JP Morgan's Super League Misunderstood the Culture of UK and European Football

Caroline de Braganza

(Image by QuinceCreative from Pixabay)

An investment proposal that went horribly wrong because they forgot the fans.

By Tuesday evening April 20, English clubs Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal who had pledged to join the new league, had pulled out.

Spanish powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid had also announced their intention to join the Super League, followed by AC Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid who completed the soon-to-be infamous line-up.

The dirty dozen beat a hasty retreat after two days of a massive protest from fans and threats by the football’s world governing body FIFA and European governing body UEFA that players taking part in this new league may be banned from participating in future championships, including the World Cup.

Fans, football pundits, current and former players and managers, presidents and prime ministers slammed the idea that the rich got richer in a sport already obscenely wealthy at the top end.

JP Morgan is behind providing the finance for the European Super League—said to total between $3.8bn and $5bn.

With 20 teams, the 15 founding teams were guaranteed to enjoy permanent membership regardless if their performance on the pitch stank. The remaining 5 spots were to be open for other teams to qualify each season.

Who came up with this genius idea?

The argument was the Super League created a more exciting competition because the game’s very top teams would play each other more often. They’d make more money and it would remove the uncertainty of the UEFA Champions League, where teams must qualify each year or risk losing broadcasting and sponsorship revenue.

The format of the league displayed zero understanding of the cultural traditions of football.

JP Morgan has worked extensively with American leagues and teams. In America, the teams that make up Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League are fixed.

But what works in America doesn’t work in Europe with a decades-long tradition of the tiered league system where teams are relegated or promoted each season.

What’s so exciting about watching the same teams playing each other over and over when it doesn’t matter whether they win or lose?

Of course, big bucks bankroll the top clubs. The growth of the football market has attracted private equity investors, sovereign wealth funds, and bankers eager to lend money—and make a return on their investment.

But bankers and business executives forgot that at the root of every football club is its fan base—ignore them at your peril.

Seems they’re not so bright after all.

Such a competition would remove the thrill of a smaller team such as four-time champion Ajax winning the trophy or of a bigger club having to qualify in the first place. It tramples over the history and culture of the club game where a team rises or falls on merit.

The Financial Times reported that prior discussions about broadcasting deals had been held with Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB), Disney (DIS), and Comcast's (CMCSA) Sky before the announcement.

Sorry guys, but the coup failed.

And millions of fans are rejoicing, including this writer who supports Chelsea. They have reached the last four in the 2021 Champions League, together with Manchester City, PSG, and Real Madrid.

Dates for the semi-finals:

  • April 27 - Real Madrid vs Chelsea (First leg)
  • May 5 - Chelsea vs Real Madrid (Second leg)
  • April 28 - PSG vs Manchester City (First leg)
  • May 4 - Manchester vs PSG (Second leg)

The final takes place on May 29, where the winners of each semi-final (chosen by goal aggregate) will play for the prestigious cup. That makes the game of football exciting.

May the best team win!

The Champions League lives on:

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Published essayist. Follow me for local news that impacts our lives, plus stories on public and mental health. Through writing, I also share my passion for music, politics, our environment and social justice, and hope you find value in my words.


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