Point/Counterpoint: Is the European Super League the death of soccer?

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PSG’s Kylian Mbappe scores his team’s second goal from the penalty spot during the French League One soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and St Etienne at Parc Des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Note: This debate occurred prior to multiple reports of teams like Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Atletico Madrid preparing to withdraw from the European Super League. Barcelona and Real Madrid are on the verge of withdrawing as well. Of these teams so far, Manchester City is the only one to have released a statement regarding their withdrawal from the ESL. Reports are still ongoing. 

The soccer world is currently experiencing what can only be described as Armageddon as news broke out over the weekend of a new league called the European Super League. While there were rumors in the past of its creation, fans, former players and even some soccer clubs have voiced their opinion as of late on the proposed league and why it will ruin the sport many grew up loving. This week, staff writers David Sandoval and Sebastian Garay-Ortega debate on the ESL and have their say. 

David Sandoval: 

“Created by the poor, stolen by the rich.” That was a tifo that was held by the fans of Tunisia’s Club Africain in a friendly against PSG in 2017. Four years later, that phrase echoes the abhorrent decision of 12 European clubs to go ahead and create their own, and basically closed, European Super League. The reason, you may be asking? Two words: pure greed. Yes, I understand the pandemic has been hard on everyone, but if you’re going to start discussions over the summer of last year to form this league and take the easy way out to save yourself from a financial crisis, then the ESL should not exist. What about the soccer teams that had no choice but to fold because they couldn’t keep their facilities up and running? What about the dark horse campaigns from teams you don’t expect to go far in the tournament? Some of these teams that made bids to participate in the ESL were built on hard-working people; they would not support this at all. 

Porto’s Chancel Mbemba heads the ball during the Champions League, first leg, quarterfinal soccer match between FC Porto and Chelsea at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Angel Fernandez)

That’s only the start of the many things wrong with this dumb league. Should the league go on, it will completely destroy the UEFA Champions League, a competitive league that gives the little guy a plethora of opportunities to become the dark horses. Additionally, the purpose of the Champions League is for those  who have earned the right to be there to compete. I don’t see that at all with the Super League. So what if they will allow five teams to qualify for it? It’s still a closed league. On top of that, with some of the clubs being rivals, it will absolutely ruin their history. I’ve loved seeing El Clasico happen twice per season from a spaced out timeframe; I’d be tired of it after the fifth game.  

Sebastian Garay-Ortega: 

An old Spanish proverb says: “A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.”  

The creation of The Super League has led to anger throughout the football world; supporters are outraged that these 12 clubs would dare change the essence of European football, a sacred institution that is revered across the globe. This outrage has blinded them, however, and they fail to see how beneficial this league will be to the future of football. The best football has to offer will be on display on a weekly basis. These clubs will have the funds to attract world class players, and any one of these 12 clubs could be crowned champions of the league. Do we not understand how good this is for the sport? Such matchups will only increase the viewership of the beautiful game; moreover, it will create new superpowers in the football world. Atletico Madrid might become one of the best teams in the world, along with Tottenham and Arsenal. This is due to the fact that The Super League provides these clubs with a massive amount of funds.  

Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, this league is actually beneficial to small, historic clubs. Teams such as AFC Ajax, Benfica and FC Porto can dominate Europe like they have in years past, something they would not have been able to do had these big, wealthy clubs not moved to The Super League. Finally, when these clubs get promoted to The Super League, they will be given the funds to create world class teams, the likes they have not had in quite some time.  

DS: 

Fulham’s Antonee Robinson, left, challenges for the ball with Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka during an English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Fulham at the Emirates stadium in London, England, Sunday April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Ian Walton, Pool)

The only people that can see how beneficial this can be for the teams that would participate in the league are the owners of the club; not the fans by a single bit. Fans are the heart of the beautiful game, the sport I, and many others, grew up watching and have a dying passion for. To see it get turned into businesses rather than teams people can go on during the weekend and enjoy a 90-minute game on is shameful. To the owners, this proposed league is about profit; to the fans, it’s our livelihood. 

As for how beneficial it can be for the smaller clubs that qualify for the Super League, I don’t see any positives. Yes, they’ll get hundreds of millions more than they would through the Champions League should they win, but have we forgotten how powerful some of these other teams involved are? The chances of teams like Ajax or Porto winning the league and getting big bucks are up to par as the chances Arsenal and Tottenham have of winning. The supergiant clubs will have a massive head start in getting the world-class players. I’ll end my argument with a quote from Gary Neville and his take on the matter. 

“What I can’t live with is attacking every single football fan in this country,” he said. “They [Manchester United’s Glazers] have stepped over the mark, they are scavengers and they need booting out of this football club and booting out of this country. We’ve got to come together now … it’s never too late, we have got to stop this. It is absolutely critical we do.” 

SGO: 

I will definitely say that Florentino Perez is most likely selling a false image. In reality, the league will be dominated by three or four big teams. As you have said, the other clubs will, in theory, have the opportunity to dethrone these giants, but the reality is that the chances of them doing so are miniscule. 

FILE – In this Sunday, April 11, 2021 file photo Tottenham’s Harry Kane, left, is challenged by Manchester United’s Harry Maguire during the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin says players at the 12 clubs setting up their own Super League could be banned from this year’s European Championship and next year’s World Cup. (Clive Rose/Pool via AP)

I completely understand that the fans are the heart of football; without us, these institutions would not thrive as well as they do. Now, you say that the game is being turned into a business, but I’ll ask you this: hasn’t football, and sports in general, been a business this whole time? Those in the industry have always looked to do what is most beneficial to them; for example, a large amount of evidence suggests that FIFA officials were bribed by representatives from Qatar, so as to award them the right to host the 2022 World Cup. This culture of bribery has always been there, yet supporters aren’t in the street wreaking havoc.  

Similarly, UEFA is filled with corruption as well. Officials turn a blind eye when large clubs break the rules, but come down hard on small clubs for similar violations. Why? Because they cannot afford to ban, say, a Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City. It simply is not good for business (more specifically, their pockets). 

Why did the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturn the two-year Champions League ban UEFA handed Manchester City? They did this because it is not in their best interest, businesswise. If City are out of the biggest tournament in European football, officials at UEFA will lose a lot of revenue. They simply cannot afford to do this.  

Finally, I’ll finish with this. Neville makes great points, but it stinks of hypocrisy. The former England international didn’t have this attitude when Qatar were gifted a World Cup, or when City were not handed a rightful sentence. Sure, he may have condemned these actions, but he never had this aggressive attitude that we’ve seen from him over the past couple of days. In essence, the pot is calling the kettle black. 

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