Domestic football to thrive out of European Super League shadow

Champions League
Senegal and Liverpool winger Sadio Mane says he would swap the Champions League to win the African Cup of Nations.

A European Super League is coming and the clock is ticking on the current domestic structure, which no longer serves the super rich.

The subject reared its ugly head at Tuesday’s Sport Business Summit at Twickenham as Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli continued to canvass the opinions of those in charge of the game’s elite.

The Juve supermo has warned football that it needs to move away from the tired, old domestic structure if it is to survive, insisting the beautiful game is in danger of being overtaken by other past times.

Citing the example in the growth of e-sports, which is set to top $1.1billion in revenue this year, Agnelli insisted there had to be change to the continental game to keep youngsters interested, renewing calls for a European Super League.

Were the Italian to get his way, he would alter the current set-up of the Champions League to six groups of six teams, increasing the number of group stages matches from six to 10.

There would also be relegation and promotion brought in for those sides competing in the Europa League and an as yet unnamed third Uefa club competition.

Agnelli insists this would mean the new European Super League would not be a “closed shop”, despite the scrapping of teams having to qualify for the top club competition via their domestic league.

The Italian’s reasoning behind the change stems from having seen his Juventus side dominate Italian football for the best part of the decade but without receiving the financial rewards Premier League clubs have achieved.

Last year, Juve turned over an estimated £295million, a figure some way short of that enjoyed by the ‘big six’ in England, while they are also languishing behind the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the money stakes.

Keen to see his team agree a TV deal like the one enjoyed by Premier League clubs, Agnelli wants to introduce significant change and it is only a matter of time before he gets his way.

For the Premier League’s big six, an almost guaranteed seat at Europe’s top table will be too good to turn down given the financial implications of missing out on the top four.

While Agnelli says there would be promotion and relegation factored into a European Super League, that would be a clause the Premier League, and other clubs, such as Celtic, who earned a name check in Agnelli’s speech, would be keen to eradicate.

The big clubs have already got their way with the top four in England, Spain, Italy and Germany now all guaranteed qualification for the Champions League group stages, while European matches played at the weekend when TV audiences are bigger are also on the horizon.

The Premier League will likely rally against any product that challenges their own but the day of reckoning for the once ‘bad boy’ of football – having been its own breakaway league in 1992 – is coming.

Having survived the Premier League, English domestic football will never die but it will have a very different look to it were the big boys to leave. However, perhaps the exit of the ‘big six’ and anyone else who can follow them will be a positive for not just for the English game but domestic football right across the continent.

While the rich boys play with their toys, a new, more competitive domestic competition can emerge, giving those lower down the football pyramid the chance to call themselves English, Spanish or Italian champions.

The Premier League has only ever had six different winners in 27 years, with the fairytale success of Leicester City in 2016 having captured the imagination of all football fans. The sport needs more stories like that to attract the youngsters, not a Super League, and even without the glamour a trip to Old Trafford or Anfield might bring, it can still be just as thrilling, perhaps even more so.