European Super League: The pros and cons of an elite breakaway

With plans for the ESL seemingly scrapped for the foreseeable future, following an angry backlash from fans
across Europe, we look at the pros and cons of an elite European competition. Would a breakaway league
really ‘save football’ or is it just a cash grab by billionaire businessmen?

Pros: More revenue and insurance for member clubs
The financial incentive for the 12 clubs involved is a major driving force behind the proposals, with teams
looking for guaranteed revenues in order to fund the biggest transfers and the highest player wages.
Investment bank JP Morgan initially agreed to fund the league with €3.2 billion investment, with each team to
receive a share of between €200-300 million just for participation (and that’s before the TV rights deals are
made). Furthermore, this money is guaranteed each year without any threat of promotion or relegation,
providing elite teams with protection against missing out on European qualification.

In return fans across the world will have access (at a price) to the biggest clubs, the top stadiums and the
greatest European talent on a weekly basis. Who wants to watch Manchester United vs Norwich when you can
see Manchester United vs Barcelona every other week? According to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez,
‘young people are no longer interested in football’, adding that there is ‘less and less interest in the Champions
League’. Plans were designed to recapture the attention of younger fans and inject excitement back into
European football. In addition, Perez remains convinced the proposals will benefit the national football
pyramids, with more financial resources available to lower league teams. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the football
world remains unconvinced by this.

Cons: ‘Franchise football’ and the damage to lower league teams
In contrast to the view of Florentino Perez, many believe the ESL would destroy national leagues across Europe
without the draw of giants such as Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United. Lower league teams rely on
money earned through TV rights, parachute payments and domestic competitions, but with the distraction of
the ESL, teams will not receive the same level of support and teams may be put out of business, at a time when
clubs are reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the disruption to domestic football,
the ESL presents a major risk for Europe’s national teams. UEFA has threatened any players involved in a
breakaway league with a ban from representing their country at the World Cup, which will inevitably drive a
wedge between players, teams and supporters.

A ‘closed shop’ franchise style league may provide regular blockbuster fixtures featuring the best players from
Europe, but without the threat of relegation or the joy of promotion, many predict that fans would lose
interest. Champions league fixtures still retain a degree of sparkle and excitement, particularly as the top teams
from Europe play each other only once or twice a year. However, the ESL will saturate viewers with the same
fixtures throughout the year, which in the long term may drive fans away from football altogether.