The announcement of a European Super League has shaken the public opinion across Europe.
Foot players, game’s legends, managers, journalists, heads of State and fans have covered the newspapers front pages for two days. In Europe it seems as the world has stopped its Earth’s rotation to observe this upsetting sport-revolution.
Manchester United fans have protested against the European Super League outside Old Trafford, “Created by the Poor stolen by the Rich” said a sign held up by two guys.
The sign echoes the one outside Anfield, “Shame on you. R.I.P LFC. 1892-2021” and “LFC fans against European Super League”, state the fans of United’s bitter rivals Liverpool.
Fans’ discontents around Europe have supported and strengthened FIFA’s and UEFA’s threats and position. On Tuesday, ruefully and quickly, Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League, along with Milan and Inter.
Arsenal in its statement, apologizing to their supporters, said: “It was never our intention to cause such distress, however when the invitation to join the Super League came, while knowing there were no guarantees, we did not want to be left behind to ensure we protected Arsenal and its future.”
Once fans got past the fear to see their favorite sport ruined forever, what remains the day after are financial difficulties that the big clubs have to face in the next future.
An abyss of debts that grew in the last years and exploded dramatically during the Pandemic that have caused an impressive economic emergency. Sponsorships fallen through and empty stadiums simmered the European Super League idea, a way to refinance debts out of control.
The Premier League liabilities have reached the value of 4,65 billions of euros, mostly on the shoulders of the six adhering clubs.
The leader of this special ranking is Chelsea with 1,51 billions, the debt was transferred to a holding company, Fordstam Lmt, a satellite of Roman Abramovich’s financial galaxy. An huge debts principally caused by a pharaonic transfer market, football players salaries and a stadium with a small capacity (42000 places). In second place there is Tottenham with 1,28 billions of debts, mostly caused by a stadium’s renovation, inaugurated on 3 April 2019, and its parallel missed revenue in Covid times. The last place on the podium is Man United with 538,6 millions, a debt skyrocketed also for poor results on the field.
The Serie A’s clubs have overall debt of 2,8 billions of euros, 300 millions in more regarding the precedent year, and the 45% of the debt is up to Inter, Milan and Juventus.
The top three clubs in Liga, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have, totaled, over more than 2,5 billion in debts. Unsurprisingly, the Real Madrid President Florentino Perez, and the most determined Super League’s promoter, said to Spanish TV show El Chiringuito de Jugones: “We are doing this to save football at this critical moment” and “The new format which starts in 2024 is absurd. In 2024, we are all dead”.
The Super League project is founded on the financing of 3,5 billions of euros promised by J.P Morgan, the giant bank of New York, and on an estimated revenue of 4 billions thanks to broadcast rights and sponsorship. The loan of 3,5 billions has to be repaid in 23, distributed among the 15 funders, and has to be used for infrastructural investment and debt reliefs. While, the 4 billions of League’s revenue will be divided: 3,1 billions will be destined to clubs and 900 millions will be utilized for payback.
The European Super League idea is an attempt to create a product more attractive for a global audience, trying to reach the volume of broadcast rights of NBA and NFL.
The business of the NBA, The American basketball championship, generates a turnover of 2,6 billion dollars per year, including US broadcasters and agreements with international television. The new contracts, on the other hand, could reach a record figure of 100 billion dollars in 11 years, equal to 8 billion annually. The NFL football league has signed new TV rights deals with CBS, NBC, Fox, Espn and Amazon for a total value of 110 billion dollars, nearly doubling previous contracts. The deals will go into effect in 2023 and will guarantee 10 billion dollars per year.
The Champions League worth, in a three-year period (2018-2021), only 1,5 billion euros equal to 1.8 billion dollars, although football in terms of spectators has three times the figures of the NFL and twice of the NBA.
Big clubs have tried to enrich their cash registers, imitating, awkwardly, the United States sport business model and ignoring, guiltily, football fans, the ultimate consumers and engines of this beautiful sport. If a financial revolution is necessary, on the other side it is equally necessary a better engagement with the whole panorama of football stakeholders.
Speaking with fans, with football players, with iconic legends, with managers, with FIFA, UEFA and ECA and with national and European authorities is the first step for a football without billions on billions of unfair debt.