We’re less than a month removed from the disaster that was the European Super League announcement in football, but it already feels like a lifetime ago. Fans, politicians, players, and clubs not involved in the money-making scheme rejected it in the strongest terms possible, and the majority of teams involved in it were forced to back down. The proposal united football fans in the UK against it in ways that we’ve never seen before, and the Manchester United and Real Madrid-led project was dead on arrival. It deserved no other fate. For all the promises that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez made about “saving football” with the new league, it would have done the exact opposite.
Although Perez didn’t go into detail about how his plans to create a closed shop at the very pinnacle of the European game would benefit the clubs excluded from it, it’s generally understood that he was referring to the principle of trickle-down economics. The clubs at the top would make more money, so they would generously give some of that cash to their domestic leagues, and the teams and organisations lower down the pyramid to make life a little easier for everybody. It would be wonderful if that were true, but we have no reason to believe that would be the case. We were told the same thing when the Premier League began, but aside from some notable exceptions, that concept of passing on the benefits has failed to manifest itself in reality.
While clubs in the top divisions are mostly getting richer, clubs at the other end of the scale are mostly doing the opposite. Thanks to the effects of the pandemic, many smaller clubs (and especially those in non-professional leagues who’ve had their competitions suspended) are struggling to stay alive. If there was ever a time for the Premier League and its billionaire owners to put their hands in their pockets and help out, it’s right now. The European Super League was a demonstration of the fact that they’re naturally inclined to do the opposite. The pandemic has eaten into their profits, and they’re looking to balance the books by doing away with “small fry” fixtures against teams like Burnley, Cadiz, and Genoa in favour of all-star games against each other in perpetuity, with no threat to their status and no prospect of demotion and the lost revenue it would bring.
The idea that big clubs and big leagues would voluntarily part with more cash for the pyramid beneath them has little basis in reality. Experience has shown us that when funding is required to keep the grassroots game going, they have to be dragged to the table kicking and screaming. Only one month ago, in March, the FA partnered with the Premier League to announce sixteen million pounds of funding for grassroots football. While that sounds like a generous figure to the average person, it barely even counts as a drop in the ocean in the context of the money that these clubs and leagues make and continue to make. It’s believed that the Premier League made more than two and a half billion pounds in broadcasting revenue alone in 2020. The winners of the competition earn an estimated one hundred and fifty million in prize money. Sixteen million no longer buys you an adequate Premier League defender. We should never look a gift horse in the mouth, and the sixteen million pounds will be carefully and wisely spent on deserving causes, but the figure could and should be more. If the biggest clubs took another step up the ladder away from those at the bottom, getting money from them would likely be even harder.
Football at the highest level is as much about money as it is about sport and has been for a long time. Clubs aren’t just clubs anymore; they’re brands. Liverpool FC as a brand has an official slots game available at many casino websites. It’s their right to do that, and we’re sure the game has been a boon for casino and casino review sites. Non-league and grassroots clubs don’t have that kind of reach. Very few people buy their shirts. It’s hard enough to persuade people to turn up to matches even when matches can be played. The idea of the average grassroots or even lower-league football club launching its own online slots attraction is laughable. Big clubs already have access to revenue streams that smaller clubs and teams don’t, and those profits don’t get passed on. The addition of another high-profile competition could only cause more disparity, not less.
Even ignoring the fact that the teams involved in the European Super League proposal are unlikely to pass money on to those less fortunate, it wouldn’t make sense for them to do so. The proposal was born out of the fact that some of the clubs – especially the Spanish ones – are in insurmountable amounts of debt. Some reports have Real Madrid’s debt figures at close to one billion pounds. As much as the club still presents itself as a giant of European football capable of going toe to toe with anyone when it comes to buying players, their financial situation is precarious. If its income was suddenly boosted by TV revenue from a new Super League, that money would go toward paying off those debts. It would likely be a long time before it occurred to any of them to check on how their less fortunate lower-league neighbours were coping.
For all of the reasons we’ve outlined above and many more, the destruction and dismissal of the European Super League was a victory for grassroots sport and all the people who support and participate in it. However, it will not be the end of the story. Florentino Perez has already said that the idea will eventually come back in another format, and the club owners and executives involved will already be back to the drawing board looking at new ways to bleed cash from supporters. In the meantime, those at the grassroots level continue to fight tooth and nail to stay alive and be sustainable. There will always be another European Super League around the corner, and we must always be wary of it. At the grassroots level, sport is a way of life. Ideas like the Super League are an existential threat. We’ve fought them off once, and we have to do the same next time.