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Last month, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge re-ignited the debate on the prospect of a European Super League.

We ask – could it really happen?

What does the prospect of a European Super League mean for the Premier League?Whilst the idea of a Super League might appear fanciful at first glance, there can be little doubt that we are now in the era of the ‘European super club’ with an ever growing disparity among even the bigger clubs. So surely now all they need is a ‘European Super League’?

The current Champions League cycle finishes with the 2017-18 season and there is little doubt that whilst a super league is certainly a step too far right now, we can expect the big clubs to suggest changes that will strengthen their grip on the competition and its’ future direction. Direct entry to the tournament is almost certainly going to be on the agenda.

The English clubs are of course basking in the glow of their latest blockbuster TV rights deal which dwarfs anything else on offer in Europe right now. This is of course all well and good but there must begin to be a sense in England that they are close to saturation point, how much more can people in the UK afford to watch the product? And of course costs are spiraling upwards in terms of wages also.

Whilst the Premiership is quite rightly hugely protective over its’ product and attempts to offer the teams a large slice of the pie, the clubs themselves – beholden to investors and returns in many cases – are inevitably going to look for ways to expand their boundaries and revenue streams.

In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona enjoy the lion’s share of revenues but they must of course cast an envious eye at the Premiership and the vast riches it generates. Bayern in Germany are a monolith but the revenue it can generate from the Bundesliga is of course limited.

Juventus meanwhile enjoyed a huge windfall from their Champions League run last season but whilst Serie A TV rights are healthy, they lag badly behind the Premiership and the likes of the two Milan clubs and those in Rome and Naples are shopping in very different shops to which they were once used to.

In France, PSG are simply too big financially for Ligue Une and famous names such as Ajax, PSV and Porto are simply unable to generate the money required to compete for the top prizes in Europe.

Even within England, the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea or even Manchester United this season would welcome a fast-track or automatic entry system to an elite competition given their domestic woes. Missing out on the Champions League is serious news nowadays.

The Champions League has of course been a roaring success by nearly every measure imaginable. It is however now in terms of looking to win it, only really an aspiration of the very few.

Only twice in the past twenty seasons has a club outside of Italy, Spain, Germany or England (Ajax and Porto) won the competition. That is of course the way of most things in football.

The big teams and countries dominate typically but what has happened is that the challenge from the smaller leagues has diminished to a woeful level as a combination of financial firepower and the self fulfilling European coefficient system shuts out the competition.

The problem of course is a multi layered one. Even with the financial disparities on display, it is still a competition. Even if you enter the Champions League in the first qualifying round (which starts about 4 weeks after the previous final), if you win all your games you will the tournament.

Many of the ideas suggested by clubs for a European Super League have either hinted at or directly mooted automatic entry for the big clubs – something alluded to earlier with the case of Chelsea and Liverpool this season who would wish to participate regardless of their league position.

Football has always thrived because of competition, because of relegation and promotion. It is a very different system from the sports in the USA where the franchise system operates with a set amount of teams.

The dichotomy here however is that US sport generates far far more in revenues for the amount of people watching, which is of course why European clubs are casting envious glances and asking questions about their business models. With the likes of the Glazers and Fenway Sports involved also, it would be naive to think that they would not want to push things in a direction that they see as the most financially beneficial and using past experiences and examples.

Football thrives on competition as we have said yet for the most financially strong clubs, the surety of participation is paramount in for their financial planning. If you remove the prospect of relegation then you remove the scenario that Chelsea will find themselves in next season or which AC Milan are currently enduring.

You could of course argue that clubs currently in a less enviable financial position but with strong histories (the likes of Ajax as an instance) would be in favour of such a move also if they were indeed invited. They have a name that conjures huge romance and surely their participation in a Super League would be both welcome and beneficial, a win-win for everyone.

So there are of course many movers and shakers who would be hugely behind a move closer to a ‘super league’ but that of course begs the question, where does that leave everyone else? The vast majority of football fans do not support the clubs that this would involve and there are a huge amount of fans that would find such a move distasteful. Where would it leave the domestic leagues and the smaller clubs whose revenues by contrast would certainly shrink?

This may in many parts go a long way as to explaining why the likes of the Premier League are apparently so eager to appease and please the clubs. The league of course is nothing without those teams no matter what value the league administrators have added nor money they have made for those clubs.

The league merely distributes a (large) percentage the cash it generates risk free, it is the clubs who take the risk on player transfers and managerial appointments, who have to manage the supporters’ groups and deal with the agents and the players union.

Whilst the Premier League itself is a shining beacon of greed to many, there can be little doubt that more money has flowed into football in England overall as a result even just in terms of transfer fees flowing down to lower leagues and parachute payments. The league acts with its’ own self interest but that serves all to a degree.

Should the big clubs dilute – you could of course run a super league as well as keep the current structure – their interest in the domestic product, that threatens the very fabric of the domestic game and if you take away the prize of the ‘top four’ as an instance then the lustre of the domestic leagues also falls. The Premier League would no longer be the biggest attraction in TV land and its’ influence and finances would decline – sharply.

Where a European league would most directly threaten the domestic status quo is if there were a push for weekend fixtures. At the moment only the Champions League final has been moved to a weekend at the season’s end.

This was done to secure bigger audiences and it has worked, so why would a European League not wish to play its’ fixtures on a weekend also? It is the most logical step for it to take.

A move to regular weekend European fixtures would be a harsh new reality for the domestic leagues and for the privileged European contenders would open up the hugely lucrative Asian markets more fully.

For the time being, it would appear that the clubs will be looking for changes to the Champions League format and for more guaranteed participation – which in itself is the beginning of the end.

But with TV revenues becoming more and more the biggest factor and with continued foreign ownership, moves towards the USA model would appear to be just a matter of time, no matter how distasteful it may appear.

Originally published at oneshotfootball.com

Post written by Steven McBain
for One Shot Football, Blog: One Shot Football, Twitter: @O_S_Football

Note: The views expressed within this blog post are those of the contributing author, and may not necessarily reflect those of MatchDayApp Limited, its representatives or associated partners.

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