I said it before and I’ll say it again; I understand the impetus behind the Super Duper League. Of course it’s money but more importantly, clubs are asking themselves “why should UEFA get to decide which competitions we play in and why should they get a cut of the money?” And I think it’s a legitimate question, though I’m not sure the Super League is the right answer to that question.
Why is UEFA in charge of creating a club competition at all? Well, because they just are. Someone has to organize these tournaments and they set up the first European Cup way back in 1955, taking the idea from South America, and creating a European Cup. Oddly, the then English league champs Chelsea were banned by the English Football League’s secretary from participating in the initial season.
I admit that I don’t have much respect for UEFA or their parent organization, FIFA. The corruption and incompetence of these two organizations is legendary. Former UEFA president Michel Platini was banned from all football activities for four years after being found guilty of taking an illegal payment from former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter. Those two convictions were just the tip of a global corruption problem in world football in which bribes were nearly openly paid to top level officials. Many, many FIFA officials from various federations around the world have been convicted of numerous crimes.
UEFA and FIFA are also wildly incompetent and often out of alignment with what fans and clubs want. UEFA’s bungling of the Man City FFP case – where they let the statute of limitations run out on many charges – is just one example of their incredible incompetence. They are also notoriously soft on clubs whose fans shout racist abuse at players and there have been many accusations of doping which have been quietly swept under the rug or given light fines. And what UEFA and FIFA want is more competitions, more matches, more often because if means… more money. The growth in the number of matches that players and clubs have to play now is obscene. It’s gotten to the point where I no longer even want to watch all the games.
The flip side of that is that to be fair to UEFA, they do organize an absurd number of matches. It’s not just the Euros and the Champions League, there are also qualifying matches, U21s, U19s, etc. etc. The sheer volume of football that is organized by UEFA is staggering.
And UEFA are governed by the 55 member states who vote on membership, their budget, initiatives, and so on. This isn’t just a loose band of criminals, it’s an organization with governance, which is ostensibly run as a non-profit. They are supposed to be putting any money they make back into grass-roots football and development of the game across Europe.
In theory, UEFA are the good guys. And I think much of the antipathy toward them (by me anyway) comes from what I see as a combination of incompetence and corruption.
That said, I’m not sure the Super Duper League is the answer. Basically what’s happening here is that the rich clubs want to wrestle power away from UEFA and FIFA. They don’t want to be governed by UEFA, they want to govern themselves. They also see how much money UEFA makes and they want to turn that non-profit money into for-profit money.
My gut reaction to this is always “good!” And I have to say that it’s probably not good. I always seem to need to have a think about these things before I come to the conclusion that “well, actually, Tim, UEFA are probably not going to be anywhere near as corrupt as letting Man City and PSG run European football”. Which is what the Super League is sort of proposing. I’ve seen the Super League proposals and I know that they say that there will be better FFP, that there will be £400m in revenue sharing with the other 200 clubs in Europe, and that the places for the 80 clubs in the Super League will be awarded based on merit. I know what they say but why should I trust them?
Just look at the Man City case. Why would I think that the Super League’s investigative powers would be any better than UEFA? I can’t see a reason why. The only reason I have is that “well UEFA haven’t been great” and the absence of good work on UEFA’s part doesn’t mean that the Super League will automatically be better.
And when I see the Super League proposing huge numbers in terms of revenue sharing, that also sets off alarm bells. No for-profit organization is giving away £400m unless they are bringing in huge profits. Massive, giant, obscene, profits. And more to the point, what happens if in the first year they don’t make enough money to give out those payments? I suppose they just don’t pay them. And who holds them accountable? No one.
Which brings me to the main problem: UEFA. What we need here is a stronger UEFA who aren’t just trying to put on endless competitions. We need them to stand up to the corruption, cheating, racism, and all of the other problems which the Super League clubs are pointing to and saying that they will solve. And fortunately, that can be done. UEFA has mechanisms to change, to make their governance better. They can do it. And I think that they really need to. We are coming to a breaking point with the English clubs (in particular) wielding enormous power and money. If UEFA don’t clean up their act, we are going to get a Super League. Whether we want it or not.