Opinion

The women’s game an afterthought in Europe’s new Super League

Credit: Michael Ungacta

Well, the day has finally come. On Apr. 18, the so called “founding members” of the newly unveiled European Super League released a joint statement:

“We have joined 11 European clubs as founding members of a new midweek competition: the European Super League,” said the statement released by its twelve members.

The sheer ignorance and arrogance of the stated “Super League” name itself is enough for any supporter of the women’s game to shake their head in frustration. If these clubs had any sense of sincerity or an ounce of genuine interest, they would know that there’s already a Women’s Super League.

THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

“What if the member clubs aren’t English and aren’t aware of the potential conflict?” You could forgive someone for asking. After all, the identities of the clubs involved were concealed under a shroud of mystery. Well, if only that were the case.

The ridiculousness of the statement is even made more comical when five of the six English members listed as “founding members” in the European Super League organization are active participants in the FA Women’s Super League, and three of those clubs have been members since its inception.

Even more impressive is that only Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have actually won the FA Women’s Super League in the entirety of its history, and all four are part of the group of six English clubs that seek to establish this new “Super League” with the same name. It’s become clear now how little those trophies meant to them.

Frankly, it’s a slap in the face of any current or former FA Women’s Super League player that these clubs think so little of them and their contributions over the previous decade to seemingly forget that their league even exists, to the point of blatantly using the same name let alone risking expulsion from the competition.

Does this new European Super League actively seek to discredit the history of the UEFA Champions League? Yes, there’s no question of that. It is an insult to all of those who have taken part in that competition for these clubs, toiling to qualify – their efforts will have been for naught should the competition go ahead as planned.

If the intentions of the founding members aren’t clear enough, it took the statement thirteen paragraphs to touch upon the implementation of a women’s edition of the league. Thirteen.

 “As soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a corresponding women’s league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women’s game.”

That’s all, reduced to nothing but a single sentence, an afterthought.

Let’s face it – this is likely a bluff to save face, to try to appease and appeal to as many supporters as possible. What it’s done is underwhelm the credibility of the entire organization and revealed their true intentions.

Is that really what the women’s game needs? A limit to the number of top clubs and positions on those rosters for athletes, less competition between clubs due to no threat of relegation and the potential stagnation of the sport both in popularity and quality? An organization that doesn’t act in the best interests of the sport?

Just as the women’s game has grown to the greatest extent that it ever has, this is probably the worst outcome for its future. There’s every chance that it could send it spiralling into a downward spiral if it ever were to kick off – and that’s a big if.

REALITIES OF THE SITUATION

Well, the reality is that for the women’s iteration of the European Super League, this is literally all we know as of now. These are the clubs involved, and that’s it. There’s no start date given, no indication of what can be deemed as a “practicable” commencement date or not. It’s really just a vague, grandiose and empty threat. As iterated above, an afterthought.

There is no reality to this situation as the member clubs aren’t based in reality — they’re all living rent-free in their own fantasies basking upon former glories. They’re the “world’s greatest clubs,” said Manchester United chairman Joel Glazer in the statement. Only a single club involved in the European Super League has ever won a UEFA Women’s Champions League in the entirety of the existence of the competition, being Arsenal in 2007.

Greatest in the world? They’re not even the greatest in Europe.

UEFA and FIFA have already discussed banning any players or member clubs that take part in this proposed European Super League from any UEFA or FIFA sanctioned competition.

Why would any player be incentivized to participate in a competition that prevents you from progressing your career further or from representing your country? Especially in women’s soccer, where national team caps can represent a substantial payday in comparison to what many of the domestic leagues can offer?

INTENTIONS AND MOTIVATIONS

It’s important to address the intentions and integrity of the now former president of the European Club Association (ECA), Andrea Agnelli, one of the main proponents for this new European Super League movement. His uncle was the renowned Italian champion of the working class, Gianni Agnelli of FIAT fame. He’d be rolling in his grave today.

What exactly did Agnelli do in the process of leaving his post to form this new European Super League? Let’s put things into perspective – the day that European clubs were due to vote on his proposals for the future of UEFA competitions, not only does he step down from his role as president of the ECA, but announces his own rival competition (of which he is vice-chairman) that’s poached twelve of the so-called “greatest” clubs. Oh, and they still have to make a decision amidst the sudden void that he’s left them with.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin had this to say to the BBC in regards to Andrea Agnelli:

“He’s probably one of the biggest disappointments, or the biggest disappointment of all,” said Ceferin. “I don’t want to be too personal. But the fact is that I’ve never seen a person that would lie so many times, so persistently that he did was unbelievable.”

“I spoke with him also on Saturday afternoon. He said, ‘These are all only rumours. Don’t worry, nothing is going on’. And then he said, ‘I’ll call you in one hour’. And he turned off the phone.”

Is this a trustworthy person, let alone, someone to whom you would entrust the future of the women’s game?

None of this should surprise anyone – Agnelli famously was quoted last year at the FT Business of Football Summit in London saying:

“I have great respect for everything that Atalanta are doing, but without international history and thanks to just one great season, they had direct access into the primary European club competition,” said Agnelli. “Is that right or not?”

Agnelli, like Ed Woodward and the other owners of the “founding members” are of the mindset that investors ought to be protected in a closed league system, much akin to the American major sport franchise models exhibited in leagues like the NWSL and MLS.

They don’t want the likes of Atalanta to achieve the same heights that they’ve had, to inspire millions in the manner that they have, and most pertinently earn the millions as they continue to do so on the merit of good form. They don’t want people to be rewarded for their achievements, and instead, hoard millions to themselves.

Each club that takes part in this new league stands to earn a reported $350,000,000 “to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic” — as though no one else has. At a time in which clubs are folding around the world due to financial insecurity, many clubs lower on the pyramid rely upon trickle down payments from the top thanks to the current system in place. This group of clubs would prefer to let them rot, under the guise of “help[ing] football at every level” without offering a manner as to how or how much. It’s ultimately inconsequential to them.

The aforementioned Atalanta that Agnelli referred to went on to have one of the biggest fairy tale runs in soccer history during the 2019-20 season, such is the beauty of the Champions League. Not only did they qualify on a shoestring budget (they weren’t even in the top ten wage expenditures in their league) with journeymen players, but they qualified for the knockout round of the competition, eventually reaching the quarterfinals. This is a club which less than ten years prior had been plying its trade in the Italian Serie B.

On top of all of this, they did so at a time in which their home city of Bergamo was the hardest-hit city in all of Italy during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, inspiring its people to push onwards. If that wasn’t enough, the trials and tribulations of star striker Josip Iličić’s battles with his personal demons raised a tremendous amount of awareness for mental health on the Italian peninsula.

To put into perspective as to just how little their wage expenditures are, Atalanta’s entire wage bill is roughly £40,000,000; Juventus by comparison spends around five times as much on player wages. As remarkable as it sounds, Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo earns £52,000,000 annually which is £12,000,000 more than the entirety of Atalanta’s roster. The operating budget of every single club in the Premier League is more than double that of Atalanta’s. In comparison to something a little bit closer to home to appreciate how great of a feat this is, the NHL salary cap floor (minimum team expenditure) for all 31 teams is approximately $15,000,000 USD more than the entirety of Atalanta’s budget.

Atalanta happened to beat Juventus in Serie A on the same day as news of the European Super League broke, leapfrogging them from fourth to third in the league. If that’s not poetic justice, what is?

At the end of the day, this is only about money and not the beautiful game nor its fans. It’s really all it’s ever been about.

The full announcement of the European Super League can be found here:

https://www.arsenal.com/news/european-super-league-announced

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

Copyright © 2021 She Scores

To Top