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Football is dead, long live football!

Football is dead, long live football!

Bhyrava

Hello, there.

Yes, I'm safe. I am with my family and I have kept my job, which comes with the luxury of working from home. No, the pandemic hasn't gone away. In fact, at the time of writing, more than 3 million people have died to Covid worldwide, and India is on the cusp of a crippling second wave of infections with almost 300 thousand new cases every day. We're all staring down the edge of a precipice, and every minute someone at a Kumbh Mela is plunging down into the abyss. And oh, Covid is now airborne.

Morbid lament aside, it has been a tumultous last forty-eight hours for the world of football - tumultous enough to nudge me out of hibernation.

The Founding Clubs of The Super League: 3 from Spain (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid), 6 from England (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham) and 3 from Italy (Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan)

Twelve of the top European football clubs have announced that they would break away to participate in a new, self-governed, continental, closed mid-week-fixture based league called The Super League.

This is going to end football the way we know it - let's talk about how.


Et tu, Brute?

The idea of a Super League wasn't born overnight.

In 2016, the Premier League's 'Big Five' club owners met at a summit in London to discuss changes to Europe's elite, money-making competition, the UEFA Champions League. The clubs believed that since they were the reason for high viewership of these competitions, they deserved bigger slices of the finanical pies at the cost of the smaller clubs. These clubs denied talks of a 'breakaway' to achieve these goals, but it was common knowledge that the financial appeal of doing so would be very lucrative.

The Board of the Super League (from L to R): Andrea Agnelli (Juventus), Vice Chairman | Joel Glazer (Manchester United), Vice Chairman | Florentino 'Papa' Perez (Real Madrid), Chairman | John Henry (Liverpool), Vice Chairman | Stan Kroenke (Arsenal), Vice Chairman 

The Bayern Munich chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, predicted in January 2016, “In the future, I can see a tournament consisting of 20 teams from Italy, England, Spain, Germany and France. It is an idea born some time ago. I see that in the top five leagues in Europe, the big teams are always getting stronger and stronger,” he said. “A super league outside of the Champions League is being born. It will either be led by UEFA or by a separate entity, because there is a limit to how much money can be made.”

The whispers continued in 2017, with reports of discrete discussions being held in secrecy. The number of clubs had now increased - there were co-conspirators involved, now. Pundits in talk shows dismissed the concept as a threat from the big clubs to arm-twist the existing Champions League TV money distributions in their favour.

However, no matter what the ratio of the distributions, no matter how high their ceiling was pushed, the big clubs had an unresolved issue with the UEFA Champions League - they were not always guaranteed a seat at the table. If the clubs did not finish in the qualifying places in the domestic league on merit, they would miss out entirely. The owners felt that the commercial pull of these clubs should be rewarded with something far more stable than that uncertainty. They wished to avoid the drop-off in income in seasons when they didn't qualify. Merit-based participation wasn't to their taste, especially not for the likes of Arsenal or Manchester United whose on-pitch fortunes were dipping too wildly.

Der Speigel's article was published on 2nd November, 2018

In November, 2018, the German publication Der Spiegel leaked explosive reports of secret talks between top European Clubs, aimed at creation of the European Super League. The documents showed that the conspiring clubs were considering something far more radical than a simple replacement of the Champions League, allegedly discussing "an option for leaving the national leagues and their football associations behind entirely".

To quote from that article, "Seven of the world's top clubs have secretly joined forces, all apparently with a single idea in mind: Boredom spells the death of any show, and the only way to combat boredom is to put on an even bigger, glitzier show, the greatest football show on earth. The idea is the creation of a Super League, an elite league of top-level competition reserved exclusively for the top names in European club football. Every game is a top game."

The leaks further said that the teams who would be permanent members of this league would be the ones with the strongest TV presences from England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

Bayern Munich and PSG, notable absentees in yesterday's announcement, were also an integral member of the 16 top clubs set to sign a document to establish such a league, which would begin operating in the 2021 season.

Covid slowed down the timeline, but the conspiracy is in motion now, and UEFA President Aleksanderander Ceferin, our modern day Julius Caesar, stares at the inevitability of his betrayal with wide eyed fear.

The War Begins.

On 18th April, a joint statement was released by some very prominent bodies in football.

"UEFA, the English Football Association and the Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Lega Serie A have learned that a few English, Spanish and Italian clubs may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League."

"If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we – UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever."

"We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way."

"As previously announced by FIFA and the six Confederations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams."

"We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough."

This was a very powerful threat, dropped before the formation of the Super League itself. The richest and most powerful organizations of football had united across the board and sent a message to the break-away clubs. They had caught wind of the fact that declaration of a Super League was now imminent (more on that later), and come out all guns blazing. The rebel clubs would be banned from their domestic leagues, the joint statement said. They would also be banned from their european competitions and their players may not be allowed to represent their country. The possibility of the threat legally holding up notwithstanding, it was nothing short of a declaration of war.

The footballing community chimes in.

This statement was the first time that this news had reached the fans. Gary Neville, as ardent a football fan as they come, was commentating on the Premier League game between Manchester United and Burnley when he found out. His commentary in the second half was a tirade against the greed of the 'shameless six'. His usual post game podcast set the tone for most of the fans who were still digesting the enormity of what they'd just found out.

Within hours, #NoToEuropeanSuperLeague was trending on Twitter. The great Sir Alex Ferguson, once a defender for the Glazer takeover, immediately voiced his opinion on how this was not acceptable.

"Talk of a Super League is a move away from 70 years of European club football," he told Reuters. "Both as a player for a provincial team Dunfermline in the 60s and as a manager at Aberdeen winning the European Cup Winners' Cup, for a small provincial club in Scotland it was like climbing Mount Everest."

"Everton are spending £500 million to build a new stadium with the ambition to play in Champions League. Fans all over love the competition as it is. In my time at United, we played in four Champions League finals and they were always the most special of nights."

"I'm not against the modernisation of football competitions, with have the Premier League, we have the Champions League," he said. "But to bring forward proposals in the midst of COVID, in the midst of the economic crisis that exists for all clubs is an absolute scandal. United and the rest of the big six clubs that have signed up to it against the rest of the Premier League should be ashamed of themselves."

"Are Arsenal in that? They have just drawn with Fulham, Manchester United are drawing with Burnley. I cannot concentrate on the game. To sign up to the Super League during a season is a joke, they should deduct points off all six of them."

Sir Alex Ferguson condemns the Super League

Roy Keane chipped in with his usual tight-lipped fury, so did Gary Lineker and Luis Figo. The British Government weighed in as well, with Boris Johnson promising (as much as his promises mean) that the government will try their best to stop the European Super League. His French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron pledged his support to the cause as well. Other players, both current and ex, who voiced their opposition to the Super League include Mesut Ozil, Ander Herrera, Lukas Podolski and Charlie Austin, among others.

The Manchester United Supporters Trust unequivocally condemned the Super League, as did the Supporters Trusts for Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.

British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden launched a fan-led review of football, stating that the Government will do whatever it takes to protect 'our national game'.

On Monday Night Football, Leeds were hosting Liverpool, and made sure they left no ambiguity in their response.

"Football is for the fans. Earn it:"

The players and the managers of the Shameless Six, however, remained largely quiet. Their futures were suddenly cast into jeopardy, but it was too early to take stands against the SL before more concrete details arrived, especially since comments could mean that their careers would be on the line.

So, what exactly is the Super League?

Most of the information we currently have comes from a press release, and we will look to dissect it to understand what exactly is being proposed and why, the reason this has caused so much uproar, and what the future could look like.

The Format

The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and 5 annual qualifiers. There will be two Groups of 10 clubs each, playing home and away fixtures within the Group each year. By bringing together the best clubs and best players in the world, the Super League will deliver excitement and drama never before seen in football.

Following the Group stage, 8 clubs will qualify for a knockout tournament, playing home and away until the single-match Super League championship, in a dramatic four-week end to the season.

Games will be played mid-week, and all clubs will remain in their domestic leagues.

Solidarity payments will grow in line with league revenues and are expected to be in excess of €10 billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the founders. These solidarity payments will follow a new model with full transparency and regular public reporting.

Other notable points in the Press Release

  • The Super League will be governed by its Founding Clubs.
  • The Founding Clubs believe the solutions proposed following talks (of a revamped Champions League format) do not solve fundamental issues, including the need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid.
  • As soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a corresponding women’s league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women’s game.
  • There will be a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues. These solidarity payments will be substantially higher than those generated by the current European competition and are expected to be in excess of €10 billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the Clubs.
  • In exchange for their commitment, Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.
  • Florentino Pérez, President Real Madrid CF is the first Chairman of the Super League. Joel Glazer, Co-Chairman of Manchester United, is given the role of Vice-Chairman of the Super League, along with Andrea Agnelli of Juventus, John Henry of Liverpool and Stan Kroenke of Arsenal.

The only other information we have from the Super League is from a Perez interview. Here are some excerpts from an interview where he was convinced he was 'saving football'.

Every word Florentino Perez said in explosive Super League interview
Perez is the chairman of the newly-formed European Super League.

Perez on The Threat of Bans

"Players banned from international competitions and national teams according to UEFA? Don't worry, this will not happen. They won't be banned if they join the Super League." He added: "Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea, and the other clubs of the Super League, will not be banned from the Champions League or domestic leagues, 100 per cent.

"I'm sure. Impossible."

Perez on The Motivation of Super League based on clubs' financial health

"Many important clubs in Spain, Italy and UK want to find a solution to a very bad financial situation. The only way is to play more competitive games. If instead of playing the Champions League, the Super League helps the clubs to recover the lost earnings. Here at Real Madrid we've lost a lot of money, we are all going through a very bad situation. When there is no profit, the only way is to play more competitive games during the week."

"The Super League will save the clubs financially," insists the man who loaned out Gareth Bale, an unwanted superstar on a reported €600,000/week salary, to Spurs to outsource the wage bill.

"Football must evolve like everything in life. Football has to adapt to the times we live in now. Football is losing interest, TV rights are decreasing. We wanted to do the Super League, the pandemic has given us urgency: now we are all ruined in football."

Existing debt, drop in pandemic-time revenue, reduced TV deals seem to be motivation for the owners of the Founding Clubs to be reluctant to share money in the Champions League, opting for a closed shop in the Super League instead where they make more money and keep it. At what cost? They don't care.

Why is there such an uproar? Is it justified?

There are many significant reasons why this move is being universally criticised by the footballing community. Here's my take on some.

An assault on the principles of open competition and sporting merit.

The Premier League says the Super League "attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit".

The owners of the rich clubs want to pull the ladder up behind them, while they still can.

The common factor characterising the Founding Clubs were high TV viewership and high revenues. It was clearly not on footballing merit, since some of the Founding Clubs have had very little success on the pitch over the last decade. Leicester City, for instance have won the same number of Premier League titles since 2014 as Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs, combined.

The Premier League Table as on April 20th, 2021

The irony of these Founding Clubs acquiring permanent membership to a lucrative Super League over some of their more successful peers is clearly a fundamental contradiction to the principles of English football over the last 100 years.

The press release also mentions a €3.5 billion payment to the Founding Clubs, with the Super League being backed by JP Morgan. That would mean a €200m-€300m 'welcome bonus'. An amount of such proportions in the midst of a pandemic will help the clubs solve their financial woes and run away from the other domestic clubs in terms of transfers and wages straightaway.

West Ham, sitting above four of the Shameless Six in the traditional Champions League places on the Premier League table, must be wondering about the futility of their achievement.

A closed Super League destroys the magic of promotion and relegation.

The journey of clubs through tiers via relegation and promotion has always been a key aspect of football in England, driving the passion and sentiment of the fanbase. Historic big clubs go through cycles of poor management and results while better run clubs take their place. By the end of each season, the relegation battle and promotion batles are as feverent a narrative as the title race.

The prize of a better tier with bigger clubs, the dream of the Premier League and the money that comes with it makes promotion battles intense and passionate for the fans. The Super League has shown no inclination that it cares for 'legacy fans' at stadiums.

Leicester City were in third-tier League One just seven years  before they won the 2015/16 Premier League title, beating 5000/1 odds after rising through three tiers of promotion. This would never happen in a closed league.

Leicester’s 2015/16 Title Win In Numbers
The 5,000/1 odds of Leicester City winning the Premier League in 2016 is perhaps the most fitting number to encapsulate the magnitude of the Club’s achievement four years ago.

A key aspect of all these domestic leagues is the dream that the lesser clubs can compete with the richer ones. While there is already an imbalance brewing, it still leaves a chance for well-run, successful clubs to rise up the ranks and one day participate in the prized tier of European football.  This also adds a magical narrative to fallen giants who rise again, like Liverpool, the second most successful club in England, who finally won the League Title after 30 years of waiting.

Relegation and promotion is a traditionally cherished part of the game, setting football apart from American sport franchises. The Super League is a move towards the latter.

The Knock-Down Effect on lower leagues, all the way to grassroots football.

There's also the fear that the ESL would draw huge global TV audiences away from existing leagues such as England's Premier League, Italy's Serie A and even the Champions League. This would affect the non-Founding Clubs, and in turn, the lower domestic leagues all the way down.

Existing distributions are designed in a way that money from the top percolates down below into the successive tiers of the pyramid. This keeps the lower leagues financially alive, and keeps the lower league club's dreams of making it to the top alive. However, the Founding Clubs seem reluctant to share their pie with grassroots football. While the exact solidarity payments of the Super League aren't clear yet, what is clear is that the Founding Clubs want to make more money and keep it. What is clear is that they don't want to share it anymore.

A select few billionaires in their greed for more profits, in the midst of a crippling pandemic, are about to strangle a 150 year old footballing pyramid and kill these dreams.

How coronavirus has hit lower-league football
BBC Sport looks at the impact of coronavirus on lower league football clubs, players and fans, and how the game might recover.

The Super League will dilute, devalue and destroy the roots and traditions of the Founding Clubs themselves.

A couple of paragraphs from Jonathan Liew's article in The Guardian come to mind.

"At the heart of this move, then, is a distaste for the basic point of sport itself: a battle of nations and cultures, towns and regions, ideas and systems, an ecosystem with a top and a middle and a bottom, something you go out and play as well as sit down and pay for. Perhaps this had long been an unfashionable idea at the sharp end of the game.

But in stating their intention to establish a closed competition – or a largely closed competition, which in effect would be largely the same thing – the biggest clubs have laid out their vision for the future of football: a 12-month reality television show whose sole purpose is to generate a ceaseless stream of content, animus and talking points."

Only someone who truly hates football can be behind a European super league | Jonathan Liew
The clubs behind the proposed tournament must find competitive sport offensive, all the way from the grassroots game to the World Cup

The Super League aims to take the most historic, most watched and richest clubs and wishes to turn their players into participants of a global reality televesion show. This transformation into a franchise entity opens the doors to a wide variety of money making gimmicks which will eat away at the value of these Founding Clubs themselves.

Firstly, let's talk about European History. The Founding Clubs have 99 European Trophies between them. This number will cease to matter once they leave the UEFA Champions League and Europa League structure, since the Super League will replace their mid-week fixtures. To use the phrase of a recently sacked manager, these clubs are selling their 'football heritage' for money. The idea of Real Madrid and AC Milan throwing away their famed European history for the greed of their current owners is tragic. This history belongs to the fans, to the players and current owners of these clubs should not have a right to throw it away.

La Decima, the historic, record-setting 10th European Cup won with the help of era-defining players including a peak Cristiano Ronaldo. Papa Perez is selling it away for more money.

Secondly, lets talk about the lack of the term 'European' in The Super League and the nature of franchise sports. The owners want a spectacle, and they govern the Super League, so why stop at Europe? Why not pit Arsenal in a league against Argentina's Boca Juniors if that generates more views? Or maybe the MLS club Seattle Sounders? And that will come at the cost of traditional cultural face offs. MK Dons may never face a Founding Club again. Neither may Marine AFC, Grimsby Town or even, perhaps, Nottingham Forrest. Traditional English fixtures, hundreds of years old with a rich rivalry, will forever be sacrificed because Stan Kroenke, an American who never makes a public appearance if he can help it becuase he knows how hated he is for leeching Arsenal into the ground, wanted to buy himself another mansion.

Why would Super Clubs focus on youth development? Why do they need to hone a Mason Greenwood when they can easily prise away the more mature Haalands from non-Super League clubs? The process of cultivating youth players can be outsourced outside the Super League, when you're assured of the fact that you'll always have the money, the pull of the better competition. This could be the end of La Masia, which produced, arguably, the greatest player of all time in Lionel Messi and the greatest side of all time in Guardiola's European Champions.

In December, 2019, Manchester United achieved the milestone of 4000 consecutive games (over 80 years) of naming an academy graduate in their matchday squad. What incentive does the Super League have of continuing this tradition if they breakway from the Premier League?

The Super Clubs have chosed to ignore every single voice that has, over a hundred years, made them who they are in the local communities. It is very much possible these bonds will never be repaired or rebuilt. Lost rivalries, match ups, stories and dreams.

This lays the foundation for the severing of all ties with domestic football pyramids

Ten years later. Say the the English Founding Clubs have managed to stay in their domestic leagues and have a boosted, stable income from the Super League, while the remanants of the PL struggle with modified Champions League and Europa League qualifications. A pattern has been established where the most promising players are immediately snapped up into the Super League. Not once has a non-SL club won the domestic league in this duration, it doesn't look likely that they will. How can anyone address that inequality other than expelling the Founding Clubs?

Isn't banning the Founding Clubs in the best interest of the Premier League? Of the clubs that wish to participate in the rich history of English football, no matter how devalued it has become? In that case, why would the Super League keep Manchester United or City in Manchester, since the city isn't as welcoming as a global hotspot and all ties with local communities have been severed anyways? Why not get them a second base in New York? 10 years later, perhaps the name no longer reflects what they are, so let's rename them to the NY Red Devils or Seattle Blues?

If the Founding Clubs are out of the Premier League and 'legacy fans' are not important, what sense does it make for non-London clubs to stay in their Manchester or Liverpool? Why not move to a better location across the globe and attract a wider fanbase by playing in bigger, well-connected cities? After all, that happens in franchises, and often.

Advertisements in the drinks breaks, cheerleaders for goals, a Samsung sponsored penalty, a Budweiser-sponsored free kick, survey-driven colours for jerseys and logos. Draft picks every three seasons where players are traded for capped fees and clubs swap players like playing cards. Soon the likes of Sevilla, Roma, West Ham, Feyenoord will be added to a Super League Two, and they will be losing their identities as well.

My FM Club from summer 2020 or a Founding Club 'roster' from 2030? Drafts are inevitable in the closed franchise future of the Super League. Youth academy products? Pfft, lets trade Isco for half-cap.

If you think this is an unrealistic dream, think again. American owners are looking to transfer their sport models to the English game, and there is no one to govern over them, to stop them. The fact that Manchester United was born out of railway workers, glorified by the fighting spirit of common men after the Munich disaster, and has been the heartbeat of the local community for the last 140 years will mean less to the owners than a strategic timeout commerical.

The Super League will get very boring, very soon.

A common issue that plagues closed-shop franchises in America, and one that will be transferred over to the Super League,  is the jaded games for clubs who know they have no chance of reaching the playoffs or winning the league. With owners like Kroenke who would be happy to keep raking in the money without caring about the performance of the team, what motivation does Arsenal have to actually do well in the Super League if there is no more fear of relegation?

Also European nights are special because they are a rare occurrence. If Barcelona met AC Milan twice every season, it would just be another banal fixture. Playing Champions League is special because of the brevity of it, because you have limited chances every season and have no idea when you'll face your opposition again. Money men thinking of Netflix streaming are seemingly unacquainted with this idea.

If drafting is introduced, this league may even lead to tanking, where clubs deliberately finish bottom just to get first pick. What a spectacle that would be, no?

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The Spending Framework of the Super League will not benefit the players.

A part of the proposal talks about a 'spending framework'. Again, we don't know more, but this is presumably the American equivalent of wage caps. There are arguments in favour of wage and transfer caps - it removes bloating of wages and makes sure the likes of Barcelona don't drive themselves bankrupt with poor management. It removes the concept of super agents like Jonathan Barnett or Jorge Mendes. And it ensures that a state-backed club cannot buyout a player's release clause at 200m, inflating transfer fees worldwide.

These are all good points, provided the money saved was invested back into the players across the pyramid or into the club itself. Given the motivations of the Super League, that is a highly unlikely scenario. It is safe to assume the lion's share of the money saved will go directly into the owner's pockets.

Speculation regarding players being paid four or five times as much seems like fantasy in the long run. Perhaps in the beginning, till they're sure they're up and running. But afterwards? Not a chance. The Founding Clubs were spending silly money to compete with each other, now that they have unionized, they have monopoly and can get away by paying less together. Overall, this will lead to lower wages in the lower tiers as well, since the market standard would have dropped. If there are exceptions, they will not be playing in the Super League.

If none of the Super League clubs are wiling to offer more than €200,000 a week to the likes of Haaland, say, what can he do about it? If none of them are offering more than €500,000 as agent fees to Mino Raiola, whom will he use to start a bidding war, especially with a weaker hand, since the player would not want to miss out on the top event of football?

The Super League is aimed to ensure that the next great player of the game earns the owner more than ever without demanding wages as high as Messi, a transfer fee as high Neymar, or with an agent as expensive as Raiola. It's a magic trick, where your money disappears and ends up in an Agnelli pocket.

Can the Super League be stopped in its tracks?

No one knows.  There is widespread condemnation and efforts are underway, but it seems evident that the Super League have thought of the backlash and the legal challenges already.

What about UEFA, what can they do?

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, the Julius Caesar of this show, has already made his intentions very clear about the conspiracy of daggers.

"We're still assessing with our legal team but we will take all the sanctions that we can and we will inform you as soon we can," he said. "My opinion is that as soon as possible they have to be banned from all our competitions and the players from all our competitions."

He didn't mince words about how the conspiracy took place behind his back, and how the foundations of this breakway were laid long before they came to fruition.

"Look, for me, I have seen many things in my life. I was a criminal lawyer for 24 years so I have seen different people, but I have never ever seen people like that. If I start with Ed Woodward (Manchester United's CEO, and a Glazer mouthpiece), because it will be shorter, I didn't have much contact with him but he called me last Thursday in the evening. He said he is very satisfied with the reforms, that he fully supports the reforms and that the only thing he would like to speak about is Financial Fair Play. Obviously, he had already signed something else."

"I don't want to speak much about Andrea Agnelli. He is probably one of the biggest disappointments or the biggest of all. I don't want to be too personal but the fact is that I have never seen a person that would lie so many times and persistently than he did. It was unbelievable. I spoke with him on Saturday afternoon and he said that these are only rumours, don't worry, nothing is going on, then he said I will call you in one hour and turned off his phone. The next day, we get the announcement."

"As I said, I have seen many things in my life but never this. Obviously, greed is so strong that all the human values evaporate. Everything is gone with some people."

"All the world knows now that they unanimously supported our reforms (the new Champions League changes) on Friday, when they obviously had signed the agreement [with the Super League]. All that are sitting there: Woodward, Agnelli, [Ivan] Gazidis and Pedro Lopes from Real Madrid. I don't have to explain more what I think about them."

Ceferin continued: "We might be naive in not knowing we have snakes close to us. Now we do. There will be legal action soon."

'Beware the ides of March'. Aleksander Ceferin faces a late, uphill battle to legally punish the breakaway. It is likely that he will not succed.

This is a legal battle now, one that the Der Speigel leak confirmed that the Super League have been prepared for. The leak said that the specific questions the Super League wanted legal answers to back in 2016 itself, were:

  • Could the Super League clubs be held liable for any loss of revenue at UEFA?
  • Would the clubs still be required to allow their players to play for national teams after leaving UEFA?
  • Could the associations or leagues penalize players for participating in the Super League?
  • Could players have their contracts annulled if their club switched to a private Super League?

The lawyers needed about a month for their initial analysis. On March 1, 2016, Bayern Munich received a confidential memorandum that provides a perfect illustration of the ability of top lawyers in modern football to expose every single legal loophole.

In the 23-page document, they enumerated the legal hurdles for the foundation of a Super League. They noted that neither UEFA nor FIFA could seriously penalize the top clubs for withdrawing as this would represent a fundamental violation of "EU competition law."

The international law firm's assessment provided the top clubs with numerous arguments to protect themselves and their players from possible lawsuits by associations, leagues and competing clubs. But the lawyers also anticipated some problems if the clubs were to withdraw from their national associations: On the one hand, the clubs would likely still have to continue to allow players to play for the national team because the World Cup and the European Championship enables players to "increase their value (and salary)." Denying players that opportunity could quickly result in a lawsuit.

It seems evident that despite UEFA's strong legal threats, the Super League have been prepared with counter-arguments for five years, writing the very documents that could be used against them as part of the ECA to ensure they have a strong hand.

Does the footballing community have any say?

Fans, ex-players, pundits, managers and even royalty have something to say, but no say beyond.

Sky Sports supported the breakway Premier League 30 years ago, but they have a different stance now.

It is clear that the legacy fans, the ones attending the stadium and driving local communities, don't mean anything to the owners. They hide behind their press statements and are going to ride the storm out. Some of them have already ridden out such fan protests before and have still seen the revenues increase. They are banking on an international fanbase to show up.

Can the government not do anything?

Again, unlikely. The Government has already opened Pandora's box a long time ago, and it's too late to close it now. New laws about ownership would stifle football-based income into the country. They could hit them where it hurts with TV rights, but it seems unlikely to succeed given the number of TV and web-based streaming options now available. The best course of action is to perhaps restrict work-permits for non-UK players in the Super League, but even this course of action could fall foul of existing player laws.

Posturing and puffing, it is, something Boris Johnson is quite adept at.

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One of the possible broadcasters who could have funded the Super League TV Rights, Amazon Prime Video, have put out a statement distancing themselves. It is not sure if Facebook, Netflix or other tech giants will follow.

The men driving this franchise based future, however, are unlikely to back down.  An unamed member on the board of one of the six clubs has been attributed to the quote, "Our primary job is to maximise our revenues and profits. The wider good of the game is a secondary concern."

Can the players not boycott this Super League?

Easier said than done when their contracts and livelihoods are on the line, but this remains the most significant opposition to the Super League. It is believed, however, that the Super League plans to sway most of them with extremely lucrative deals to ensure there is no early opposition.

It's also been suggested that the club owners would be 'secretly delighted' at the prospect of players not being able to play in international fixtures and if the clubs were to remain in the Premier League then the clubs would focus on midweek Super League games as a priority.

The men with daggers will have their pound of flesh.

What now?

Now, we sit and wait. For UEFA's legal cases, for the Government's actions, for the players themselves to come speak out. For the fans to protest, for the remaining clubs to act and the footballing community as a whole to do their bit to prevent the death of football as we know it.

The Super League is taking everything away from the fans, the local communities and even the players and managers who make the game what it is. It will destroy clubs by turning them into grotesque imitations of what they used to be. And it needs to be stopped. Or at the very least, it needs to be negotiated down into a disguistingly improved Champions League deal.

But victory seems unlikely. Manchester United and Juventus shares have soared by a combined $550 million a day after the move was announced. For the money men, this is all that matters. It is optimistic to the point of foolishness to assume that they will back out now despite the backlash.

I have been a Manchester United fan for 10 years now, with a career built towards settling close to Manchester so I could go chant at the Stretford End one day. I don't think I'd like to go down that route just to line a Glazer pocket, anymore. Not that it matters to them, but I think I'll go back to Shakespeare, instead. The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief, was it? Or some other coping mechanism to drown my empty weekends. Get that life thingy that everyone's talking about, perhaps, and learn to hate it instead.

Football is dead. Long live football.