On Sunday night, 12 of Europe’s largest soccer teams announced a shocking plan to break away from the UEFA Champions League to form their own European Super League (ESL). The clubs on the list included the big six from England: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal; Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona from Spain; and Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus from Italy.
The announcement, seemingly coming out of nowhere, set the world of European football on fire, and was likely conceived by the 12 teams’ billionaire owners. The league’s founders believed that TV rights for a “super league” would draw more viewers and advertisers in large markets like the United States and China. Given that the Super League was intended to replace the Champions League, teams that joined would have been scheduled to play their Super League fixtures midweek, and then domestic league matches on the weekends.
Importantly, the 12 teams joining the Super League would have access to the competition every year, and would not need to secure a slot by finishing high in their domestic leagues. At the moment, Champions League teams are selected each year based on their performance during the previous season. (The Premier League in England currently sends its top four teams from the previous season, while other leagues may send only their league winner.)
This change sparked mass criticism and backlash from supporters across the globe. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, a former Manchester United captain, was especially outspoken about the changes. “The motivation is greed. It’s criminal — it’s a criminal act against football fans in this country, make no mistake about it. This is the biggest sport in the world, the biggest sport in this country, and it’s a criminal act against the fans, simple as that,” Neville said in a television appearance.
The ESL faced criticism and backlash from every direction, including threats of expulsion of the players on ESL squads from international play and from the Premier League. After intense scrutiny, less than 48 hours after its initial announcement, the Super League had all but collapsed, with all six English clubs pulling out and multiple club executives permanently stepping down. It was arguably the craziest 48 hours in the history of professional soccer.