Fans 1… Owners 0

Volume 21 Letter 4

Fans 1… Owners 0

We all are familiar with the initials NBA,  NFL, NHL and MLB but if you’re a soccer fan you’ll probably be relieved to know that, at least for the time being, the initials ESL  will safely remain the acronym for “English as a Second Language” rather than the “European Soccer League”.  What can only be described as the biggest undoing in sport history (that would be BUSH) was perpetrated by some of the richest people on this planet who …. well …. wanted more money.  Blinded by the possibilities of profit they forgot about a key group – the fans.  With so much money at stake why would anyone bother to think about the people who actually pay the bills?

Lest you’ve been living under a rock (or you live in North America where soccer is still just building in popularity)   you will be aware of the coup d’état that recently took place in Europe.  No, Putin didn’t invade Europe but for football fans around the world that news would have been easier to digest than the headline that greeted them last week.   The owners of twelve of the most prestigious football clubs in the world had banded together and announced the formation of the European Soccer League (ESL).

The league would be modelled after the NBA, NFL and NHL leagues in North America where no matter the results at the end of the season each team still competes in the league the next year.  Contrast this to European football.  Teams that do poorly are relegated and move down to a Division II league while the winners of Division II move up into the premier league where the money and TV rights are much more lucrative.   This model leads to top players being able to negotiate monster contracts with the owners as teams are highly rewarded for staying in the top league.

The announcement of the new Super league hit the world of football fanatics with all the fanfare of a coordinated missile strike on downtown London, Madrid, Milan etc.  For a plan touted to be decades in the making the roll out was, to be very kind,  ham-handed.   So what happened and how could 12 of the richest people in the world get it so wrong?

  • Poor timing: It’s a pandemic and people are struggling to find some sense of normalcy.  Such an announcement was just another shock to the systems of people who are just trying to cope with day to day life.
  • Winging it:  Perhaps in an effort to save money the owners chose to make the announcement themselves.   Mixing business metaphors with the “Beautiful Game” failed to come off as anything but corporate greed. They might have been better off paying a beloved or retired football star to read a carefully prepared script.
  • Ignoring the Optics:  The very ‘Wall Street’ bank, JP Morgan, was the financial backer of this coup d’état but while JP Morgan knows everything about money, they seem to know absolutely nothing about European Soccer.   The optics were not lost on the fanatical European football supporter further fanning the flames illuminating the picture of corporate greed.
  • Keeping key stakeholders in the dark:  Rather than leaking out the information and letting fans get used to the idea first (not to mention seeing if there was even an appetite for the new league) the ESL team owners sprung the message on the unsuspecting fans. This led to protests in the streets and even politicians were lined up against the ESL.

The worst thing you can do in soccer is to inadvertently score a goal into your own net – it’s called an “own goal”.   The owners of the 12 most prestigious teams in the world managed to do just that.   One banner held up at a protest read Soccer “Created by the Poor stolen by the Rich”.   With the world against them the ESL, over a decade in the planning stage, crumbled within 24 hours and teams were online apologizing to their fans.   Fans 1…..Owners 0.

Recent Posts