Hands Off My Football Team!
Bloomberg Businessweek|April 26 - May 03, 2021 (Double Issue)
The European Super League followed a model shaped in the U.S. Opposition from fans scuttled the idea
By Peter Coy, Stefan Nicola, and David Rocks

The blowback against the European Super League can be explained in one word: risk. Fans love it, and owners hate it. In the end, the fans won. Less than two days after the idea was floated, the plan collapsed as most of the soccer league’s would-be founding members pulled out in the face of furious opposition from pundits, politicians, players, and—especially—fans.

Eliminating the possibility that your team will be booted out of the top-level competition was a key feature of the elite league that a dozen English, Spanish, and Italian soccer clubs wanted to launch. The way things are organized now, owners have trouble borrowing from banks or selling bonds because they’re at constant risk of relegation to a lower, less lucrative league if they lose too many matches. Fifteen teams in the Super League were to be cemented in place, with an additional five that would have come and gone, depending on their performance. The plan was to put Europe’s most popular teams head-to-head in midweek matches that would generate piles of cash from global broadcasting rights.

That closed structure made the Super League more like an American competition: Even after their lousiest seasons, the Chicago Cubs or New York Yankees needn’t fear being sent down to Triple-A to face the likes of the Toledo Mud Hens and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. “It’s not just that they would make more money in this arrangement, it’s also that it would be much more predictable,” says François Godard of research firm Enders Analysis. “Investors like this very much, especially American investors used to American clubs.”

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