Hahn went on to dispute some of the characterisations of the Super League.
“It was never a breakaway league, I don’t know what people mean by a breakaway league. We want to sit with you and try to figure out how to embed it into the rest of the ecosystem. We didn’t get an answer to that inquiry. We were immediately threatened with a bunch of sanctions, a few insults, but it really didn’t go anywhere.”
It didn’t go anywhere, though, because figures involved are using phrases other than “breakaway league”. They also see that embedding it “into the rest of the ecosystem” comes with more than “breaking some china” – as one source put it.
They are rightly saying this would be the biggest ever disruption to the structure of European football, as well as an “existential threat” to the Champions League and what Uefa currently are as a body. Some fan representatives, who the Super League insist they want to get on board, have been even more scathing. The Football Supporters Association on Thursday described it as “the twitching of the corpse” of the project, especially in the context of a pending European Court of Justice ruling that is anticipated to completely side with Uefa. A22 don’t see it like that.
Javier Tebas, president of LaLiga, has been among those to speak out against the proposed new European Super League
But then, many people in football don’t see this as a project for the good of the game. A widespread view remains that it is just a vast refinancing project for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus, as well as an attempt to reclaim primacy in a landscape that has changed around them. They are no longer the apex predators, in the way they were accustomed to. Many sources were all too quick to point out that this current plan just looks like “a flimsy reheat of the 2019 proposal from the European Club Association”. That was – of course – led by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus among other senior clubs.
One quip was that the “10 Principles” just stating “improved fan experience” and “develop and finance women’s football” is just like Keith from The Office stating “something for the old people”.
Some of those spoken to were unimpressed by how “little A22 had to offer” and were dismayed that they didn’t understand the impact this would have on the domestic leagues.
Sources have repeated the kind of dismissive phrases that they told the A22 representatives to their faces in the meeting in Nyon in November.
This is all the more egregious to figures within the game because so much of the current landscape is a consequence of decisions largely influenced by clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona. They created this – especially through the unequal distribution of Uefa prize money – but have now seen it become a Frankenstein’s monster that has partly devoured them. Most of the chunks, and virtually all of the money, have been taken by the Premier League.
And yet that is precisely why this project can’t be so readily dismissed. Many European clubs are seriously concerned about the direction of the game. The increasing view, uttered in so many high-level meetings and assemblies, is that “something must be done” in the face of the Premier League.
It is why, despite some being unimpressed by the lack of detail in the plans, up to 50 clubs across the continent are understood to be open to the new Super League. Some of those are those classic mid-tier European clubs who are too big for their domestic market but not big enough for the Uefa competitions.
“The facts have been made pretty clear that except in England, European football is in a pretty bad situation and getting worse,” Hahn said. “I am talking about financially but that leads to competitively over time. The clubs we speak to there is a pretty clear recognition of what the issues are and how severe they are.
“There is reasonably broad agreement on the steps we should take to fix and what has been happening in recent years is not effective, and the system isn’t working so well. There is also recognition this problem didn’t start yesterday and has built over an extended period of time.”
Fans came out in force protest the European Super League during their initial launch in April 2021
This is why A22 have now come out into the open, as they embark on what they would describe as ‘the consensus phase’ – to try and show they are not aggressors, that this can be collaborative.
“We want to identify what is pretty obviously happening in European football,” Hahn added. “If you are going to move forward on an issue you have to first create consensus on what the issue is and so we will try to do that.”
A further issue for the football establishment is that there are an increasing number of European lawyers who think that Uefa and Fifa are not fit for purpose. A growing argument is that, given the amount of money at stake and how the game has grossly evolved from even 20 years ago – let alone the period when these institutions were founded – the bodies should go back to governing and administration and the clubs should run their competitions, as with the Premier League.
This is where there is sympathy for the Super League rationale, if not their solutions.
The problem is there are no clean solutions, even if the European Court of Justice judgement isn’t as damning on the Super League as many expect. It’s going to be very complicated to just impose a new competition. On the other side, however, the Super League clubs won’t just leave the structure of football. That is because it would essentially mean not being able to operate for a significant period of time until their event is up and running.
And yet the issues in the European game will remain.
For now, everyone awaits that judgement, and the Super League continue to “engage in dialogue”. It is why such a big step for them was Uefa being unable to sanction anyone for such discussions.
Some of this story may be familiar, not least the idea, but it could yet lead to a very unfamiliar football world – no matter who wins.
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