Twelve of the biggest European football clubs have announced their intention to form their own competition, known as the Super League. This has become a major news story, and has been criticized by fans, players, football club owners, and politicians across Europe. So, in this episode of Thinking in English I will explain what a Super League is, why clubs want to join it, and why it is such a controversial topic!
Fixture (n) – a day and time agreed for a sports event
Next season’s fixtures will be published early next month
To establish (v) – to start a company or organization that will continue for a long time
The brewery was established in 1822
Unanimously (adv) – in a way that is agreed or supported by everyone in a group
All four proposals were unanimously approved
To qualify (v) – to succeed in getting into a competition
Nigeria was the first team to qualify for the world cup
Founding (adj) – involved in establishing or originating an institution or organization
There are three founding members of our company
Domestic (adj) – relating to a person’s own country
Domestic opinion has turned against the war
Broadcasting (n) – the activity or business of sending out programmes on television or radio
Huge amounts of money are spent on sports broadcasting
Theoretically (adv) – used to say what is possible, although it may not actually happen
It is theoretically possible
Football, or soccer if you prefer American English, is the world’s most popular sport. It is played, watched, and enjoyed by millions of men and women around the world. For many it is more than just a sport or game; it is an important part of their life and identity. I have friends who consider being a Liverpool fan, Manchester United fan, or Bolton Wanderers fan, for example, a more important part of their identity than their political belief or even religion. In my country, the UK, the team you support can help you make friends or cause arguments. I hear daily conversations between colleagues at work regarding their teams performances, transfer targets, or upcoming fixtures. For much of the world, and especially Europe and South America, football is a way of life.
So, when twelve of the biggest football clubs in the world announced to the world that they were going to establish their own tournament, it was always going to be a major news story. Yet, I doubt even those teams would have expected such an emotional response to their decision. The teams’ plan to launch a closed competition known as the Super League, in which they would compete only against themselves and their guests, has been almost unanimously criticised by footballers, fans, newspapers, smaller clubs, and even the UK government. In fact, it has been the number one news story for the last 24 hours in Europe. In this episode of Thinking in English, I want to introduce the ideas behind the European Super League, why the teams want to compete, and why it is so controversial!
Let’s start with the most basic question. What is the Super League? The idea has actually been around for a long time. In a nutshell, it is a European football competition including the most famous teams from the region’s clubs. At the moment, the most important and prestigious competition in world football is the Champions League. The Champions League, and its predecessor the European cup, allows teams from all around Europe to compete against each other. However, massive clubs from the UK, Spain, Italy, and Germany, have to compete against smaller teams qualifying from smaller competitions around Europe. Moreover, a country like the UK is only allowed to enter four teams into the Champions League, despite having eight or nine of the best clubs in Europe.
The twelve founding members of the Super League come from three countries: from Spain, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid; Inter Milan, AC Milan, and Juventus from Italy; and England’s Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arsenal. These teams are supposed to be joined by a further 3 founding clubs, but it is unclear who will join. German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are thought to be against the concept, while Paris St Germain from France and FC Porto in Portugal have been linked to the concept. The final fifteen founding teams are as yet undecided then, but these will be permanent members of the Super League. They will play in the competition every year. This is different from the current Champions League. Clubs need to qualify for the Champions League based on their performance in their domestic competitions. Especially for the English teams, which come from a very competitive domestic competition, there is a real risk of not qualifying for the Champions League and therefore missing out on playing the best teams and making the most money!
I just mentioned the word “money,” and that is the key behind the new Super League. Money. Each club will receive around $400 million to establish “a secure financial foundation.” The clubs will also be able to sell their own broadcasting rights. The teams involved have millions of supporters around the world, and they will be playing the best teams in the world every week. Unlike the Champions League, in which broadcast money is shared between smaller clubs and other leagues around Europe, in the Super League all money will go to the clubs.
It also means that other clubs in Spain, Italy, and England, as well as the rest of Europe, will not be able to join the competition unless they are one of the five invited guests every year. There are 53 national competitions in Europe, which are all able to enter the Champions League, but seem to be sidelined by the new tournament. Furthermore, some of the founding twelve teams are not even the best in Europe at the moment. English teams like Leicester, Everton, West Ham, and Wolves often perform better than Super League member Arsenal. While Tottenham are famous for never winning anything. It is clear that money is the major motivation!
However, just because these clubs have agreed to join it does not mean that the fans are happy with their decisions. The Liverpool supporters group said “”Embarrassing. As fan representatives we are appalled and completely oppose this decision. FSG [Fenway Sports Group] have ignored fans in their relentless and greedy pursuit of money. Football is ours not theirs. Our football club is ours not theirs.” Manchester United fans responded by stating “A “Super League” based on a closed shop of self-selected wealthy clubs goes against everything football and Manchester United should stand for. We urge everyone included in this proposal including Manchester United to immediately withdraw from this proposal.” In fact, from players like Paris’ Ander Herrera, to managers like Jurgen Klopp, and even the Uk Prime Minister Boris Johnson, many different people have strongly criticised the plans.
Can the plan be stopped? Will it ever actually happen? UEFA, the governing body for European football, and the associated leagues and competitions around the continent are trying their best to prevent the Super League. They have threatened to throw clubs out of domestic competitions, and to ban players from competing in the world cup and other international tournaments. National governments and the European Union are also likely to get involved, because as I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast football in Europe is more than just a sport or game. It can have serious political, economic, and social consequences.
Despite this, even if UEFA or FIFA decide to ban clubs and players, there will be negative consequences. The Champions League will no longer have the best teams, national leagues in England, Spain, and Italy will be less important. The clubs not invited to the Super League will suffer even more – they will lose money, influence, and audiences. One of the things football fans are most proud of is the idea that any team can, theoretically, go from the amateur competitions to the champions of Europe. Leicester, in the UK, went from the third division of English football to national champions. Teams from Serbia, Romania, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands have all been crowned champions of Europe in the last 40 years, but will not be able in the Super League.
So, will it actually happen? I’m not sure, and I think most people are unsure. So much money has been invested already that it is unlikely the founding clubs can quit easily. However, will they be able to keep players, fans, and managers? And what will happen if the Super League fails? I think Gary Neville, a former English footballer who has been one of the biggest critics of the Super League, summed up many peoples opinion nicely when he said “The proposal will get kicked out because the fans will hate it, the governments will hate it, FIFA will hate, UEFA will hate it, the Premier League have come out already and say they hate it, you’ll hate it, I’ll hate it.” What do you think?
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