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The Rise and Fall of the Super League - RBM Roundtable

The gang at RBM got together to discuss the ill-fated Super League, better off gone before it came to fruition

European Super League protest in London Photo by David Cliff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What a tumultuous two-day period, unlikely to be equalled for passion, anger, frustration and despondency in modern footballing history.

It was a quiet Sunday when rumblings of an elite breakaway group suddenly gained traction, and in a matter of hours twelve clubs had announced officially that they were part of ‘The Super League’, a coalition of six English clubs, three Spanish and and three Italian. Arguably they are a dozen of the biggest movers and shakers in the world of football, at least in terms of clout and revenue if not in performance.

This was not just posturing, as the sides then withdrew their membership from the European Clubs Association. The response from UEFA and their domestic footballing associations and leagues was unified and immediate - they would be expelled if they continued down this path.

Yet, the dirty dozen would not have anticipated the widespread and very voluminous backlash they received, not least of all from the majority of their own fanbases. The tumult grew into uproar, and the uproar into mayhem. And suddenly, first Manchester City extricated themselves from this group, then Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and reportedly Barcelona quickly followed suit on Tuesday afternoon, and before you knew it, the super league was gone as soon as it started.

The Royal Blue Mersey crew and readers, like any other footballing fanbase, has been watching the proceedings with great interest. The piece on the founding of the Super League has generated plenty of good discussion. We asked the writers to answer three questions about their feelings about the super league, the dirty dozen and more, and would like to hear from you readers as well in the comments below.

1.) What are your thoughts on the whole Super league concept and how it was executed?

Ian: The Super League is clearly a money grab among the world’s most elite clubs to gain even more power and sway. The greed and recklessness that has been on full display in recent days is appalling but unsurprising.

Tom: An absolutely atrocious idea that was treated with the contempt it deserved. It’s staggering to think they thought they could get away with it. Its execution, featuring clandestine talks, lying to UEFA executives and faceless late-night statements, is equally contemptable.

Matthew: Rubbish idea which served only to line the pockets of already-terribly-rich individuals. Execution was underhand and sloppy, and rather typified how useless a concept this was. That it surfaced in the middle of a pandemic only leaves a more sour taste.

Pete: It’s nothing but an attempted heist by greedy people that clearly don’t understand sport, and that sport is not the same as other businesses.

Trent: The entire Super League concept is wrongheaded and contrary to the way that soccer practically functions across the world. It is also a contradiction of the very spirit of the game itself in the historical sense; it was executed with a daftness that suggests a real disconnect with the sporting and practical world around it.

Pat: When I first heard that the League was going through, I was probably as upset as I would be if Everton lost in a cup final (maybe not that upset, but still). I thought the whole thing was a farce and terribly orchestrated.

Zach: I love the idea of clubs breaking away and challenging UEFA, but the way this was done was as selfish and stupid as possible. I actually put an article on Villarreal USA about how a new top level competition could benefit everyone.

Calvin: A failed coup, a botched heist. The twelve sides had to have been incredibly short-sighted to not have thought that this would be the exact response they would have gotten for such a hare-brained scheme.

2.) Should there be some sanctions against those six clubs? What is appropriate?

Ian: There absolutely should be sanctions. Even though some clubs — Chelsea followed by Man City, for now — have backed out of the SL, they had the intent to join before receiving an immense amount of backlash. I’m not sure what the appropriate penalties should be, but I’m thinking something along the lines of a points deduction and a one-year ban from the UCL would be appropriate.

Tom: Yes. While it is true the players and managers were not to blame the clubs cannot just carry on like nothing has happened. Points deductions and/or expulsion from UEFA competitions next season would send out a warning that this sort of duplicitous behaviour is not acceptable. It all rests on what the Premier League and UEFA can legally do, as the ‘self-proclaimed super six’ will no doubt lawyer up.

Matthew: Whopping fines - the sort that will really hurt clubs with as much money as them - and points deductions. I would try and incentivise them to leave - perhaps by saying that the next club to leave gets a less severe points deduction and/or fine than the club after them.

Pete: If they persist, they should have their UEFA licence suspended at the end of the season.

Trent: I have no issue with sanctions against the clubs for the upcoming season to a reasonable degree. Three ideas, while many more exist of course, could be starting the clubs off with negative points next season, European competition qualifying matches, or perhaps reduced salary allotments. I think that, ironically because of the alleged cause of this ESL in the first place, there will be natural financial consequences for these clubs as well however, and so I think if the FA, UEFA, or FIFA decided to do nothing that I would accept that choice too.

Pat: I’m torn about this. I initially thought that the teams should be booed and jeered at matches for years to come, but deep down, it’s the owners that are at fault; fans and players of these teams should not be getting abuse. I think they should face some kind of point deduction or transfer/Europe ban.

Zach: I want a ten point reduction on all those clubs in their respective leagues. It’ll have some European and title implications, will put a couple of clubs near a relegation fight, but it won’t be so overwhelming that no one ever challenges corrupt UEFA again.

Calvin: High treason deserves capital punishment! Just kidding, sort of. I understand that throwing the book at the club will hurt many of those fans who took a stance against their clubs. However, like we say at every before and every election, the collective will have to suffer the consequences for there to be impetus for change. Don’t like your chairman or Board? Vote them out! Increase the heat on them! If we just go back to normal then the status quo will resume immediately.

Fans Respond To News Of Football Super League Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

3.) Has this action changed the game forever as we know it? How/Why?

Ian: I think it has. Even with several teams backtracking, the move exposed how big clubs think they can act with impunity. This has driven an incredible rift between the richest clubs and everyone else.

Tom: Hopefully, yes. This has really shone a light on the ownership structures of football clubs and behaviour of club executives. This is an opportunity to kick-start change a move towards a more fan-orientated system, something like the German 50+1 model. It would be complicated to implement and may take a while, but we cannot just carry on and risk these owners concocting a similar plan in the future.

Matthew: Time will tell. I certainly think any good will left towards these clubs will have evaporated now. Will be more interesting to see how fans of these clubs react, especially once stadiums can be full again.

Pete: Without doubt. Trust in these owners has completely gone. New regulations need to be brought in ASAP to deter future attempts. We need to look at how fans can have a bigger influence on major club decisions such as this.

Trent: I truly believe that the muscle and spirit that the entire footballing community demonstrated since this announcement was first reported has positively shown the powers that be at these clubs that soccer is a sport of, for and by the people.
This revolt by the supporters, writers, players, ex-players, commentators and coaches of the clubs has dismantled the project before it could even properly get off the ground. Yet this entire process has revealed that, outside of the domestic and global structures that each team exists within, their brands have little intrinsic value; without the legitimacy that the entire system provides in other words, even supporters will turn on their beloved clubs, as well they should.

Pat: Absolutely. Even though it looks like the League is falling apart as quickly as it started, I still fear of plans for similar leagues of this sort to start circulating in the new few years; just not as intense as this one.

Zach: It’s made UEFA a lot more powerful, as well as the FAs and leagues, and that’s really scary long term because I don’t trust those institutions.

Calvin: Yes unfortunately. A super league in concept has been in discussion for years now, and will continue to be talked about. However, if there are no deterrents then such attempts will definitely happen again. Which is why this action and reaction need to be used right now to make changes for the better, including a more equitable distribution of power and wealth for all teams.