspire to qualify for the Champions League; they would be there by right. Well, that was the idea when the continent's club rulers hatched their cunning plan.

Like Baldrick's cunning plans and the inept royals portrayed in Blackadder, it has all fallen apart. Only Real Madrid and Barcelona are continuing with the campaign.

The presidents of the two Spanish giants claim it will "save European football" after winning a legal case at the European Court of Justice. Sadly for them, they are the only two heralding the judgement as all their original allies have gone into hiding.

The so-called "big six" of the English Premier League soon realised that it was a PR own goal, the three Italian clubs have gone silent and Atlético de Madrid have dismissed the idea.

It was a half-baked idea, presented poorly, and never captured the fans' imagination -quite the opposite. One of the selling-points was television viewers watching for free. Let's be frank, broadcast money is the life-blood of football.

The bottom line is that the billionaire owners wanted more say in the running of the game. If they could ensure they would play in the elite competition every year without having to finish in the top four of their domestic division, then it had their vote.

At the time of writing, Tottenham are 5th, Manchester United sit 8th and Chelsea are 10th in the Premier League. Last season Juventus ended up 7th in Serie A. Of course, they want a system that guarantees an invitation to the top table by birthright. As it stands, Aston Villa and Girona will be sending them postcards from exotic locations.

For now, all is quiet, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's some WhatsApp group or dark website where the owners and presidents swap messages.

The unrest has prompted Uefa to rejig the Champions League format to keep the big clubs happy, increase income with more teams, and lessen the chances of them failing to make it past Christmas in the top competition.

The established system of the two group winners advancing has been abolished. You'll hear plenty of the new "Swiss League" system, which is more recognised in sports like chess and croquet.

Please don't glaze over! I'm trying to keep it simple.

24 of the 36 Champions League teams are guaranteed spring football. The top eight go through automatically; the rest enter a play-off system.

In a nutshell, more teams, more games, more matchday income and more television money. It's more, more, more at a time when managers are demanding fewer games.

In the ideal world of the hierarchy of European clubs, they'd go for reduced domestic leagues where they don't have to travel to Luton, Eibar, Spezia and Darmstadt and where the calendar was full of fixtures in Manchester, Milan, Munich and Madrid.

The only two remaining cheerleaders come from the unlikely alliance of Barcelona and Real Madrid. I suspect there are quite a few silent partners elsewhere in Europe - and they will remain silent, for now!

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