Marianne:The Premier League has collapsed. How do we explain this failure while she’s nonetheless succeeded in basketball?
Pierre Rondeau:The example of European basketball, which knows the existence of a special league, the Euroleague, coexists with the official continental championships, is a flawed model, in my opinion, because basketball does not have the same scope as football.
Football is more than a hundred years of history, and it has a culture, philosophy and identity of its own that elevate the paradigm of merit and merit to a sacred level. In this sport, the strongest are always rewarded, and always been. Basketball, in the old continent, is more recent, younger and above all subject to comparison with the NBA.
This cultural power is one of the explanations for the failure of the Premier League. The supporters were not ready, they did not want it, and as soon as it was announced, on the night of Sunday 18 April to Monday 19, everyone rose to oppose him. He threatened all the fans of the dissident clubs, and went to demonstrate in front of the stadiums and shouted in total disgust with this project. Play popular rejection on flop in this new competition.
Add to that opposition and political ropes, with Emmanuel Macron in France and Boris Johnson in the UK threatening, very quickly, with sanctions and an outright change of law to derail the Premier League. Even the European Commission has continued, through its vice president, to show all its disgust at this particular competition.
“The clubs used the Premier League weapon to get more money but they never thought about going to the end.”
Next, we must note the unwillingness of the twelve dissident leaders. The Action Plan Calibrated to perfection, everything was budgeted and guaranteed, they had already received support from the US investment bank JPMorgan, with a contribution of more than 4.5 billion euros and thought, after losses of more than 6 billion euros due to the Covid-19 crisis, to be able to maintain their lifestyle Lavish and ensuring their sporting strength. But they did not attend their internal communications, nor did they bother to block and explain this project to their coaches, coaches, sport managers and players.
Jürgen Klopp, in Liverpool, and Pep Guardiola, in Manchester City, have rejected the Premier League, even Paolo Maldini, from Milan, claimed to have discovered this project in the press. Almost all English players posted their opposition to this project on social networks. While the leaders were preparing the economic component, they did not bother to go and discuss with their employees and collaborators. What an amateur.
Finally, the legal question was important. Lawyers for dissident clubs thought they were relying on European case law that, along with European treaties, guaranteed free competition and freedom of action. But Article 165 of the Lisbon Treaty also recognized the “specificity” of the sport, which afforded a degree of interpretation. So a judge could have made a decision in favor of one or the other, and there was no guarantee of victory. Doubt won.
What prompted this attempt to separate?
The Super League project has been around for more than thirty years. It has always been seen as a “eel”, a sweet legend that clubs create every time to get more concessions and more free gifts from UEFA. With the European Union being the sole decision-maker in continental competitions, clubs used the Premier League weapon to get more money but never considered going to the end.
Only, the Covid-19 crisis has passed there, after more than 6 billion euros in losses for clubs. The leaders preferred, rather than questioning themselves and contemplating the sustainability and management of their finances, to accelerate deregulation and capture sports rankings. Instead of enforcing regulations and happy moderation on an international scale, they told themselves that a special continental competition, inspired by North America, directly owned by clubs, would bring them enough money to continue their lives.
Juventus Turin president Andrea Agnelli did not stop reminding that the evaluation of the Champions League was very low, amounting to only 2 billion euros, while the value of the NFL, the American Football Championship plus the Atlantic, was 6 billion dollars. It will reach $ 10.5 billion annually from 2023. For them, the replication of the American form in European football, the most popular sport in the world, will inevitably bring money. They did not expect popular rejection.
However, the Champions League successive reforms seem to have been beneficial to the big clubs …
Thanks to the Premier League political tool. As specified in the previous question, clubs have used the Super League project for thirty years. They never had the serious will to enforce it but they used it as a pressure weapon in negotiations with UEFA.
The European Authority knows very well that the strengthening of its main rival, the Champions League, is guaranteed by the prestige and reputation of the ten or fifteen biggest clubs, from Real Madrid to Barcelona, including Milan or Manchester United. Without them, less audience, less interest and therefore less money. So you should pamper them. They understood that completely and, since the 1990s, they have not stopped waving the “Premier League” card. By this, they obtain better financial allocations, better meeting allocation, facilitated qualification criteria, etc.
“UEFA cannot afford to punish them in the long term, they are very well known and recognized to disappear from European competition.”
The 2021 project does not change, with the only difference being that the economic context is no longer the same: great suffering had to make a big change. Originally, they requested the full management of the UEFA Champions League commercial company, which was rejected by UEFA, on Tuesday, March 30th. So the final solution was the Premier League.
Now, we cannot say that after this risk, the 12 splinter clubs have lost everything. Once again, UEFA cannot afford to be punished in the long term, they are very well known and recognized to disappear from European competition, they gather too many fans and fans to watch. They will still exist despite their status as a “traitor.”
We have to go back to 2010 to find the impact of a club that is not affiliated with the ten clubs in the Champions League (Inter Milan) and 2004 for a club that is not in the top 20 (Porto). How do we explain this?
Full regulation of football was abolished in the 1990s by the Bosman ruling of 1995. This ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union formalized the freedom of movement of football players through society. Since then, any club can, without restrictions, buy the best players, if they have the means. As a result, the rich spent lavishly, even if it meant increasing debt, to build the best teams possible.
A vicious circle broke out: economic strength ensured sporting strength, and this same sporting strength ensured victory and positioning in the European Cup. This permanent status has created an apparent income, fueled by increasing popularity and thus preventing potential victories by teams ranked outside the top 20 in Europe. The inevitability asserted itself in European football. By de-restricting and not interfering, the best remained the best and the weak were never again able to play the role of the vulnerable.
“We have to re-establish what looks like an organization.”
How can the Champions League become more “popular” again?
As mentioned earlier, it will be necessary to re-establish some form of regulation, even if that means violating European treaties on free competition. Restoring quotas for locally trained players, limiting the number of foreign players, controlling and regulating the transfer market, and reducing salaries and transfers. But it will also be necessary to ensure that sport is accessible to the largest number of people, that sport is clearly found on television, and re-taste dreams for young people.
Formula 1 has understood this well since its newest contributor, Liberty Media, requested that at least four major awards be broadcast annually unencrypted, for free on TV. Since then, interest and public interest in the motorsport championship has increased.
We should take advantage of the economic crisis to reinvent ourselves and hold ourselves accountable, to change things for the better instead of always going to a lot, a lot of money, a lot of games, a lot of meetings. Let’s rediscover football at the human level.
Read also: The failure of the Premier League: “Political pressure was capital to fend off clubs”