Future fans, legacy supporters and possible return to the status quo
From the Super League announcement on Sunday to the withdrawal of Premier League teams on Tuesday, European football ended and then came back to life within three days. The narrative fallout continues to change just as quickly, with fans moving from saving the game to realizing that we’ve only returned to the imperfect status quo that inspired the Super League rebellion in the first place. We went through the entire streak in a 2021 way, refreshing our timeline, displaying our own outrage, and protesting in person. The battle for the meaning and future of the game unfolded in our minds, our timelines, on the pitch and behind closed doors, we would never go inside.
In a time of hyperbole, we immediately recognized the importance of the potential Super League. But the day of truth was still surreal, even considering the years of rumors that prepared our reactions as the theory became reality.
The rise and fall took separate stages. There was the initial Sunday announcement and the immediate rejection on Twitter. The reaction online became tangible on Monday with Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool sadly caught in the wake of a match in which Leeds wore shirts. protesting against the formation of the Super League. Klopp was left on his own, stuck in an awkward place to support fans without offending his ownership group who supported the project. The Leeds social media team racked up resentment, calling Liverpool “Super League“team.
“I can’t say much more because we weren’t involved in any process, neither the players nor me. We didn’t know about it, ”Klopp said of his helplessness as he and his team unfairly became symbols of greed and took on the brunt of anger. Indeed, many important figures in the game have said they do not “know” the plan until its release.
Players and managers became the easy faces of a project over which they had little control. There was a glaring lack of public support from the founding member clubs except Florentino Perez of Real Madrid and Andrea Agnelli of Juventus. They sent a message as a way to preserve gaming for the world’s connected future demographics, whose lives revolve around smartphones and short attention spans. They pitted the “fans of the future” who would support the Super League against the “legacy fans” on whom the game’s current popularity was built but who would no longer serve the futuristic purpose (the message that the Super League would in fact save the game proves the narrative adage that everyone considers themselves the hero of the story).
But where were those famous badges, the behind-the-scenes mini-series on streaming services and references to matches as content? As we wrote before, the Champions League is not competing with domestic leagues or other sports, but rather with Netflix, Tik Tok and beyond. And while you can point to outside investors buying up Premier League squads as the initial seeds of the Super League idea, Juventus’ rebranding in 2017 becomes an even bigger inflection point as the years go by. years. It was recognition that the games themselves weren’t good enough anymore – teams had to fight for attention 24/7.
We then figured the end result would be new jersey designs here and there, more “day in the life of an athlete” videos on YouTube, or viral clips of free kick challenges on Twitter. But the complete overhaul of the European game?
When this is written as a case study years away, it could be presented as a misunderstanding of the cultural differences between an open and closed sport model. This raises the existential significance of an open system, especially the role of small clubs in a country’s football pyramid in the context of global brands. How do you quantify the value of something that could happen, no matter how unrealistic it is? Even if a League One side never play for Liverpool or Chelsea, there is value in the dream and the possibility of it happening. And as Liverpool generate exponentially more revenue than, say, Blackpool in League One, there has to be some value to be placed in the context and history of the English football pyramid.
You can also observe with pessimism how the way the disbandment of the Super League has strengthened the power of the Premier League in Europe. Many have pointed out that the Premier League itself is a separatist league, although the difference is that it maintains promotion and relegation (candid statements by Gary Neville have been broadcast on Sky, home to the Premier League, there therefore has trade even in protest). Regardless, Norwich City paid $ 55million in parachutes for being relegated from the Premier League. Juventus are estimated to have earned $ 28million for winning Serie A. The battle for the Super League is not over.
In terms of positioning, not joining the Super League has become its own political statement. There was no Bundesliga team among the founding members, which many saw as the league-defining 50 + 1 rule isolating supporters from clubs leaving them behind. In fact, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig have gone out of their way to condemn the project and reaffirm their place in the current Champions League setup. Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said all European clubs should unite to create a “more rational” cost structure, against player salaries and agent fees.
Meanwhile, Leipzig, heavily criticized for its lack of history after being funded by an energy drink company that bypassed the 50 + 1 rule, rejected the Super League on the grounds of sporting fairness. They noted how the professional game is defined as “fighting for a position in the national league table which allows a team to compete in international competition”.
So the billion dollar company is now the protagonist lecturing the world about competitive fairness? The stories take us in weird and unforeseen turns – and even more so when we consider the country. In Spain, La Liga sides weren’t necessarily worried about Madrid and Barcelona leaving the league, as it proved conspiratorial ideas that the system was controlled by behind-the-scenes powers anyway. Serie A analysts wanted the three deserted teams to be permanently kicked out of the league.
True or false, it centers the Premier League again as a hero.
The fallout inevitably reached board level, with Ed Woodward stepping down from Manchester United. With a shattered reputation and confidence, he likely won’t be the last. Even JP Morgan was demoted by Standard Ethics for his role in funding ESL. On the other hand, Perez continued to dig, suggesting matches might even need to be shortened by 90 minutes to keep up with “future fans.”
This last pandemic year has allowed us to deconstruct football in real time. The matches played without supporters made us realize what atmosphere adds to the game. Now we are forced to look at the base layer of sports competition and fairness in open and closed systems. What is the significance of sports competition? Optimistically, we can appreciate the concept even more knowing how quickly all of this can be removed.
Far from a resolution, the failure of this current Super League is not the end of discussions on engaging future supporters, maintaining the dream of an open ecosystem and who ultimately benefits from it. And we have returned to a reconstructed “Swiss model” of the Champions League that emphasizes more matches for more income, for a global audience. As Ilkay Gundogan said, it’s fair the lesser of two evils.
The optimistic analysis is that events have shown how much of a voice fans still have in the modern era, that players, managers and fans have come together to fight the game. In the age of analysis, it was that of history, emotions and intangibles. But we’ve all seen this before; it’s just a brief pause until another proposal, and another after that. This Super League iteration has lasted for three days, but the battle for European football has only just begun.