Is Money About to Ruin The Best of European Football?

jarmoluk / Pixabay

jarmoluk / Pixabay

It sure seems that way. News this week about a not-very secret meeting between England’s “Big five” clubs, and creating a European Super League to replace the Champions League are disturbing as a fan with no real rooting interest.

And the arguments for this idea, not surprisingly, are all about the money:

Manchester United more worthy of Champions League than Leicester, says man who set up clubs’ secret meeting

Note, that Leicester is currently leading the EPL, which we would normally think of as the sole determining factor on their worthiness for Champions League qualification. That’s sort of the beauty of Europa Cup and Champions League play, win on the field, and you get the opportunity, and the money, from playing in these extra competitions. It’s one of the things that attracts me to soccer in general, this idea that a successful season can have benefits extending into the next season, and bring in more income for the team, making spending on better players a true investment, with real monetary risk for the owners, small as it is in comparison to the money the already make. Call it the incentive to not be the Philadelphia 76ers. 😉

But, of course, there are the naysayers, who see the TV ratings and larger money pulled in by the prestigious clubs and don’t want the smaller ratings that a club like Leicester might pull in without the same long history and star players that Liverpool or Man United may have.

From the article:

Stillitano said: “What would Manchester United argue: Did we create soccer or did Leicester create (it)? Let’s call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role, Manchester United or Leicester? It’s a wonderful, wonderful story. But you could see it from Manchester United’s point of view too.”

If the Premier League season ended now, Leicester and Tottenham Hotspur would qualify for the Champions League alongside Arsenal and Manchester City.

“Maybe that is absolutely spectacular unless you are a Manchester United fan, Liverpool fan … or a Chelsea fan,” Stillitano said. “I guess they don’t have a birthright to be in it every year. But it’s the age-old argument: US sports franchises versus what they have in Europe. “There are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful elements to relegation and promotion. And there are good arguments for a closed system.”

Look, let me just get this out right now. I’m in favor of relegation and promotion. I’d like to see it in every sport, everywhere, because of what it brings to the competition. Think about it, instead of getting the first round pick every year, the Oilers would be dropped to the AHL until they won that league and could come back to the NHL. How intense would the competition to avoid those last spots be every year? The only argument for a closed system is guaranteeing the owners of the clubs in that closed system a certain amount of money every year, which is what we have in the US. The 76ers get the same amount of money from the NBA’s TV and other revenue sharing systems that every other team gets, and always will no matter how bad they are and how little they decide to spend on players. How is that fair? How many of you are tuning in to a Philly-Brooklyn game on a Weds. night? What about if they were fighting it out to avoid relegation to the D-League? It might still be bad basketball, but at least there’s something at risk.

It gets rid of tanking, it forces everyone to compete in order to stay in the league, and it makes owners take a real risk in owning a sports franchise. Most of all, it makes things more interesting for fans, who desperately don’t want their team to be relegated.

As far as the Champions League, why should Leicester, assuming they go on to win the league, have to bow down before their “betters” and not qualify after beating them all on the field? Isn’t that what sports is about, the competition on the field? To the victor goes the spoils, right? Isn’t it much more interesting to watch owners have to take real risks with signings, trying to get the right players to be successful on the field so that the bottom line can also be successful? How much less interesting will it be to watch Chelsea finish mid-table and know that it really doesn’t matter, they’ll play in the Super League regardless? European Football provides real, monetary, rewards for having a successful season and finishing near the top of the league. Why would we want to get rid of that?