Guest Post by William from the comments! Enjoy!
Morning compadres! Hope Everyone is lovely. I certainly am. With arsenal news stories being recycled more than an Eastenders storyline I thought it might be nice to talk about something else, albeit something that could end up having huge repercussions for Arsenal in the tangibly near future.
That’s right. Today I’m talking about a European Super League , oh yes.
The basic concept as I’m sure you know is that the big boy teams in Europe play together in a league that mirrors domestic competition. 20 teams, 38 games, one ultimate champion of the elite. The unlucky teams at the bottom would be punted back to their respective leagues to fight it out for re-promotion with the riff raff back in their own yard.
What do you think? Could it actually work?
The idea was bandied around in the nineties but with UEFA expanding the current Champions League around that time most of the talk was put to bed. There have been notable advocates of it in more recent times however. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez put an official proposal together in 2009. He said that he will push for a ESL (that’s what I’ll try and refer to it as from now on) if UEFA can’t find a way of guaranteeing that the best clubs in Europe play each other every season, which the champions league arguably does not. His point (and I think it’s a valid one), is that a cup competition can’t accurately reflect who is the best in Europe. Consistency shown over a season certainly could. Unsurprisingly our own manager has had his say on this back around the same period. He said he thought it would become a reality within the next decade. That’s only 4 years away Arsene, hope you didn’t put a bet on it….well I hope you did actually…. a big one.
Personally when I first heard of the plan my instant reaction was one of complete disdain. I thought it was a terrible idea on every level. Although as time goes on my opinion is thawing slightly on the matter, but perhaps that’s just global warming doing it’s thang…… However, with Arsenal news thin on the ground and Fifa looking as shaky as my nerves around the girl in my local coffee shop, the idea of a break away league has started to draw my thoughts again.
First lets look at what I think the positives of it could be, as I’m generally a positive chap, except when my mum wakes me before 12. I think financially the idea makes sense. Money from television would be ridiculously huge and (you’d hope) it would be spread you’d hope evenly among the teams, providing much more parity among the elite. The global market for the top teams would be bigger too. For example the Asian demand for inter- European football is massive and there is mega money and branding potential out there as we know. I think in terms of finance a super league would benefit any club lucky enough to actually be in it.
Another huge positive to me would be the inevitable lowering of premier league ticket prices due to the bigger teams not being around to hike them up. We are all aware that prices have become absurd recently. So much so that your average family man with couple of kids can’t dream of going to games, even on a semi regular basis.
Maybe a super league would shift the prawn sandwich vibes away from the Premier League culture and redress that balance? That would certainly be nice.
I alluded to it already but there is no more true test of a team than a full league season. There is no where to run, no excuses. Every team has the same fixtures, the same logistics, the same everything. An absolute decider of the best. Imagine some of the spectacular football we’d see! Unmentionable things happen to me at the very thought of it.
I think there is a small argument for saying that the Premier league would also improve in certain respects with the addition of an ESL. More teams would get to challenge for the title and big teams would still be left, challenging to be promoted to the big daddy Euro league. There would also be the added bonus of having visits from continental away fans every other week which would be great for local tourism and stadium atmosphere.
Symbolically I think also joining together with the rest of Europe shows progression on a Human scale. It would hopefully bring cultures together in a positive way as we enter more uncertain times politically and economically.
There are also many negatives to consider; A big part of me thinks national leagues would suffer, they’d certainly lose global appeal and possibly domestic too. The powers that be would certainly have to ensure that perhaps they the ESL fixtures are played mid week and the national league fixtures on weekends to avoid any clashing. The idea being that people would still watch their national leagues, rather than being tempted to stray off and watch Barca play Man U. “Hmmm, Stoke v Hull or Barca v Man U……….?”.
Additionally, if we played all the best teams in the world twice a year, how long would it be before it lost it’s excitement factor? Fergie famously hated the idea and made some quip about European football being the icing and “not the whole bloody cake” and I get where he’s coming from. Maybe it would make those European nights less magical and turn them even more into a corporate driven, excess driven wealth festival designed to squeeze every penny from potential revenue. I dread to think how much it would cost to watch the games, legally that is; not that I advocate streaming and that sort of thing. I wouldn’t ever consider not paying Mr Murdoch insane amounts of money each month to watch football that is cheap to watch in every other country, you’d have to be pretty stupid to not want to do that….
For the teams in the ESL travelling to away games would be so expensive that only the super rich could afford it. You want real locals going to these games, so some plan would have to be conceived. Maybe previous season ticket holders could be put into a draw for each game and offered the tickets at the beginning of the season so that every one has a chance to go to the games. It would take a lot of planning though and be a logistical nightmare to accomplish smoothly.
The fact that 28 countries exist in the European union would mean it would be hard to decide who gets to qualify in the first place. How would that even work? As far as the league itself goes the only fair way to operate it would probably have to be a system of relegation and promotion just like in domestic leagues. It in no way should turn into a closed league, which has been suggested before. For me that would kill any competitiveness outside the elite. My suggestion would be that each year 6 or even 7 clubs leave the league and the same number come up. The most essential thing would be to avoid the ESL becoming stagnant and never changing. The chance of relegation has to be a real possibility for at least half the teams, conversely the chance of actually reaching the promised land has to be an attainable reality to others.
Both relegation and promotion would again come with logistical problems . What would happen if for example one year all English teams were relegated? An imbalance would certainly be created that’d have knock on effects as to who could be promoted from the championship to the premier league! It bakes my head just thinking about it, and like time travel into the past presents way too many paradoxes for it to work, surely?. Unless some clever chap comes along and finds a solution of course!
How would you make it work as a fair system?
Could it ever be anything other than bad for the national leagues?