The controversial European Super League (ESL) may be back on the table, as the developer organisation A22 has released a redesigned proposal for the future of European professional football. The new draft has been adapted to the many critiques of the 2021 version, although the proposal is still part of a larger reimagining of European football.
A year of continent-wide reform: gambling sponsors etc.
The comeback of the European Super League is yet another proposed change in the line of continent-wide reforms to the professional sports scene. One of the areas that have been particularly hit in other reforms is the gambling market. International sports have long held close relationships and partnerships with gambling companies, and fans much enjoy both betting and playing football slots on platforms like Mr Vegas.
However, starting a couple of years back, anti-gambling reform has begun to infiltrate the European football arena, resulting in many major shirt sponsors being cancelled prematurely. For example, teams, sports stars and influencers in the UK were banned from officially promoting gambling brands. It is unclear yet what role gambling sponsorships would play in a potential European Super League.
A more inclusive Super League
The new European Super League proposal was released by A22 Sports Management on February 9, 2023, and it is clear that they have taken the criticism into account. When they released the first draft in 2021, the proposal fell apart in under 48 hours. Some of the main concerns from players, club managers and fans were that the Super League caused an “existential threat to football” as it undermined the existing structure and competitive balance of domestic leagues. It was also set to be a closed championship, with 12 chosen teams which would always play no matter their regular season performance, together with just a few qualifiers.
The new draft speaks clearly to these concerns, and claims to be a result of comprehensive feedback conversations with stakeholders. For starters, instead of a closed championship, the League will allegedly be open to 60-80 teams, and therefore including both top-ranking teams and low-tier clubs. Furthermore, every team would be guaranteed 14 matches per seasons to ensure sufficient play time. The issue of the ESL has also been brought to the Court of Justice for the European Union to ensure its legitimacy and compatibility with the existing European professional competitive football structure.
Critics stand their ground
Despite the revamped structure of a potential European Super League, new criticisms echo the concerns from the first proposal. La Liga president Javier Tebas compared the ESL as “the wolf, who today disguises himself as a granny to try to fool European football”, indicating that league would still mostly work to simply benefit the wallets of the richest clubs similarly to the first proposal. Another staunch critic is the Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), who renamed the ESL into the “European Zombie League” in reference to their relation and concern for football fans across the continent.
It remains to be seen whether the new proposal will survive. Last time, only Real Madrid, Juventus, and FC Barcelona stood by the proposition after 48 hours. Will the A22’s revision be enough to convince more teams this year?
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