Sunday, September 11, 2011

Towards an European Super-League?

The European Super-league idea is not new in football. Some will remember that there were very serious conversations about the project at the end of the 90s. At that time, the Italian company Media Partners were very near to complete a project that would create an European Super-league of 32 teams divided in 2 different divisions, while also creating a knock-out tournament with other 60 teams, which would have been called the Pro Cup. At that time, Lennart Johansson and Sepp Blatter, who had been dismissing the clubs' project during a long time, had to use all their weapons in their hands to stop the revolution of the clubs. At the end, UEFA finally agreed with the G-14 clubs (an organization of 14 clubs which gathered the most powerful of the continent)  the expansion of the Champions League, while UEFA Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup merged, as they also assure 4 spots of the new competition for the teams of the top-3 leagues at the moment, Premier League, La Liga and Serie A.

Over the last years, especially since 2009, the idea of the European Super-league comes up again. There are several reasons for this rumor or actual threat to appear. First of all, as always, we have the economic reasons. The European Club Association (ECA), which gather nearly 200 clubs of Europe, aims to have a greater control of their own affairs by negotiating the TV deals by themselves. For now, UEFA negotiates these TV deals until 2015, after the contracts signed last Spring, although the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is investigating these contracts since they were negotiated country by country instead of on an European basis. A sentence of ECJ against UEFA may change the whole scenario.

Michel Platini

Along with the TV deals issue, the UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations force the clubs to find own resources, since they would have to limit the spending on transfers and salaries to their own revenues. So some clubs, in order to keep the current salaries, will need to increase the incomes in their budgets in order to meet the limits set in the UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations.

Last summer, the voice of the threat was Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, representative of FC Bayern München and ECA's president. Rummenigge claimed that they are tied with FIFA's statues and UEFA's regulations until 2014, when the memorandum of understanding will expire. From that point, Rummenigge claimed that they may look for solutions and raised his threat: "Don't be naive. Don't think it would not be an alternative competition". When the memorandum of understanding expires, the top European clubs will no longer be legally obliged to play UEFA Champions League or release their players for international friendlies or tournaments, which puts FIFA's World Cup under threat.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

The reasons behind the unhappiness of ECA is what they consider the poor management of UEFA and FIFA. Platini promised them an insurance for players who are released to play the international games, but time passed and ECA did not received any call from UEFA's representatives. The relationship with FIFA is even worse, since ECA openly criticized what they consider open corruption in FIFA in the way the host countries of the next World Cups have been elected and the presidential elections. Besides, ECA have expressed their anger for the FIFA's plans to expand the amount of international games (now 11 or 12 per year), while the clubs would like to cut them down to 12 every 2 years.

Even though the complaints are agreed by all ECA members, the solutions seem to differ. In recent days, some rumours say that Silvio Berlusconi, owner of AC Milan, and Florentino Pérez, Real Madrid president, have already met Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and Creative Artist Agency, a company participated by Peter Kenyon (former Manchester United and Chelsea FC chief executive) and Jorge Mendes (football player agent), about the possibility of creating a different organization in order to create an European Super-league and how to manage its marketing and TV rights. However, the majority of ECA still defend a solution within the current structures, but with major changes. As it happened with the creation of the English Premier League, when the English clubs created an organization out of the Football Association, the clubs may be working on an European competition managed by themselves without UEFA as intermediary but under the umbrella of the own UEFA. In one way or another, the ECA wants changes, since they consider that UEFA have gone in the wrong direction in recent years, adapting the UEFA Champions League for the entrance of clubs of smaller leagues punishing the interests of the clubs of the most important leagues and the disappearing of the 2nd group stage that assured a certain amount of games for the clubs.

Peter Kenyon

But it is also very important to take a look to the social-cultural aspects. Some defend that the structure of football need to optimize resources and the only way to do it is to have attractive games every week. Who wouldn't like to see a Manchester Utd.-Barcelona, a Real Madrid-AC Milan or a Bayern München-Internazionale every week? But others would say that the attraction of these games is that they are not played constantly, that is, the feeling of special event they have. But if they were playing each other every week, then these games will not be special events anymore. Besides, in some countries, people would still prefer to defeat the neighbor next door, the local derbies. Perhaps this idea appears in leagues that look unhealthy, like La Liga or the Serie A, while this supposed necessity does not look that obvious in the Premier League or the Bundesliga.

In one way or another, 2014 is the key year, when the memorandum of understanding will expire. Until then, the debate will continue: the Super-league in or out of UEFA, the structure of it, the relationship with FIFA, insurances and international duty for players.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.
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