The new European Super League was a threatening giant on Sunday at midnight, which was going to devour the Champions League, all the fans with love for the jersey and the other clubs. Thirtysix hours later it became the mini league, until it became a sporting disgrace, repudiated by all those who love football, winning and losing, and fair play. In these hours only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus remain in it.
This is the story of a great sports paper. A reflection of what billionaire soccer turned into a popular sport, with stratospheric contracts and parallel financial deals that are destroying the soul of soccer and the fans. A single lesson is going to leave this mess: football is going to rethink and regulate itself, so that it does not become a company of speculation and greed.
If the European Super League failed it was thanks to the tears of the fans, to the pressure of their helplessness and their fury on the leaders and on the governments in the middle of a pandemic, when civil disobedience is feared in the face of the economic and social crisis that the Covid has left.
First it was Chelsea and Manchester City who resigned. Then Liverpool joined, whose North American owner made the most gloomy of apologies to his fans and the kingdom, and later, the rest of the six British teams, which were to be part of the Super League. The last was Joel Glazer, the American owner of Manchester United, who made an "unreserved apology" to his fans.
Just 36 hours after the Super League was announced, Boris Johnson found himself criticizing the bankers in a Zoom call with soccer fans. This sport was born in Great Britain and is the most popular in the kingdom: it is part of its culture, its identity and “fair play”.
The competitive rugby fanatic prime minister didn't hold back. He told Football Association and Premier League executives, as well as fan groups, that the Super League proposals were "anathema to the principles of fair play". He promised that his government would do "everything possible to frustrate them”.
In Great Britain the biggest opposition to the Super League was mounted. Managers, players, fans, politicians openly opposed the idea that the tournament would suffocate the other clubs. The fans plastered the bars of the stadiums with their claims. They surrounded them, insulted their owners. Popular rebellion disturbing for the government.
Boris asked Richard Masters, executive director of the Premier League and the FA (Football Association) what sanctions they could impose. The "maximum" sanction was to expel them from their competitions. But they warned him that this would lead to legal action by the six big clubs. "Would the government be willing to help them?" Masters asked.
The ferocity of Johnson's response surprised those on the video call. "Yes", he said. He was willing to "drop a legislative bomb" to protect them. The government was willing to change the competition laws "immediately" to prevent "separatist clubs from taking legal action".
Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea, was the one who personally realized the big mistake and began to backtrack on the decision. He was followed by the emirs of Manchester City. "It is never good for football when the prime minister gets involved", they said. “Now we are faced with the prospect of an independent regulator, a far-reaching review, and God knows what else. Yes, it may be naive to say that no one expected the reaction, but the fact is that it is the truth".
Then he was joined by several of the Spanish and Italian teams, who understood the serious mistake they were making. Like Cinderella, the European Super League disappeared at midnight. The European Super League lasted a sigh. Or even less than that.