European Super League: Some Random Thoughts

I am surprised at how well existing European leagues, governments, commentators are articulating the benefits of the open pyramid system and maintaining sporting merit. I assumed that maybe they didn’t understand the benefits of an open competition, but it was an institutional artifact. I was wrong about that. There is real passion about open competition.

I would have loved to see that similar type of passion as folks in the U.S. appealed to FIFA to have an open pyramid in the U.S., but it was crickets from the rest of the world. I’ve always thought that FIFA, and other clubs in the world, were allowing the closed league approach as a experiment to see if parity (i.e. rigged) soccer would work.

It hasn’t come close to proving out yet, but the Super Clubs are anxious and are willing to the call the results from the NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL good enough to give it a shot.

Now those passionate supporters of open competition may pay for their silence. If FIFA tries to to stop the Super League, it’s possible that the Super League could point to FIFA’s hands-off approach with the USSF and MLS and the findings of CAS case decided about a year ago, brought by two lower tier soccer clubs in the U.S. against US Soccer to adhere to FIFA’s open pyramid rules, as precedents. That case found that FIFA has the power to allow exceptions to their own rules, if they so desire. So, now FIFA may find themselves in a pickle trying to explain their inconsistent approach with how they have allowed U.S. Soccer an exception to the open pyramid but wish to enforce it here. Here’s more on that case.

I wrote about that case in February of 2020. I wrote that soccer players around the world should be concerned about that decision, because that might open the door to such closes leagues, a key benefit of which is player salary constraints, to help make the sport more profitable on a cash flow basis to owners, not just on asset value.

I think FIFA’s inconsistent approach is easily explainable, but probably not something they want to say out loud: money.

They thought granting the exception in the U.S. wouldn’t cost much, since the pro soccer in the U.S. is still small dollars. So, I think even they were interested in giving the NFL-guys a shot to see if there was more money to be made in the NFL approach.

Whereas, allowing the exception with the European Super League could drain good amounts income from FIFA’s cash cow in Europe.

I wonder how the new Super League will get commercials in? They could be inserted into natural game breaks during injuries, VAR review, substitutions and post goals. I wonder if they will invent new ways. Perhaps a 30 second time our for a substitution? Planned water breaks?

I can see a scenario where the European Super League grows in popularity in the U.S., hurting the MLS in the process, while significantly diminishing the sport in the rest of the world that wants to watch the best soccer, not parity (or they might call it parody) soccer.

How would it hurt the MLS? American fans might naturally gravitate to the “NFL of soccer” and they may come to find their 2nd & 3rd tier talents too boring for their busy schedules.

Has anybody written the jingle for “Football Night in the World” yet? Do you think they will go for Sunday or Monday night?

Some folks will point to the desire for the Supper League as proof the MLS works, but that logic doesn’t hold, as it hasn’t yet been proven in the MLS nor has it been proven in the Super League, whereas the value of the open pyramid has been proven to produce some of the top league valuations in the world in countries with relatively small populations.

Which brings me to my last thought, can the Super League work? You never know until you try. But, given the closed league status, I think there will be a tendency for inertia to develop in the willingness to pay for talent and, as long as open leagues exist, other investors will come in and invest in that talent outside the Super League and eyeballs will naturally gravitate to watch watching the best.

If that happens, the “Super Clubs” can only bank on their name brand and history for so long. Already, even some of the clubs rumored to want to become part of the Super League, are in the position of not being the best.

IMHO, what sells in the soccer world is the best team for the buck, not parity.

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