In ESB, Thomas Peeters, sports economist at Erasmus School of Economics, writes about the Super League, a closed football league based on the American model. Where did the plan for the Super League come from? And do they serve the interests of the football fan?
An exploding bomb
Twelve top European clubs let a bomb explode when they announced their own international competition. Because of all the commotion and pressure from their own fans, Chelsea and Manchester City withdrew from the initiative within 48 hours. Other clubs quickly followed suit. However, this did not solve the problems at the root of the Super League initiative. According to Peeters, a real solution requires the intervention of the European watchdog.
A lost illusion
The Super League should have consisted of 15 clubs, to which five are added each year through qualification. Once the league was launched, it would have the opportunity to expand. That the Super League clubs would benefit from the competition is obvious. But what about the consumer? According to Peeters, they are losing the illusion that their favourite club could ever beat the mighty Barcelona. This became clear when stadium visitors took to the streets en masse, making it clear that supporters do not want to be treated as entertainment consumers.
On the other hand, the Super League also makes for less one-sided matches, Peeters says. This would especially benefit TV viewers, who are more interested in the quality of the football game. In addition, the possibility of expanding the Super League means that the top clubs can be better distributed across European cities and more Europeans would have access to top football. This access would come at a very high cost, however. After all, the clubs are assured of a global monopoly in the market for television rights, and larger local monopolies for stadium attendance.
Two fundamental problems
According to Peeters, the Super League is a direct consequence of two errors in the current organisation of European football. The first problem is that clubs compete at European level but generate most of their revenue in national markets while the revenue gap between large and small countries has widened. With the recent success of television rights for the Premier League, the English mid-tier clubs are now even threatening the top clubs in Spain and Italy. It is therefore no coincidence that they are the initiators of the Super League.
The second problem is that UEFA plays a double role in European football, Peeters explains. Firstly, UEFA is the association of European football federations. In that role it looks after the interests of football in Europe. In addition to its regulatory role, UEFA is also the monopolist-organiser of international football competitions in Europe. The commercial success of these competitions has made UEFA a large and financially successful organisation and the participation of Europe's top clubs in UEFA competitions is necessary to maintain this position. However, UEFA cannot legally oblige clubs to participate in the Champions League. If clubs prefer to organise something themselves, UEFA can in principle do nothing about it. The threat to exclude clubs from their national team or competition would most likely fail in court. UEFA's behaviour is that of a monopolist that uses related organisations to protect its own dominant position.