With the announcement of the European Super League back in April of 2021, there was a lot of opposition from fans, players, managers and even politicians. But why exactly was there so much opposition to the creation of a new football league, and is any of it valid?
With Europe already being host to 39 leagues throughout its different countries, it’s not really much of a surprise that there was some backlash to the initial thought of adding another one to the roster. All of this backlash has shone a very negative light on the ESL and right now, there are a lot of doubts as to whether anything will ever actually come of it.
Just a Pie in the Sky?
The idea of an elite league of only the best teams in European football contending head to head in an all-out battle for supremacy should be the perfect event for fans to gather around and watch in awe. Yet, surprisingly, fans were the ones who caused most of the initial backlash to the proposed league.
At this point, fans are already spoiled for choice when it comes to supporting their favourite teams, and it’s already hard enough to keep up with all the leagues that are currently happening. Adding another one to it seems to just be one extra helping too much.
Additionally, many have made it clear that having only the best of the best play against one another takes a lot of what the nature of the beautiful game is about - the competition, the underdogs coming up against the odds, the old rivalries, and, of course, traveling to another country to support your favourite team. The other issue is that the league was proposed as being ‘semi-closed’, meaning that very few teams would be able to qualify for it, which greatly limits the amount of countries and teams being represented.
On top of that, fans already spend a small fortune to support their favourite teams in the Premier League or the UEFA Championship. When you add up the merch, the bets, and the tickets, it all already comes to quite a lot for the average supporter. Now, having to dig into your pockets to do it all over again would just be too draining to many - even the hardest of punters would have to agree here.
While the idea of another league might mean more chances of winning for gamblers, the truth is that the odds between highly ranked teams will likely be much lower. On top of this, all the extra games could cause players to become fatigued, ultimately affecting their performance in their domestic leagues.
While it’s hard enough trying to figure out which bookmaker is the best, adding to it a whole new list of probabilities with the game itself, really just complicates the process a lot more than is necessary. Just to reiterate, betters already spent over £56 billion the Premier League alone, so one can only imagine how much more they’d have to fork out on the ESL. Players and bettors alike have already become used to what to expect in the conventional leagues, which makes it a lot easier to work out the variables and pick a favourite, plus it still offers high odds for underdogs who perform well.
A more clinical approach to football akin to that of playing an actual FIFA videogame between high-ranking teams is too much for most, even though the real-life version may be appealing in some ways. It’s generally exciting to see a team like Chelsea go up against Real Madrid in the Champions League precisely because it feels like an occasion rather than a pre-scheduled item on an itinerary. So for now, it looks like the ESL will be on ice, but only time will really tell.
Too Much to Handle
Another area that garnered much consternation at the thought of the ESL was actually the clubs themselves. While many showed some support for the league when it was first announced, when the backlash from fans arose, a lot of clubs immediately withdrew their proposals to enter the league. Nine of the teams, including all six English teams that were to be included in the league, withdrew their proposal to join pretty early on, but eight have decided to stay involved in the league as stakeholders.
Teams like Juventus backed out within 72 hours of the league’s launch, leaving just two teams left still actively willing to participate in the league as it stands. On top of that, both FIFA and UEFA have opened lawsuits against the league’s founders, however, the ECJ (European Court of Justice) has ruled that they are not allowed to legally interfere with the ESL’s foundation.
Ultimately it’s been a very rocky start for the new league. While they still have those eight stakeholders, it seems like it will definitely take a long time for anything significant to happen in terms of its foundation, let alone becoming an actual league.