Big soccer clubs attempt to increase power with European Super League proposition

November 20, 2020 — by Vinay Gollamudi and Jason Cheng

Millions of soccer fans worldwide support household-name clubs like Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Millions more, however, support smaller, often local clubs.

A proposal to institute a European Super League — an 18-team basketball-style league among the biggest clubs in Europe — was recently brought up again by FIFA, but while this idea has popped up several times over the last few decades, it has never come to fruition.

The proposal has received criticism for a number of reasons, including its negative effects on smaller clubs and its prioritization of money over tradition.

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos is one of a number of high-profile figures who recently denounced the Super League. Kroos expressed frustration at the lack of a role players had in decisions made by soccer’s largest governing bodies: UEFA and FIFA. He said the UEFA Champions League, an annual competition held among the top European clubs, provided enough international soccer matches, which traditionally generate more revenue than local matches do.

"These competitions try to absorb everything financially, and also try to squeeze everything out of the players physically,” Kroos said. “I am a big fan of leaving things as they are when they are going well.”

The European Super League would make European soccer similar to American sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA and MLB in that it would not feature a relegation system in which teams are demoted from or promoted to a league based on their level of play. In other words, the Super League would include only the same clubs year after year.

The money-prioritized mentality of these already wealthy clubs has led to outrage among fans of smaller clubs. For example, Bury FC, a historic English club founded in 1885, was forced out of the English Football League (EFL) after financial issues later heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many feel that the EFL has been turning a blind eye to the financial difficulties of smaller clubs, all the while allowing bigger clubs to consistently rake in more and more money. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted smaller and bigger soccer clubs differently. For bigger clubs, the lack of fans in stadiums has been an annoyance driving them to seek more money and power — and has undoubtedly been a reason for the talks of creating a Super League. For smaller clubs, however, the lack of an audience could force them to fold. 

While the European Super League is not particularly close to being a reality and was recently denounced by UEFA, the discussion of it during the pandemic is a brutal reminder to small soccer clubs of their circumstances. The results remain unclear, but ultimately, this decision may impact the world of professional European soccer for years to come.