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How would a European Super League affect the League of Ireland?

The idea of a European super league is doing the rounds again, as it does every few years. The latest floating of the idea seems to have stemmed from a February meeting of the ECA [European Club Association, the body that represents more than 200 clubs within UEFA], where some clubs expressed the need for a review of the current Champions League format [in other words the formation of a European super league].

In the very short term it is an impossibility [nothing can happen until the current TV deal expires in 2018] but the rich clubs and their super-wealthy owners will not stop until they get the ideal model for their ‘product’, namely a European super league. If and when it ever happens then football at that level will cease to be about football, and become solely about money.

You might say that football is already about money for the big clubs, but at least they still play in their own domestic league, where they represent an area or city. They can only get into the Champions League by finishing in a qualification place, so the football counts for a lot and money can’t buy a Champions League spot. It can buy you expensive players and they will most likely see you into a qualification spot, but it’s not a guarantee. Manchester United was a recent example – the unthinkable happened and they didn’t make the Champions League for 2014-2015, thanks to David Moyes’ lackluster stewardship in 2013-2014.

United missing out like that is also the fear of the other super-elite clubs. Back in the day you had to win your own domestic league to get into the European Cup. Now you just need top three or top four finishes, depending on your country’s allocation. But that is still not good enough for the moneybags crew, who want a guarantee of being involved in the elite tournament every year, regardless of domestic performance. In a sense this is putting a gun to the head of UEFA – change the rules or face a breakaway. The Premier League itself used a similar tactic when it broke away from the Football League in 1992.

Globalisation means that a super league, made up possibly of the 20 top teams from England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Portugal, would be a hugely attractive commodity to market around the globe, maybe even playing some games in markets like China and the US where the brand is growing. Maybe throw in some emerging markets too like India and Brazil.

Personally I won’t be tuning in to watch this kind of franchise football if it ever comes to pass. It will be a bridge to far for me, football finally completely cut adrift from the moorings of the ordinary fan into a commercial stratosphere. In a way it could nearly be a good thing for leagues like our own. Surely people will see that the product they are being sold is just a charade, a sham of commerce and commercial opportunity. Maybe they’ll hanker after something real and turn up at Dalymount Park, The Brandywell or The Carlisle Grounds.

Brian Quigley

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