By Jack Deacon
Arsene Wenger predicted in 2009 that a European Super League would be in place within ten years. The concept has been subject for careful contemplation by the great and the good of football for several years.
The main reason for the demand of a Super League is the increasing pressure elite clubs are facing to generate revenue and their frustration at having to release players for so many international fixtures.
Most elite clubs’ enthusiasm for a breakaway league has partially dampened because of concerns about difficulties in implicating the league.
There is a reluctance to get on the wrong side of national governing bodies, but the idea for a 16-team league is now being proposed.
The idea for major leagues to cut their number of teams from 20 to 16 was put forward by Sandro Rosell, Barcelona’s President, at a press conference in Qatar last week.
He also suggested that Champions League fixtures should take centre stage and be played on weekends, with Premier League games being shifted to mid-week evenings.
Rosell, also president of the European Club Association (ECA), said: “We want a bigger Champions League and hope one day we could play perhaps Barcelona versus Manchester United on Saturdays.
“It’s something all of them would have to agree to. That includes the Premier League. The objective of reducing from 20 to 16 teams is to give more space to our players.”
Richard Scudamore, Premier League chief executive, dismissed the proposals as short-sighted, saying: “Well, that’s very nice of him to issue that as a statement but that’s a very Barcelona-centric view.
“Our clubs have no view to be playing European football on a weekend. European football is a midweek competition and domestic football is a weekend competition.”
The 16-team league would substantially reduce the workload of players as there would be eight less games a season for each team.
But while the top clubs would generate enormous revenue from ties with Europe’s elite teams, the four teams sacrificed would lose huge sums of money.
The Premier League’s website reported that it generated at least £39m in domestic television rights revenue for each of his 20 members last year, so owners are unlikely to back down without a fight.
Not only do teams in the Football League make far less money than Premier League teams, but they’re also harder to sell, as foreign owners rarely look beyond the top league when they’re looking to take control of an English club.
The ECA, whose nine most influential members are Real Madrid; Milan; Liverpool; Internazionale; Manchester United; Barcelona; Arsenal; Chelsea; and Bayern, are no doubt aware that their memorandum of understanding with UEFA expires in 2014.
They’re perhaps testing UEFA’s resolve over a range of proposals to see if they should stay under UEFA’s umbrella or break away and form a separate league.
The idea was revisited by Rosell in his press conference last week. He said: “If UEFA and the ECA reach an agreement then that’s good for both parties.
“If not, with or without the UEFA umbrella, the ECA is entitled to organise their own champions’ competition by themselves. In the worst case scenario, we will go away from UEFA.”