European soccer’s civil war

European soccer’s civil war

Early this week, it took barely 48 hours for a multibillion-dollar separatist movement in European football to collapse. Twelve of the continent's richest clubs formed the Super League, a breakaway pan-European tournament from the world's biggest annual sports competition: the UEFA Champions League. In response to furious backlash from fans, players, managers, other clubs and governments, the project has been put on hold. But the very contentious issues that prompted the split in the first place remain unresolved.

While the dust settles, let's examine why the Super League's founders are so at odds with everyone else with a stake in European soccer, including some divisions with political undertones.

A lot of the fuss is about merit. The main argument against the Super League will hurt non-member teams, who now get to play in the 32-team Champions League if they perform well in their own national league the previous season. In contrast, the 20-team Super League reserves slots in perpetuity to the 12 founding members. Those opposed to the project argue that it's unfair for the rich clubs to always participate regardless of how they do on the pitch at home just because they together account for half of the fan base. Such a system, they add, will ultimately render national tournaments uncompetitive.

For their part, the Super League backers insist that what people really want is to watch more games involving the top teams. They don't like the planned expansion of the Champions League to 36 clubs because big-name clubs would not have guaranteed spots.

Money, money, money. The other problem is that Super League founders were set to receive $482 million each year just for taking part — more than the winner of the Champions League takes home in prize money right now. If the richest clubs have their way, haters note, they'll become an entrenched oligarchy by keeping most of the proceeds.

Super League proponents believe they deserve a way bigger slice of the pie because they are the ones who really bring in the cash for all through UEFA, the governing body of European soccer. (UEFA distributes the money it earns from TV rights, sponsorship deals and its share of ticket sales based on performance, not ratings nor the value of clubs and individual players that big corporations pay billions to sponsor their brands.)

To make matters worse, the pandemic has left empty pockets from empty stadiums. COVID has clobbered the finances of European soccer, which expect to lose an overall $7 billion in revenue this season alone. Although the crisis has hit everyone hard, wealthy clubs say they have been disproportionately affected by the shortfall because they had a lot more on the line, and many risk bankruptcy without an urgent cash infusion.

Opponents of the Super League, however, point out that rich clubs were already in the red before the pandemic because they took on too much debt in recent years to splurge on players, salaries, new stadiums, and other shiny things. Indeed, the only teams staying afloat now are those owned by foreign billionaires, or bankrolled by fabulously wealthy Gulf nation-states.

The foreign ownership issue explains why this all got political. In the UK, all six English rebel clubs pulled out of the Super League after Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened strong regulatory action. Never one to let a good crisis go to waste, Johnson seized on the opportunity to turn himself into a defender of the working-class supporters against the uber-rich expat owners of the richest teams.

President Emmanuel Macron said non in part because France has close ties to Qatar, which the French helped win the right to host the 2022 World Cup and owns big-spending Paris Saint-Germain. And the European Commission is looking into whether the Super League would violate EU competition law.

Big business vs tradition. Thousands of fans from all over Europe took to the streets to protest what they perceive as a hostile takeover of the Beautiful Game by big business interests which belittle traditional values like equal opportunity. For most European soccer enthusiasts, if you follow a club, no matter how small, part of the excitement is that you have a fair shot at playing with the best if you do well, which is how it's always been with this sport for over a century.

Backers of the Super League view that culture as antiquated. They want to move towards a closed model similar to that of American professional sports, which are immensely popular yet maximize profit by having a set number of franchises to reduce business risk (coupled with built-in features such as salary caps and the draft system to ensure fairness, which the Super League interestingly doesn't seem to want).

So, what happens next? Pandemic-related uncertainty over the future direction of the world's biggest sport in its top market will only increase the urgency to come up with a solution that all sides can live with. Perhaps that may entail a smaller tournament that is still open to all, but has fewer yet more competitive games.

What do you think? Let us know here.

Advancing global money movement for everyone, everywhere;dc_trk_aid=504469522;dc_trk_cid=156468981;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;tfua=;gdpr=${GDPR};gdpr_consent=${GDPR_CONSENT_755};ltd=?

Even with innovations in fintech and digital payments, roadblocks related to basic infrastructure like electricity and internet connectivity still prevent many migrant workers from being able to transfer money to their families back home with a truly digital end-to-end flow. While more workers can send money digitally today, the majority of people still receive funds in cash. Read more about why public-private partnerships are key to advancing the future of global money movement and why it matters from experts at the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

More Show less

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.

The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

More Show less

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

More Show less

How will artificial intelligence change the world and especially the job market by 2041? AI scientist Kai-fu Lee just wrote a book about precisely that, and he predicts it'll shake up almost every major industry. AI, he explains, will be most disruptive to many so-called "routine" occupations, but the damage may be reduced by shifting "empathetic" workers to jobs that require human empathy. Watch his interview on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

The Atlantic CEO Nick Thompson believes in tech firms doing business in China because connecting with people there is a huge social good for the world. But in demanding LinkedIn de-platform certain people, he says, the Chinese government crossed a line, and "you can't justify that."

Watch Ian Bremmer's interview with Nicholas Thompson in an upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Sectarian clashes in Lebanon: As Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, were on their way to a protest in Beirut Thursday, gunfire broke out, evidently between Hezbollah militants and those of the Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. The protesters were rallying against the ongoing state probe into last year's devastating twin blasts at a Beirut port, saying that state authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. They have called for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar — who is leading the probe and on Monday issued an arrest warrant for a prominent Shiite parliamentarian linked to Amal. Each side has blamed the other for starting the violence Thursday, which killed at least six people, injured dozens more, and threw the entire city into a panic. In a grim omen, the clashes, which are among the worst in recent years, erupted along one of the old front lines (dividing Muslim and Christian neighborhoods) of the 15-year sectarian civil war that devastated the country up until 1990. With the country mired in economic and political crises, the people of Lebanon can't seem to catch a break: just last week the country was plunged into complete darkness when its decrepit power grid ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Najib Mikati, who became prime minister designate in July after months of political deadlock, declared a "day of mourning," but civil strife continues.

More Show less

35.4: The US has overtaken China as the country with the largest share of the world's Bitcoin mining networks, now accounting for 35.4 of the global mining presence. This comes after the Chinese government banned domestic cryptocurrency mining operations to promote its own digital yuan that would track every single transaction.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal