The Life and Death of the Super League
On April 18, 2021, Liverpool Football Club, my club, broke my heart. I was not alone, as five other English clubs, along with six others from mainland Europe. decided to go the way that my club was going. A reckless decision was made to abandon their own domestic leagues, like the Premier League, Serie A, and La Liga, to form a new “Super League,” where there would be no promotion, relegation and as they put it, “The Best Clubs. The Best Players. Every Week.” There were to be 15 founding members of this League, with an additional five teams being invited annually from all over Europe to compete. The founding members were to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for being founding members. This was to be bankrolled by the investment bank J.P. Morgan. Players were not consulted, managers were not consulted and, most importantly, the fans were not consulted. This “Super League” that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said would “save football” lasted for two days.
On April 20, all English clubs pulled out of the Super League after joining it on the prior Sunday. Many clubs stated that this was due to their investors and shareholders thinking that it would be a bad idea. But the fact of the matter is that all of the clubs’ fan’s and caretakers changed the clubs’ minds. On Tuesday, hundreds, if not thousands, of Chelsea Football Club fans protested outside of their stadium for change. They blocked the team bus from entering the stadium and caused a minor scene. Later that day, Chelsea and Manchester City became the first to pull out of the Super League. By the end of the day, the rest of the English clubs followed suit, but the damage had been done. Fans felt betrayed by their clubs and more importantly, by the clubs’ owners.
I can only speak for how I felt about my club, Liverpool, but I really and truly believed that I was never going to support my club again. I felt that my seven years of religious support for this club had been for nothing. From the lows of losing three cup finals in a row to winning our sixth European Cup and our first league title in 30 years, I felt like I had been stabbed in the back by my club. I know it is silly to feel this way about a sports team. Most people feel this way, especially as you reach adulthood and there are more important things in your life that you must take into consideration. But as our manager, Jürgen Klopp, said while the English league was suspended due to the pandemic last year, “It [soccer] is the most important thing of the least important things in life.”
Florentino Perez, who has become the face of this league, has stated that people aged 16-24 are not interested in the game. I find that ludicrous. Not only am I in that age group, but many of my friends who are very passionate about the game are in that group. To give an example of how passionate people can be about the game, I was in New York City for a pre-season tour game, where Liverpool played Sporting Lisbon at Yankee Stadium. We drew 2-2, and after the game my father and I rode the subway back to our hotel. On that ride back there were a lot of sporting fans. There were two Portuguese Americans who were clearly passionate about their club. I overheard one of them talking about their seven-year-old cousin, who had stayed up until 4:00 a.m. back in Portugal to watch this game. This was a pre-season tour of America that had no repercussion in any domestic league or cup. Given this, I am not going to accept Florentino Perez or any other owners’ words that young people do not love this game.
With regards to the fallout of this Super League, there have been many mixed responses to the clubs apologizing to their fans. Liverpool originally put out a fifty-word statement citing their withdrawal from the league, with no mention of fan outrage. Later, John W. Henry, the principal owner of Fenway Sports Group, the sports investment group that owns Liverpool FC, came out with a video citing his regret at joining the plan. For many fans, this was not enough. Spirit of Shankly, the Liverpool Supporters Union, has condemned Henry’s statement and has reiterated their support for FSG to sell the club. Other fans fall into the category of believing the U.K. government should enact a law that makes it mandatory for clubs to implement the German 50+1 rule. This is a rule that German clubs use so that 51% of club shares are owned by the fans, so no owner or corporation can have sole control over the club. For me, it is too little too late for FSG to go on an apology tour. They have betrayed the trust of the fans after so many years of trust and I cannot see a future for them at the club.