I’m really disappointed by the news that 20 European soccer teams are breaking away from their current leagues and forming a new European Super League. I’m also disappointed that my favorite team, Manchester City, is among this rogue bunch of teams. The details are still emerging, but this feels like a truly landmark shift in the sports and business landscapes. One that we all should have seen coming.
This video sums it up nicely, but the gist is that most of the world’s largest and most marketable soccer teams in Europe are creating their own version of the NFL or NBA where they will sell broadcast rights to marquee matchups week-in and week-out. This league will be in direct competition with the UEFA Champions League, who essentially have the same goal of presenting top teams competing against each other. The crucial difference is that the 15 “founding members” of this league will be exempt from the threat of relegation and will always be guaranteed a place in this cash cow of a league, whereas they would have to annually earn a spot in the Champions League. This goes against the main principle of sport being a meritocracy and attempts to let bigger clubs be grandfathered in and insulated from failure, regardless of their on-field results.
The league is being funded by financial behemoth JP Morgan Chase who are offering $3.5B to the project. The same bank that was fined $2.6B for their role in the Bernie Madoff scandal. The same bank that paid $2.2B to settle a lawsuit regarding their involvement in the Enron securities fraud. The same bank that was fined $920M for spoofing the energy market with illegal trading practices. The same bank that had $1.3B worth of cocaine seized on a cargo ship in Philadelphia. The same bank with an entire section of their Wikipedia dedicated to their controversies and settlements, but I’ve digressed.
There were two big takeaways from the global Covid-19 pandemic that are the reason for this European Super League. First, large corporations have found new ways to hoard and acquire wealth at the expense of small and medium sized businesses. This is now bleeding over into the sports world as the Haves flex their financial strength over the Have Nots. Second, entertainment and sports companies have realized that they don’t need live audiences and that the true power is in the television broadcast rights. You can alienate your entire fanbase as long as there is a product for television consumption. So all of the public outcry against this league is a moot point if everyone signs up for whatever streaming service will be broadcasting these games.
We’ve reached a pivotal moment in sports history, and we all have to wait and see how this all unfolds. And I’m now taking suggestions for a new soccer team to support.
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