By Jonathan Lewis | 30th April 2021
When the Super League began to unravel at a frightening speed it became clear that this would be considered one of those, ‘where were you?’ moments. Only a few hours before Chelsea had officially pulled out and sent the dominoes tumbling, it seemed as if the Champions League as we knew it was no more. Indeed, the beautiful game plunged into an uncertain future on the back of the bombshell news that Europe’s elite seemingly wanted nothing more to do with the continent’s premier footballing showpiece.
But then came the backtracking after the football community had turned on them. Being labelled as greedy and self-serving was enough for the large majority of the continent’s prestigious teams to plead for forgiveness and send fans up and down the land into euphoria. The power of the people had prevailed.
“They are an absolute joke.” 😤
Gary Neville on the six Premier League clubs signing up to the ‘European Super League’
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 18, 2021
Only, to what extent? Is the Champions League even salvageable now or has the attempted coup caused damage beyond repair? The fact that Real Madrid and Barcelona are actively talking about reshaping the idea of a Super League instead of being down on bended knee and apologising will go some way in answering that question.
In reality, their refusal to completely let go of this doomed concept suggests that the two Spanish giants are still not sold on competing in the Champions League. This is a huge problem for European football and the image it portrays. Indeed, Barcelona and Real Madrid are part of the very fabric of football on the continent. If they have one eye fixed on eventually forming their own league, well, that’s nothing short of a tragedy for everyone else.
How does football reconcile itself with the fact that the team that has won the Champions League the most times wants to leave? Indeed, Real Madrid’s continental success and subsequent 13 titles have always been a source of motivation to aspiring teams from every corner of Europe. There could even be more European success awaiting Real Madrid in the shape of 14 titles given that the latest Champions League odds price Los Blancos at just 7/2 to win the 2021 edition.
But what happens to all that Champions League history and how do we move forward after a team like Real Madrid seemed perfectly happy to discard it all in the pursuit of a bigger bottom line? Simply put, the decision to break away is solely based on generating greater revenue for the clubs involved.
The Super League in Florentino Perez’s words: pic.twitter.com/h3pJ3pzgA1
— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 21, 2021
In the case of the Spanish clubs, it is no secret that they have debts that could bankrupt them. In particular, Barcelona has debts of over £1 billion and the need to begin making a dent in that sum is becoming all the more pressing.
However, the idea that these institutions of football in Europe were willing to put history to one side and focus on profits in an NFL-style Super League diminishes what football on the continent has stood for. Yes, the status quo may have been restored but the apparent willingness to move the goalposts for fans across Europe will have very serious effects going forward.
In essence, if these teams are happy to purely follow profits at any cost, how do we keep a sense of fair play alive and when will they do it again? Yes, the fans may have won but we are all a little bit worse off having experienced 48 hours of the reality that football is facing. Of course, the world of football can heal over time if this type of coup turns out to be a one-off. But now that we have seen the hand that some of Europe’s best clubs intend to play again, there is no guarantee of that happening.
Jonathan Lewis is an MFF sports writer