The scale of the reactions underscores the importance of the earthquake. The official announcement on Monday April 19 of the creation by twelve major football clubs of an upcoming “Super League” directly competing with the Champions League does not only shake the football world. If the quasi-unanimity of the players of the round ball is against the outline of this competition, number of political personalities also hastened to put on the crampons to tackle the project.
The famous “Super League” is however neither a surprise, nor a novelty. It is a project that has dragged on since the end of the 1990s, regularly agitated by a handful of big European clubs to bring the UEFA, which organizes continental football, to reform its Champions League in a direction always more favorable to their interests. .
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Real Madrid, Juventus Turin or Manchester United, the three leading clubs in this case, thus obtained in 2003, 2008 and 2016 arrangements from the most prestigious of European cups, ensuring them both more matches and more. of income.
The scarecrow of the Super League was also very present in the minds in recent months as the latest reform of the event was being drawn up, voted precisely this Monday by UEFA for an entry into force from 2024. It foresees 180 matches (against 96 today) and ensures a place almost reserved for the European giants in what looks more and more like a closed league. But undoubtedly this was not yet enough for the appetite of the big cats. By revealing their Super League to 20 clubs, they go from the threat to the beginning of a realization.
The last step in the financialization of football
“The financial shocks caused by the Covid are not foreign to this passage to the act, estimates the economist Jérémie Bastien, lecturer at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne. The “ secessionist ” clubs evoke a decline in interest in the Champions League and fear lower revenues in the long term, in particular television rights. They want to increase and secure their income. “
Through this project, it is the last step in the financialization of football that is taking shape, also judges Jean-François Brocard, teacher-researcher at the Center for Law and Economics of Sport (Cdes) in Limoges: “For current football investors, from billionaires to investment funds, a club is a business like any other, which must generate profits. Whatever identity, territorialization, amateur football … They don’t care. UEFA failed to put up safeguards to limit their influence and thus helped give birth to a monster. “
Luc Arrondel, associate professor at the Paris School of Economics, supports: “If American funds invest in Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester United, it is not to do patronage. We wake up today, but this Super League is a logical development from an economic point of view. “
The support of the American bank JP Morgan
As a symbol, the project for the time being takes advantage of the support of the American bank JP Morgan, which would guarantee 4 to 6 billion euros to launch the competition, of which 3.5 billion, the first year, redistributed to the clubs. While UEFA today provides “only” 2 billion euros annually to participants in its Champions League.
More money and less sporting uncertainty, we understand that the offer is, in some respects, attractive. But not for all: for now, even if the promoters of the Super League are betting on two French clubs in the long term, PSG have not entered the dance. No more than the German leaders of Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund. “This restraint is explained by healthier finances for certain German clubs, with a favored popular shareholding, and perhaps a deeper attachment to the European pyramid model of sport”, comments Jérémie Bastien.
Regarding the PSG, whose absence may seem more surprising, other factors, more diplomatic, are undoubtedly at work. Club president Nasser Al-Khelaïfi is both close to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and the boss of BeIn Media Group which broadcasts the Champions League in many countries. Qatar, owner of PSG, also in the hot seat for the controversial organization of the 2022 World Cup, does not necessarily have an interest in making waves that could upset the International Federation (Fifa), also hostile to the Super League. “Anyway, Qatar has invested in the PSG for purposes of soft-power, with other stakes than the purely pecuniary aspect”, summarizes Luc Arrondel.
A project still unclear
This uncertainty about the composition of the Super League reveals in any case a project still far from being completed. “The calendar is not fixed, no broadcaster is currently in the game, too much is in the dark to be sure that the Super League exists soon., says Jérémie Bastien. We cannot totally exclude yet another strategic maneuver by the big clubs to make the Champions League evolve again in the coming months to their advantage. “
Especially since even the economic profitability of their project is not guaranteed. The parallel with basketball is enlightening: the Super League exists in this discipline and is called the Euroleague, with 18 participating clubs. It has imposed itself since 2016 at the International Basketball Federation (Fiba).
If sportingly, the Euroleague is a success, it is not the same financially. “No Euroleague club today wins money and many great matches take place in empty halls, assures Jean-François Brocard. The public is tired of repeated and unsurprisingly oppositions, always with the same clubs. “
Football authorities have weapons to resist
The International Basketball Federation and the Euroleague have also been stuck for years in an ongoing legal standoff over which body is the most legitimate to organize a European competition.
Endless litigation hanging over the face of football? “The European Commission could whistle the end of the game, but for now, it has favored free competition, points out Jean-François Brocard. If they really want to counter the Super League, the football authorities will have to bet on a very solid common front, because in fact, it will be very difficult for the secessionist clubs to override their veto: they will need many referees, a authority to define the rules, doping controls, etc. With the associations of supporters and the unions of players, UEFA and FIFA really have weapons to activate to limit damage. “
Twelve clubs to start
The twelve founding clubs of the Continental Super League project are six English (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham), three Spaniards (FC Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid) and three Italians (Juventus Turin, AC Milan and Inter Milan) . Three more permanent clubs are expected to join them eventually and five would be invited each year based on their results, bringing the total to 20.
18 round-trip matches. These twenty clubs, divided into two groups of ten, would face each other in 18 round-trip matches. In each group, the top three would automatically qualify in quarters, with the fourth and fifth competing to qualify for the fourth quarter. Then, the principle of direct elimination in quarter and a half applies.
A launch scheduled for 2023. The organizers dream of starting the 2022-2023 season, but the next one seems more likely. The matches would take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, in head-on competition with the Champions League.