It’s all over before it even began. At Manchester City Football Club, whose owner is a scion of the Abu Dhabi royal family, head coach Josep Guardiola shook his head as he said: “It is not a sport if success is guaranteed, or if it doesn’t matter when you lose.” This evening (Apr. 20), his team withdrew from the proposed European Super League.
With hundreds of people gathering in a corner of southwest London to voice their anger, Chelsea, which is owned by the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, also cracked under the pressure. The team was the next to start the potentially fraught process of walking away from the super league.
Ever since 12 major European soccer teams announced the formation of the new, members-only league—instantly devaluing every other team and competition—the vast majority of fans, players, coaches, government officials, the media, and even royalty opposed the plan. Many called it the death of soccer.
Much later the same evening, the other four English teams also announced their departure. Players and coaches had already broken ranks, and criticized team owners who chose to remain silent. Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp, made it clear that he was neither consulted nor informed by US-based Fenway Sports Group of the initial bombshell. Klopp has been opposed to super league proposals for years. Meanwhile, the entire Liverpool roster simply said: “We don’t like it, and we don’t want it to happen.”
US banking giant JPMorgan is financing the new league, in which the wealthiest teams in England, Spain, and Italy would compete only against each other, with limited access for anyone else. The competition seemed sure to attract billions more in TV money and sponsorships around the world. But it would mark a radical shift where the “legacy fan” could lose a true hometown team, century-old local rivalries, and dramatic sporting competition.
Major teams from France and Germany refused to participate in the first place. Now, the secret plan concocted by billionaires in the middle of a devastating pandemic appears to have been consigned to the trash in just 48 hours.