We saw the best of fan power last year when protests raged on against the proposed European Super League, a new competition led by Real Madrid President Florentino Perez which drew interest from American investment banking giant JPMorgan Chase, which pledged US$5 billion towards its formation.
There were 12 clubs who formally announced they would be joining this league, the so called ‘big six’ of England, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Inter and Juventus. The widespread backlash the league received, particularly in England, meant clubs had to row back their plans to join the league, and the idea was shelved for the time being. However, news of the European Super League has returned, with a proposed comeback in the works.
The news came at a similar time to UEFA’s proposed changes to the format of the Champions League, which has drawn criticism from fans and pundits alike, calling it a UEFA branded Super League. It feels like this is never really going to go away, so here we look into the new attempt to form the Super League, how UEFA are battling it, and what it could mean for the Champions League.
This year’s Champions League has been excellent viewing so far, and many fans will be wondering why there is a need to change it from its current state at all. According to odds sourced from these PayPal betting sites, Man City are the current favourites to win it this year, with odds of 9/4. Liverpool are second favourites at 15/4, while Bayern Munich are 4/1. Real Madrid, coming off their incredible comeback victory over PSG are at 8/1.
The new European Super League
In the first week of March 2022, reports began circulating that the Super League was making a comeback. Juventus are one of the three clubs still driving the project alongside Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona and newspapers in Spain and Italy reported this week that president of Juventus Andrea Agnelli was set to make an announcement at the Financial Times’ Business of Football Summit in London about the renewed plans for the Super League.
While that didn’t happen, it is clear that talk of this league isn’t going anywhere, and Agnelli reiterated what he has said from the beginning, that this is a legal matter, and it all depends on the outcome of a case that has been taken to the European Court of Justice by A22, which is a Spanish company which represents the Super League. UEFA President Alexander Ceferin was quick to defend his association against these plans, saying: “Look, first they launched this nonsense of an idea in the middle of a pandemic, now we are reading articles every day they are planning to launch another idea in the middle of war.
“Do I have to speak more about those people? They obviously live in a parallel world. And while we are saving players together with other stakeholders, while we are working to help in a terrible situation, they work on a project like that.”
Agnelli’s argument is that UEFA is a “monopolistic operator”, which limits access to a free market which he states is in violation of European law. He and representatives from Barcelona and Real Madrid will be waiting for the court ruling which will state either that only UEFA can organise European club competition, or that clubs are free to set up their own.
When asked this week whether he has any worries about the outcome of the court case, Ceferin told Corriere Della Sera: “No, not at all. It would be a symbolic decision. “If they establish that UEFA is a monopoly then those three clubs can play in their own UEFA, their own competitions. Why do they want to stay in ours? They want to be both here and there, but there doesn’t exist it’s a purely metaphysical place. I think they believe the earth is flat. And let’s stop calling it the Super League, let’s call it what it is: the Terrible League.”
What about the changes to the Champions League?
Although the announcement that the Super League plans are still very much on the table came this week, UEFA moved on with their plans to change the format of the Champions League. The current 32 team group stage format is simple and easy to understand for fans, but detractors say that there is not enough jeopardy or big games until the knockouts, leading to a predictable group stage.
The new format, which will debut in the 2024-25 season, known as the ‘swiss format’, will contain a single league consisting of 36 clubs who will each play 10 fixtures – five of which played at home home and five away, against 10 different sides. UEFA are yet to say how the 10 opponents will be selected for each club competing in the competition. The teams finishing in the top eight places in the league will automatically qualify for the round of 16, while the teams that finish between ninth and 24th will enter a play-off round to reach the last 16.
This change has led to many people asking why there is any need to change the format at all. The answer, as it so often is, comes down to money. The current group stage has a total of 96 games, while the new changes will almost double the total to 180 games, given UEFA more games to put on TV.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “This evolved format will still keep alive the dream of any team in Europe to participate in the Uefa Champions League thanks to results obtained on the pitch and it will be enable long-term viability, prosperity, and growth for everyone in European football, not just a tiny, self-selected cartel.”
This new format could mean the end of the League Cup here in England, with the sheer amount of fixtures of the new format meaning some games here will have to be got rid of, expect FA Cup games to only be played midweek once the new format comes into play, and replays to be removed entirely. Make sure to enjoy these fixtures, as well as the Champions League in its current state, because soon the football calendar will change drastically, for better or worse.