Premier League must resist greedy Euro giants’ siren song
In the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich have won the past six titles, although they are doing their best not to this season. Juventus have won the past seven Serie A titles. Barcelona and Real Madrid have won 13 of the past 14 Liga titles. If one was seeking a clue as to why these leagues might have lost value in the eyes of broadcasters then perhaps these cantankerous old clubs of European football could start by looking close to home.
The revelations in Der Spiegel week, revealing the plans for a breakaway European super league – the oldest trope in the modern football apocalypse scenario – show these venal, greedy clubs as they really are.
Not content with having ransacked their own leagues they want the whole of Europe too and when it comes down to it, the problem is always the Premier League. It is the new money too, the fossil fuel billionaires of Manchester City and Paris St-Germain, but it is the power of the Premier League they fear most.
English teams do not need a European Super League. Their supporters do not want it. The Premier League cycle of rights that begins next season runs to 2022 and it knows many of its European counterparts are growing desperate. The Premier League has raised £8.3billion alone for last month a net debt of €157million but, when all their obligations are taken into account, it comes to €490million. They need a new model to survive and, short of selling the clubs out from under their members, a European super league is a strong alternative.
Juventus are in a league that yields less than €1billion in domestic television rights a year. AC Milan finished sixth in Serie A last season and will vote for anything that rescues them from the mediocrity of the last five years.
No one should condone Manchester United and Arsenal having a role in the whole sorry business. They were named among the core seven but they do not need this any more than Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur or the rest.
The Premier League has proved itself to be the league the world wants. Unquestionably flawed it might be but much more preferable to the monstrous, sealed-off greed festival being proposed.
The European Super League concept is almost uniquely for television. A competition for which you gain entry by virtue of “television presence”, as the American radio presenter Charlie Stillitano, mystifyingly at the centre of all this, outlined in his leaked email. It is made for an audience out of sight, in different time zones, an idea that appeals to cash-hungry famous clubs who live beyond their means. It cares nothing for the ancient rivalries of the domestic leagues or thousands of fans who follow the old pilgrimage trails to familiar stadiums every weekend.
No one wants it. None but the club presidents and chief execs who cannot admit in public that maybe their great team have taken too much of the domestic share over the years and devalued the league. Or that perhaps their own vainglorious spending has tipped their club over the brink. Men who do not have the honesty to admit to the fans of clubs such as Real Madrid and Bayern that perhaps they might have to lower their expectations for a bit.
Instead they stumble onwards, desperate to generate more at the expense of what fans consider important. The top English clubs have been able to resist, led by the Premier League and its executive chairman Richard Scudamore, who has pulled them together to make the best of their league.
The Premier League is imperfect but it remains the most egalitarian of all. It has a trickle-down mechanism that no others have. When Scudamore leaves later this year, who will take his place? Because left to their own devices, it feels like they one day might do something foolish.
Changing times: Fans of clubs such as Bayern Munich might be watching a team who are part of a European Super League in future