The invention of the game in Mesopotamia is such an integral part of our society and culture that we can’t imagine the world without it. The economic implications for worldwide gaming are growing rapidly, however, with new forms of monetization emerging to replace traditional systems.
The “2nd continental congress” is a hypothetical question. The 2nd Continental Congress, if it ever happened, would change the game as we know it.
There was a flurry of rumors last week that the European Super League might be resurrected. Andrea Agnelli, president of Juventus, one of the three teams currently spearheading the idea, together with Real Madrid and Barcelona, was expected to make an announcement at the Financial Times’ Business of Football Summit in London, according to reports in Spain and Italy. Stakeholders and the media started to circulate documents demonstrating the necessity for a Super League.
The Football Supporters Association and Gary Neville, an ardent opponent of the ESL, rushed to social media to condemn the initiative. UEFA head Aleksander Ceferin likened Super League fans to persons who believe the Earth is flat and indicated they were misguided. They “lie more than [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” according to LaLiga president Javier Tebas.
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Agnelli, it turned out, was the one who kept the fire going. He simply restated the case for a Super League, claiming that UEFA is a “monopolistic operator” who denies access to a free market in violation of European competition law, and that the three rebel clubs would simply wait for a decision from the European Court of Justice, which is expected to hear their case soon. If and when that judgment is made, it might permanently alter the landscape of the European game.
Q: Is this going to happen again? Wasn’t this a done deal? What exactly are these teams debating now?
A: They’ve always claimed that UEFA serves as both a regulator and a competition organizer, which makes them monopolistic. Clubs aren’t free to create their own leagues and tournaments and do anything they want. They must abide by the rules set out by their national federations, as well as UEFA and FIFA. Furthermore, UEFA is the main organizer of the game’s largest and most valuable club tournament.
Q: What exactly is the issue with that?
A: Well, they might use the comparison below. Electricity markets in several nations have been deregulated. Companies compete to offer power by investing money and competing with one another. However, electric utilities are licensed by a regulator — generally the government or a government agency — who determines how much they may charge and how they function. Governments undertake this as a public service to safeguard consumers and ensure that no one is overcharged or abused. That would be considered fair and reasonable by the majority of people.
Q: Football teams, on the other hand, aren’t utilities, are they? They don’t supply heat, water, or electricity, which are all necessities for survival…
A: Some die-hard supporters may disagree, but that’s part of the case these teams are making. Clubs aren’t like electrical corporations; instead, they’re more like entertainment or restaurant businesses. There is no single authority dictating which programs Disney and Netflix should develop and how they should be distributed. McDonald’s is free to offer whatever they want, wherever they want, and how they want, with the exception of a few minor regulations on operating hours, health standards, and zoning. Some Super League supporters undoubtedly believe this, but the present disagreement does not go nearly that far. They tolerate some amount of control, but the fact that UEFA also organizes tournaments irritates them.
Q: So, a regulator directing Disney or Netflix how to operate their businesses and, on top of that, producing their own streaming content?
A: To some extent. Supporters of the ESL claim that UEFA competes directly with them for sponsorship and, as a result, prohibits them from organizing their own championships. They believe that if they organized their own tournaments, they would be better, more successful, and more profitable. Plus, they wouldn’t have to split as much income with lesser clubs and federations — they don’t mention this, but it’s logical to assume it’s a factor.
Q: What’s keeping them from going off and organizing their own tournament?
A: Technically, there isn’t anything. In actuality, they’d have to quit their local leagues (which would be financially devastating), their players would be barred from FIFA events like as the World Cup, and there would be a slew of license, transfer, and registration complications, which is why they don’t want to do it. They want the European Court to rule that UEFA is abusing its monopolistic position in violation of European competition law, forcing it to back down.
Q: What exactly does it imply?
A: Clubs would then be free to create their own Champions League or equivalent tournament. They would select how the income would be allocated and who would be allowed to participate. (Originally, they planned to have “founding members” who would be guaranteed a spot in the league and would not have to qualify.) They’ve now dropped it and pledged to be “open.”) UEFA would just authorize it, maybe give referees and disciplinary monitoring, and that would be the extent of their involvement.
Will Real Madrid, Juventus, and Barcelona succeed in establishing the European Super League? Image courtesy of Visionhaus/Getty Images
Q: What are the reasons for some people’s opposition to this?
A: Counterarguments may be divided into two categories. The first is that, whatever format you come up with, you’re taking power away from an organization (UEFA), which, while imperfect, is an elected body, with national federations (most of whom, at least in Europe, are also elected bodies), and giving it to clubs, which are mostly private institutions accountable only to their owners (and in some cases, members). Moreover, some clubs are far larger and more powerful than others. The distinction between oligarchy and democracy is this. While the Super League teams speak about unity and cash flowing down the system, people outside this circle just don’t believe them.
The other is philosophical and cultural. Football is a business and a kind of entertainment, yes, but it is also an integral element of European culture for many. It has a societal importance that must be safeguarded; it isn’t simply about the top 12, 20, or even 50 clubs. It cannot be left to the free market, just as we do not leave museums, schools, fire services, or police agencies to the free market.
Q: What additional reasons do the Super League supporters make, other than the allegation that UEFA is breaching competition law? And do they hold water?
A: Their main concern is that the present ecology is financially unstable and unsustainable. I don’t believe that since, in any firm, you either raise revenue or lower expenses if you’re losing money. Simply simply, clubs have struggled to keep spending under control. They accuse UEFA of failing to enforce laws such as Financial Fair Play. They may have a point, but under their proposed system, someone would still be in charge of enforcing cost limitations, and I’m not sure why clubs believe they can do a better job than UEFA at doing so.
These clubs complain about a lack of accountability and transparency when it comes to solidarity payments, which UEFA distributes to member federations and clubs. This may or may not be true, but it seems to me that it’s in everyone’s best interests to attempt to address it from inside the system. In truth, UEFA has successfully cooperated with the biggest clubs on a number of problems, ranging from income distribution to commercial partnerships. The European Club Association (ECA), for example, has seats on the UEFA executive committee and is a partner in the sale of commercial and broadcast rights for European competition alongside UEFA.
Proponents also claim that there are “tight links to non-member state club owners.” I’m not sure what it implies, but eight of the original Super League teams are owned by people from outside Europe. As a result, you might argue that they’re whining about themselves.
Q: Will the European Court of Justice take all of this into account?
A: That’s a good question. We don’t know when they’ll hear the case (best estimations are within the next 12 months) or whether they’ll make a decision yet (they could decide not to and kick it down the road). But, if they do, it’s unclear whether they’ll adhere to a strict, legal reading of competition law or consider other elements, such as the ruling’s social and political implications. Some analysts believe the ECJ is more of a political court, assessing Europe’s current mood rather than merely enforcing legislation based on black-and-white thinking. If that’s the case, it explains why Super League teams and their opponents, from politicians to fans, have been lobbying so hard.
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