The twelve clubs that threatened to create a European ‘Super League’ entered 6,400 million euros before the pandemic. A year later, the figure was reduced to 5.568 million, 13% less. This difference is what It has collapsed the football foundations of Europe, in addition to plunging the governments of the great capitals of the continent into confusion. Fear has spread among the twelve giants of the ball who fear how the pandemic can radically change a business touched to death by the effects of the Covid, but also by the bubble in which the art of football has lived for five years.
Soccer is one more component of the complex network of interests that play on the international scene, both for its impressive economic data and for its social strength. Only in our country generates 549 million euros in television rights, 129 million in tickets and more than 180,000 direct jobs, to which should be added another 838,000 indirect. Nor can we forget its fiscal contribution: 4,100 million, 75% of the budget allocated to education in the Kingdom of Spain.
But in addition to these magnitudes, the world of soccer handles another much more complex and powerful variable: geopolitics. This is what makes this sport transcend the field of play to become a social and political phenomenon. This is the only way to understand that the prime ministers of the most important countries in Europe can unite on the same day against a project called to completely revolutionize football competitions, at least as we know them today.
The cake is so huge that has made European football the target of great fortunes and Arab, Chinese and even American investment funds. A fresh money that, in some cases, serves to wash off large debts and that, in others, seeks to build teams from scratch with the capacity to compete with the big ones. Winning on the pitch, playing in the senior league.
London: Johnson ‘the Fast’
The government of Boris Johnson he was the first to turn around. Paradoxically, the English league contributed six clubs to the Super League: Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool y Tottenham Hotspur.
A small X-ray of the British football team shows us that only the owner of the Manchester City, Mansour bin Zeyed Al Nahayan, has the backing of the powerful Abu Dhabi Investment Group, an Emirati fund with sufficient capacity to undertake football projects anywhere in the world. The rest are owned by fortunes like Stan Kroenke’s Arsenal, Abramovich of the Chelsea, the Glazer family in the Liverpool and the Lindsell Train Corporation, owner of the Manchester United. A priori, London should be in favor of creating a competition that would provide stability to its star teams. However, the English league hides much of the investment of Arab and North American funds in mid-range teams.
The Leicester City was the subject of a purchase by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s, a Thai billionaire in 2010. The Wolverhampton Wanderers suffered the landing of the Chinese investment fund Fosun International in 2016 and a large part of the clubs registered in the Premier League have participation of American, Chinese or Arab investment funds or billionaires.
If the Super League goes ahead, all of these clubs, including their multi-million dollar investment, would be blown up by having their participation vetoed in a competition in which at least 15 of the 20 places would already be occupied. In addition to pressure on the streets from City fans, the only English club team in the ‘Super League’ with the participation of a fund, Downing Street had to deal with calls and calls for attention from minor clubs participated by funds from foreign investment, to the unison cry of: “Johnson, where are my millions?”
France: Macron ‘the meritorious’
If there was a statement that detonated the league of the greats, it was that of the French president, Emmanuelle Macron. The ‘Super League’ “(…) threatens the principle of solidarity and sporting merit”. The French leader was in the eye of the hurricane, since the PSG he had not yet explicitly adhered to the rebellion of the giants. The club is owned by Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, belonging to the sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Autohority. Khelaïfi maintains a personal and budgetary crusade to win a Champions League at any cost. It is estimated that, in the last 10 years, the oil magnate has been able to spend more than 1 billion euros on building a team to lift the European cup. Only in Neymar the Qatari pawned 220 million euros.
France seems to be the center of attention of the big millionaire movements of Arab funds interested in soccer. A less competitive championship makes the investments required to acquire a club less. In the last 5 years there have been more than 15 acquisitions of soccer teams by foreign capital in the neighboring country. Thus, 20% of Lyon, by IDG Capital Partners of China, or the Bordeaux, by General American, are the last examples of the storming of the French Bastille. Macron, like Johnson, knew that PSG’s step forward would be an obstacle for other top French teams to dream of competing with the great European powers. Nothing better than putting out the fire before it breaks out.
Rome: ‘Supermario’ al ataque
Ten hours. That was the period of time that passed between the night of the ‘Super League’ statement and his funeral by ‘Supermario’ Draghi. In your case, “preserve national competitions, the values of meritocracy and the social function of sport”Were the arguments made. Curious linguistic coincidence with their French and British counterparts. His words put an end to the aspirations of the Juventus, Inter Y Milan for extinguishing its bulky debt and enjoying the rain of millions provided by JP Morgan: 7,000 million.
Although in the last decade the role of Italian clubs is light years ahead of the successes they starred in the 90s, Italy continues to be the birthplace of football for many investment groups, both for its history and for the record held by the ‘azzurri’.
The ‘Italianness’ of football is reflected in the fact that only 5 of the 20 first division clubs are in foreign hands. Friedkin, an American financial group, acquired 86.6% of the Roma for 780 million euros, following in the wake of other Italian-American businessmen who bought the Bologna o la Fiorentina. As he Inter As the Milan, two Italian representatives in the ‘Superliga’, have foreign ownership.
In the case of Inter, Italian ‘pasta’ was also loved in China. Suning Group bought 68.55% of the club in 2016 for 270 million. For its part, the Milanese derby is completed with the participation of the US investment fund Elliot Capital, thanks to the purchase of debt acquired from the previous owner. Reasons more than enough for Draghi to try to ensure at all costs the homeland essence of Calcio, preventing foreign investment from going to a ‘Super League’ with clear private overtones.
Berlin: Merkel ‘the absent’
Germany is not an option for foreign investors. The 50 + 1 law gives club members half the shares plus one, something that gives fans control of the club’s property. This rule makes teams like him Bayer Munich, the Borussia Dortmund or the Schalke 04 have 290,000, 153,000 and 150,688 people with the right to speak and vote in their respective assemblies. An organizational hell, but with shareholder stability as a counterpart.
This fact is what explains why the German executive has kept silent, unlike the big European capitals. Without the foreign presence, protests have come solely from the Bundesliga, a whole institution in the Germanic country. A simple statement warning of the need for “football should always be about sporting performance and not about the selfish financial interests of a few clubs”, Served the body chaired by Christian Seifert to dispatch the matter. End of quote.
Madrid: Pedro ‘the elusive’
For its part, the position of the Spanish Government has been really timid on this matter. The initial silence was followed by statements by the Secretary of State for Sports and the Minister of Culture calling for the understanding between the two parties in conflict: UEFA and the Super League.
Spanish football lives in a multimillion dollar debt bubble that can burst at any moment. The value of the Spanish first division teams takes them away, for the moment, from the hands of foreign investment funds. To get an idea, the average value of a first-class Spanish team is 33% lower than an English one, but approximately double that of an Italian one.
The economic brake removes the presence of foreign funds or companies from the greats of La Liga. However, both the Second Division and some top teams have been and are in their sights. The Rastar Group Chinese bought the Spanish for 150 million euros in 2015. Peter Lim acquired 70% of the Valencia for 94 million euros, Chinese Link International Sports bought the Granada for 37 million euros and the Chinese group Wanda bought 20% of the Atlético de Madrid for 45 million euros, shares that were later sold in 2018 to the Israelis of Quantum Pacific.
In total, the Spanish League adds more than 500 million euros in foreign investments, a cake too sweet – and to be amortized – to which a large part of these teams would have to resign in case the ‘Super League’ went ahead.
Few things can be more emotional than soccer. While political parties struggle to gather a few hundred people at each rally, soccer teams are capable of gathering thousands, tens of thousands of fans every Sunday. Or at least it was just a year and a half ago, and this is the great fear that grips football Europe: that things will never be the same again.
In this, Florentino Pérez is not wrong. Football will not be the same after the pandemic. The large operators of the future, such as Netflix or Amazon, need to offer much more to an American, Arab or Asian viewer than a match that ends in a draw between a large team and a small one. Anyway, the white president now thinks it would be easier change the rules of football and make it more attractive instead of trying to change UEFA on which Platini built his Church. And it is that football is a spectacle: that of the ‘Super League’ of extraordinary clubs.