The European Super League Will Fail; Here’s 6 Reasons Why

Liverpool played Leeds United on Monday afternoon and I could not care any less.

shame on you lfc
I’ve been a Liverpool fan for going on decade now since I got into English soccer and they became my team. Nothing annoyed me more than a weekday game that meant something while I was stuck in the office. On Monday, I was working from home for the millionth day in a row thanks to COVID and my calls ended at 3:30pm. I could’ve watched the entire second half.

But I didn’t watch a second. All because Liverpool was one of the 12 founding members of the disastrous European Super League.

For 24 hours, I was angry and upset. Why were they doing this? What was the point? Then I became sad and depressed. What I liked about European football – or at least, what I thought I did – had been ripped away.

Though my opinions matter far less than a true Liverpool supporter, they somehow mean even more in the scope of the European Super League because I’m the target for it. The new owners of these clubs believe the tried-and-true supporters will watch anything, so this is a money grab for my attention. I won’t give it to them.

My wife and I both dove headfirst into the Premier League when we moved to Washington, D.C. in 2011 because our apartment building was right next to an Irish pub that showed all the Premier League games. The first time we went in for a Sunday brunch, we found out it was the DC bar for Tottenham fans. They were packed in like sardines, chanting and singing, drinking and eating, and having the time of their lives. My wife immediately became a fan. I already liked Liverpool, so I chose them as my team. And we were off.

The Premier League, and the Champions League, appealed to me because it was so much different than American sports. The camaraderie and the tradition of the supporters. The promotion and relegation. The lack of a playoff. The fight for Champions League and Europa League spots. The European nights at Anfield. The fact the Champion League was in actuality a two-year tournament based on merit.

Sure, there were built-in advantages of money and support for the top clubs, which only reminded me of my favorite sport college football. I was ten toes in. And suddenly, this Sunday, they pulled me out.

In a weird way, I want the European Super League to happen because I’m now positive it will fail. Money is the root of all evil and greed will lead to its downfall. Let’s count the ways:

No Fans Want This

I knew that fans were against the notion of a closed Super League by the comments on rumored proposals in the past, but even I had no idea the vitriol that would be aimed toward the clubs once it was announced. Every fan, of every team, came out vigorously against it. I’ve never seen unity between different fanbases on a single issue in any sport in any country in my entire life.

Just from the announcement itself, the clubs have essentially told their fans that they don’t matter. Even worse, they are specifically telling their most ardent supporters that their opinions mean the least. This isn’t about strengthening fan support for Liverpool in Liverpool and Real Madrid in Madrid. This is about getting Sean O’Leary in Washington, D.C, to pay even more attention to European soccer. I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t want it to be about me. The charm was that European soccer, specifically, wasn’t made with me in mind.

How do you create fan loyalty for a league that everyone hates? You can’t. It reminds me of another sport that destroyed its future, when IndyCar racing was decimated by the formation of the Indy Racing League in the mid-1990’s. That spectacularly failure ruptured the sport, allowing NASCAR to take over as the top auto sport in the United States, and open wheel racing in this country is only now, a quarter-century later, starting any sort of a comeback.

The Novelty Will Wear Off

On Pardon the Interruption, Tony and Mike couldn’t understand the outrage about it. The best teams playing the best teams every week seemed like a great thing to them. I don’t fault either of them for that opinion, since both admitted they don’t watch the sport before the discussion, but I do fault them for not seeing what will happen.

Every fall, Tony and Mike complain that college football and its playoffs are the same teams playing each other year after year. The first year of the college football playoff, highlighted by Alabama and Ohio State on New Year’s night, did the biggest ratings in the history of cable television. The best teams playing the teams every seemed like a great thing to all of us then.

Seven years later, Alabama played Ohio State in the title game, and it drew the lowest title game audience in two decades, when the messed up BCS system was giving us two title games and diluting the ratings. It was the lowest rating for a true college football championship game ever. The novelty has completely worn off, and the college football playoff is now at a crossroads as endless games between the same 5-6 teams has ruined it.

The same thing will happen with the Super League. The reason Barcelona vs Liverpool or Manchester United vs Real Madrid mean so much is that they happen so rarely. When they play twice a year, if not more, every year, that novelty will wear off and it will mean less.

The Domestic Leagues are Ruined

Why would I watch Liverpool play Leeds United on Monday afternoon? Liverpool is way out of the title race. There’s no danger of being relegated. What’s the point?

earn it leeds united
The point should be their chase of a Top 4 spot to make the Champions League. With a Super League, they’re already guaranteed to make it. That’s it. The game means nothing.

What made domestic soccer leagues so interesting to me is that there was always something to play for, whether it was a title, spot in Europe, or avoiding relegation. For the Big Six clubs in a Super League, they only have a title to play for and the title is usually wrapped up weeks before the final weekend. Even if it’s not, there’s only at most three times in the chase. The same can be said for La Liga and Serie A, as those top teams have nothing to play for once their title hopes are over.

Sure, the Champions League is great, but it’s domestic leagues that drives the passion and the fanbase. Without it, will supporters still care as much?

Mid-Week Games Are Not Ideal

Several years ago on Twitter, I argued that the Premier League should move the FA Cup games exclusively to weeknights because I hated when they took weekends off. My mentions were inundated with English soccer fans telling me to take a long walk off a short bridge because it was the weekend games they loved, and the FA Cup deserved them.

The Super League is currently proposed to play only during weeknights. That’s a lot of mid-week games that I can’t watch in the United States because I’ll be working – and similarly for fans in Asia and other time zones.

The fans get into their teams because of the weekend games, by gathering in pubs with your friends and family, and creating a bond over your team. You can’t do that on a Wednesday every week. But you can do that on a Saturday every week. I became a Liverpool fan because of their weekend games, not their weekday games.

Fans Can’t Travel as Much

One of the best things about European soccer – and one I wish could be replicated in American sports – is the visitor section of fans. It’s so easy in small countries to travel around and follow your team. That’s part of the atmosphere that separates the sport from other sports.

Will Liverpool fans constantly travel to Spain and Italy every other week for road games? Is that type of atmosphere realistic in the Super League?

And that’s before the logical evolution of the Super League where “regular season” games are played in China or the United States. Is there any doubt that Liverpool would play a game that meant something in Boston as soon as humanly possible?

The Sport Has Been Exposed

The most insulting part of the Super League’s announcement was how it used COVID-19 as a reason for why it needed to be created. Yes, millions of people have died, and countless lives ruined, but the real tragedy was that Real Madrid made slightly less money.

stolen by the rich
In American sports, we have understood that greed is part of the game, though we don’t immediately embrace everything. The NFL started a Thursday Night Football package that has made a lot of money, but doesn’t get the audience of Sunday games, and will now be relegated Amazon to further squeeze out money.

College sports, the most similar to European soccer in terms of fan loyalty, is currently undergoing its own reckoning due to chasing money. Fans are sick of neutral site games in college football and poor schedules, as ratings and attendance drop like a rock. College basketball has found itself essentially tied to one month of the calendar in March for the NCAA Tournament as the country tunes out for its regular season.

The leaders of these European Super League clubs somehow think they’re immune. It’s pure hubris. They believe their fans will watch their teams play regardless of what they plan to do moving forward.

It’s a dangerous crapshoot and I think they’ll come up snake eyes. 

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