By: NATALIA PATTERSON
Europe has some of the strongest soccer leagues in the world. In these leagues, it is traditional for the stronger teams to play not only against each other, but also against the smaller, weaker teams. This structure gives the weaker teams the chance to make an upset against one of the elite teams, and eventually rise to their level. This has long been the spirit of the game of soccer. However, as of recently, these values that have been upheld by European soccer leagues for so long are being threatened.
On Sunday, April 18th, 2021, the creation of the European Super League was proposed. This league would consist of only 20 of the best teams in Europe. These teams would break away from the normal structure of competition, playing only against other elite teams in the league. Among those who planned to join the Super League were six English, three Italian, and three Spanish teams. These teams included Manchester United and Liverpool from England, Juventus and A.C. Milan from Italy, and Real Madrid and Barcelona from Spain. The games between only the best teams would bring worldwide attention to the league, making marketing and gaining more money easier. The question is, is this worth sacrificing the principles of the game?
Florentino Perez, the President of the Real Madrid soccer club in Spain, is in favor of the Super League’s creation. In an interview with BBC, Perez insisted that the creation of the league is vital for the game, saying that “40% of young people between 16 and 24 are no longer interested in football.” He then explains that the reason for this is: “…there are too many matches of poor quality.” Also, he stated that Real Madrid has lost 400 million euros, the equivalent of over $480 million, due to the pandemic. “We are doing this to save football at this critical moment,” he sums up his argument.
On the other hand, many people do not support the creation of the Super League for various reasons. A statement from England’s Football Association said, “It is clear that this would be damaging to English and European football at all levels and will attack the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are fundamental to competitive sport.” Fans have the same objection. In an interview with Vox, Nate Scott, the editor of USA Today’s For the Win, said, “European soccer relies on the tenet that ‘anything is possible,’ on any given night you have your chance to upset the giants. It seems like those days are ending.”
Ultimately, due to the widespread rejection of the European Super League, the plans of creating it were suspended. After many fans’ complaints, all six English teams and two of the Spanish teams dropped out of the agreement, deciding that the Super League’s main goal was to gain more money, not help the game.
Most of us who join sports teams while growing up play because we simply love playing, not because we are looking for a benefit such as money. Similarly, professional athletes choose to participate in their sports because they enjoy them. Of course, those who play professionally also need to make money, and should be paid well for their efforts in the game. In order for a sport to survive, there must be a balance, where players are paid well without their sport becoming so commercialized that it loses its spirit and enjoyment. Therefore, while the European Super League may have helped support the elite soccer teams financially, in the long run, destroying the spirit of the game cannot “save” soccer.