European Super League: A month on from the collapse of the ESL

When plans were announced for the European Super League (ESL) on 19th April, they were met with widespread disgust from fans, pundits and government ministers across Europe. This prompted nine of the twelve teams to hastily withdraw from the competition less than 72 hours later, with several of the clubs’ owners making public apologies and top executives being forced to resign in an attempt to quell the outrage across the footballing world. Now, 1 month on, what is the latest fallout from the ESL? Have clubs received UEFA sanctions for their involvement? Or will clubs attempt to revisit the plans in the future?

Firstly, it’s important to note that the three teams who refused to withdraw from ESL plans in April (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus) are still committed to the proposals, despite threats from UEFA to ban them from next season’s Champions League. Furthermore, UEFA is investigating the three clubs for ‘violating UEFAs legal framework’, by illegally forming an alliance which flouts UEFAs rules. However, the clubs remain steadfast, and have reasserted their pledge to the ESL, criticising UEFAs ‘unacceptable and ongoing threats’. Whilst we await the ruling, the Italian and Spanish giants will ponder the scale of financial and competitive sanctions that await them.

The nine clubs who withdrew from the ESL have already been punished, with multi-million-pound euro fines including 5% of the club’s revenue starting in the season 2023-2024. In addition, the nine clubs (which includes the premier league ‘big six’) will make a combined £13.4 million contribution to grassroots football across Europe, seen as a ‘goodwill gesture’. Crucially, UEFA and the premier league has tried to deter any future plans to revamp the ESL by threatening clubs with a £86.9 million fine (UEFA) if they try to join an unauthorised league in the future, with the premier league bringing in a new owner’s charter to commit clubs to the ‘core principles of the league’ with heavy financial sanctions for any breaches.

Although nine of the 12 clubs have now re-committed to UEFA and the champions league’s current format, many argue that the financial punishments are insufficient and will do little to prevent a future league from forming. Fans have called for football’s governing bodies to impose points deductions and ban the clubs involved from future European competition.

Others may suggest that imposing strict punishments on Europe’s elite clubs’ risks alienating owners and may even push clubs closer to reforming a revised ESL format. Interestingly, Real Madrid president and proposed chairman of the ESL Florentino Perez has said that the clubs ‘cannot leave’ the ESL due to signing binding contracts and although clubs have left due to pressure from fans, he hoped ‘a project or one very similar will move forward very soon’.

Plans for a revamped ESL or reformatted Champions League may be ongoing behind closed doors, however it seems very unlikely that any changes will happen in the immediate future as clubs and fans across Europe await the full extent of the fallout. What we do know, however, is that the appetite for an ESL won’t be improving anytime soon.