Arsenal have agreed to join a new, breakaway European Super League that has reached an “agreement in principle” to start in 2022, as reported by the New York Times and numerous other outlets. It’s the latest step in the ongoing battle between the top clubs and UEFA / FIFA over who controls the highest level of football competition and who gets the billions of dollars top-level football generates.
Right now, the teams believed to have committed to the project are Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, and A.C. Milan. The announcement comes the day before UEFA are expected to ratify their expanded, 36-team Champions League format set to begin in 2024.
UEFA and FIFA have already responded to the proposal, threatening legal action against the clubs and to ban the players who participate in the competition from the World Cup. The governing bodies also praised the big clubs from France (read Paris St.-Germain, whose owners have significant financial ties to the existing structures) and Germany for not signing onto the breakaway project. The Premier League has also reminded its member clubs that the PL rules do not allow them to join competitions without approval.
Purportedly, one of the sticking points is the relatively closed nature of the competition — it would be the same clubs year in, year out, with only four non-core teams each season. But really, it’s all about money. The owners of the big clubs want to control the structure and make more money. Those currently in control don’t want to give up their piece of the pie.
In the end, I don’t think the Super League will get off the ground. And I don’t think the founding member clubs expect it to, either. For me, it’s another bargaining chip, another step of brinkmanship in the fight over the revenue sharing structure for the Champions League.
And if I’m wrong, given the numbers being thrown around (hundreds of millions of dollars), it’s better for Arsenal to be in the breakaway competition than not, regardless of how you feel about the league overall.