Super League: The Ultimate Betrayal

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“Super League: The War for Football” is a four-part series that documents the high stakes battle that was set off when plans for a breakaway league emerge. The past, present and future of European football collide, leaving the game’s most powerful leaders to defend, or upend, the traditions of the sport. The four-part series focuses on the key players in European football such as Aleksander Čeferin (President of UEFA), Andrea Agnelli (Former president of the European Club Association and former chairman of Juventus), Florentino Pérez (chairman of Real Madrid), Javier Tebas (President of LaLiga) and Nasser Al-Khelaifi (he wears many hats within the football world). This series goes through the betrayal and deception of the European Super League and what it had cost those involved. 

The European Super League was launched in April 2021 with 12 founding members – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Real Madrid – who would permanently take part in the competition. Within English football, the top four teams of the premier league compete around Europe in the Champions League. It’s the main goal of every football club as it is the best of the best in terms of footballing competitions. The European Super League offered safety, claimed to have consistent profits but offered no threat by essentially eliminating the threat of relegation and promotion. As an avid football fan, I remember the day the European Super League was announced and worst of all, my beloved club was among the ones looking to take part in this breakaway league. Many fans had felt this would rip the heart and soul out of the club, but the owners did not seem to care as the desire of guaranteed profits far outweighed the care of the fans.

The first episode explores the power dynamics between the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and the European Club Associations (ECA). The friendship between Aleksander Čeferin and Andrea Agnelli offers a personal insight into the complicated dynamics of UEFA and the ECA. While the two organisations had been in conflict for many years over things such as the age-old problem of who gets how much money from the champions league and who plays in it. Their friendship was supposed to be a sign of unity, of peace between UEFA and the ECA. All was well until Agnelli was working behind his back to help create the European Super League with Real Madrid president, Pérez.

One journalist goes on to explain the UEFA Champions League, that the problem being that it is not global and compares the champions league to a film studio, producing a couple of block busters every year while the European Super League was promising to offer a box office hit, year after year. Pérez wanted Real Madrid to dominate the European Super League as well as the founding members taking record profits, which was music to the owner’s ears, but not for the fans.

Football is a community, it’s something that is shared in the very fabric of community throughout England. It’s the one place where you can sit in any random seat, next to strangers and spend 90 plus minutes sharing the joy, screaming in both frustration and elation. It’s something that is embedded with families. You don’t choose your club, you are born into it and no matter how bad your team is doing, you turn up and support. Those who created the European Super League claim they wanted to save football, but all they wanted to do was to save their profits. 

The UEFA Champions League gives hope to smaller teams. The magic of football, of the UFEA Champions League and the Premier League is simply hope. Nottingham Forrest, a club many outside of England probably haven’t heard of, has won the UEFA champions league and Leicester City beat 5000:1 odd to win the Premier League and qualify for the UEFA Champions League back in 2016. A system like the UEFA Champions League offers smaller clubs the chance to dream, to reach to the top of the pyramid and be the very best. 

Florentino Pérez, the chairman of Real Madrid, spends a lot of the four-part series complaining that UFEA has monopolized football, with the UEFA Champions League being watched every year, by more fans globally than the Super Bowl, NBA Finals and World Series combined, though some big clubs like Bayern Munich and Liverpool, who each have six European cups each, have only played each other twice in sixty-five years. Some would say that adds to the dramatics of the match, while the creators of the European Super League want them to play against each other on a regular basis. Perez spends his time criticizing UEFA monopolizing aspects of football but doesn’t address his own hypocrisy that he monopolized the best players such as David Beckham and others of high calibre. The Galáctico era of Real Madrid was a period in which Florentino Pérez bought world famous football period between 2000 – 2006. At least one Galáctico was purchased every year, from Beckham and Ronalado. He monopolised the best of the best but has shown nothing but resentment that UFEA has the most anticipated competition within Europe. Perez seems to be angry that the ‘oil clubs’ are now copying his own business model. Pouring money into their teams by buying the best players at astronomical rates, manipulating the market. 

While I do agree that Financial Fair Play (FFP) hasn’t been fair over the years, it has gotten worse over the past few years. With the likes of PSG and Manchester City buying up the best players and not adhering to FFP, Pérez likes to ignore this point entirely. Pérez is reaping what he sowed years ago but providing wealthy club owners with a blueprint to quick success. 

During the first episode of Super League: The War for Football, it focused on the emotional aspects of the friendship between the head of UEFA and the ECA. It was the fans who protested and demanded their clubs back. Watching the news announcement of the European Super League, I remember being sick, filled with dread that my football club was gone forever. Yet, during this four-part series, viewers only hear the views of an Arsenal fan and oddly, a Newcastle fan. I say oddly as I wouldn’t class Newcastle as a big club and they weren’t even invited to be part of the founding members. Currently, Newcastle is doing well in the premier league but that is to be expected given their new owners and the amount of money that has been poured into the club. 

Considering Liverpool Football Club is the most successful English Club in Europe, with six cups, none of their fans or footage was even shown. Instead, Super League: A War on Football almost forgets that Liverpool fans were amongst fans protesting. Conveniently, all the other English club fans are shown actively protesting while Liverpool fans are left out. Another odd choice given Liverpool FC had reached the Champions League final that year.

Overall, Super League: The War for Football is an interesting view on how a betrayal of friendships could have shaped football, but instead, owners of the clubs could only see their profit margins. Instead of focusing on the game, the owners and founds of the European Super League are focusing on the younger generation of fans, the ones focused on Tik Tok and Instagram followers instead of the beauty of the game. As the famous Bill Shankly once said: ““Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” You cannot strip away the identity of football or the heart of the club for the sake of profit. The documentary is a good but limited insight, only focusing on certain clubs but the strength of it is when it focuses on the personal betrayals that led to the Super League.  

Super league: War on Football premiers January 13th on Apple TV


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