ESL casts its shadow over European football

European Super League

In a move that could have earth-shaking ramifications for European football, twelve clubs have signed in to start a new European Super League (ESL).

Six Premier League clubs viz. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham would join AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid to constitute the twelve core founding members of the new body.

While the protagonists of ESL say this move could benefit the sport as a whole, critics say that it's driven purely by greed. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden opined that the pyramid structure of English football, where funds from the richest Premier League clubs percolated down the leagues and into local communities, would simply be threatened.

Moreover, there will always be the danger that ESL would lure global TV audiences away from popular domestic leagues like the EPL, Liga and Serie A.

The formation of the ESL it seems has been necessitated by the huge hit in revenues major clubs have had to take owing to the pandemic and the consequent disruption of fixtures and lack of spectators.

Saddled with multi-million-pound salaries to star players, the EFL founders argue that the new tournament;

“will provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football”.
What is motivating the clubs further is the enticement of a share of the colossal €3.5bn (£3bn) grant doled out by investment bankers JP Morgan.

Net Debts of following clubs as of June 2020

  1. Tottenham Hotspur: £592m
  2. Manchester United: £453m
  3. Juventus: £337m
  4. Inter Milan: £279m
  5. Barcelona: £274m
  6. Real Madrid: £147m
  7. Atletico Madrid: £96m
  8. AC Milan: £89m
  9. Arsenal: £66m
  10. Manchester City: £45m
Three European majors Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris St Germain have still not thrown their lot in with the breakaway league.

The ultimate goal of the EFL is eventually to have 20 teams in its fold. Of these, the 12 founding members (plus three yet to join) would be permanent members and never face relegation.

The League would be split into two Groups of 10 teams, playing each other home and away.

The top three in each group would qualify for the quarter finals, with the teams in fourth and fifth playing a two-legged play-off for the two remaining spots. The stages after that would involve the same two-leg knockout format prevalent in the Champions League, with the final to be held in May at a neutral venue.

FIFA has expressed its disapproval of the breakaway league and called on “all parties involved in heated discussions to engage in calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game” even as the ESL endeavours to block any sanctions the world's apex football body and the UEFA may enforce over its formation.

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