What the United States made of the European Super League fiasco

Baffled American sports fans, used to closed-shop leagues such as the NFL and MLB, try to make sense of fuss across Atlantic

When the footballing world exploded with collective fury as the plans for a European Super League were unveiled on Sunday, Google searches in the US spiked as baffled Americans tried to figure out what all the fuss was about.

A football Super League would be somewhat analogous to North American sports leagues such as the NFL and the MLB, where a closed roster of teams (or franchises) play each other without the possibility of promotion or relegation.

To many European football fans, such a prospect is anathema to the game and kills the dreams of smaller clubs hoping to fight their way to success.

But American sports followers say the US system is actually fairer because of caps on how much teams can spend on salaries, making it more likely smaller clubs can get a fair shot at winning a league.

And US teams benefit from “the draft”, where low-ranked clubs get the first picks of up-and-coming youth players. The idea is for these teams to become more competitive, whereas in Europe it’s often the big-name giants the deepest pockets that vacuum up fresh talent.

Someone with insight into football on both sides of the pond is Brad Friedel, the American former Tottenham and Liverpool goalkeeper.

“I'm very much a traditionalist when it comes to football and I think it's one of the great things that we don't have in [the US]. We don't have promotion, relegation and we don't have the history and amount of years under our belts, with the supporting and family generations of support of these clubs.

"I think it would be a shame to take away local derbies,” he told Reuters as plans for the European Super League were still emerging.

Fans in Europe have also been quick to point to the soulless “greed” of corporate football club owners, singling out US-owned clubs such as AC Milan, which is owned by a hedge fund, and Liverpool, owned mainly by American billionaire John W Henry.

Within two days, all six of the British teams – Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur – had withdrawn as plans and support for the competition quickly imploded.

Spanish club Atletico Madrid and Italian sides AC Milan and Inter Milan have also formally pulled out.

Only the owners of two clubs – Florentino Perez Real Madrid in Spain and Andrea Agnelli at Italian club Juventus – were still defending the idea.

Henry, who also owns the Boston Red Sox baseball team, said sorry to Liverpool fans on Wednesday. “I want to apologise to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours,” he said in a video.

“It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said his club's American owner Stan Kroenke and chief executive Vinai Venkatesham had apologised to him and the players for the “mistake” of signing up for the new competition.

Arteta said: “The way it has been handled, obviously, has had terrible consequences and that it was a mistake. They apologised for disturbing the team and for not having the capacity and the ability to communicate in a different way earlier.”

Still, the proposed European Super League, which now appears to have died for now, is not without supporters.

While home-grown fans were almost uniform in their condemnation, some overseas supporters who can’t easily get to Anfield or Old Trafford, liked the idea.

Kevin Wang, a Beijing-based Inter Milan fan, said he was “quite looking forward” to a super league in Europe.

“That's because, as a fan, I'm mostly interested in watching these amazing matches and stiff competition. This could have a lot more appeal [than other competitions],” he told Reuters.

Updated: April 22, 2021 11:35 PM

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