We are always discussing the ever-changing real estate landscape at Redwood Consulting, but sometimes the conversation steers towards other topics and personal interests. Following the announcement six English football clubs will form a ‘super league’, five of our Redwood colleagues put their own opinions and thoughts onto paper – with a little comms twist.
- Freddie Rosen (Chelsea fan) discusses the importance of stakeholder engagement and consultation
- Esme Roberts (Manchester City fan) reflects on the origins of football and why a ‘super league’ threatens the future of the game
- Tom Belger (Manchester United fan) examines the need to carefully manage brand and reputation
- Vasu Guigan (Arsenal fan) looks at the ‘super league’ from a UK vs International perspective
When 12 clubs from England, Italy, and Spain – including six of the Premier League’s biggest – announced on Sunday their intention to take part in a new European Super League, this provoked the fury of European governing body EUFA who saw it as a direct challenge to their own Champions League brand. As rumours started to circulate that the Super League founding members were inviting offers from Disney and Amazon to broadcast the new competition, the likes of BT, Sky Sports, and other broadcasters of the Champions League, Premier League, La Liga and Serie A would have gone into a panic. The proposed Super League plans would have instantly devalued their own multi-million pound broadcasting deals, and so resolved to protect their interests, that their subsequent media offensive against the Super League was a sight to behold.
I’m not going to argue the morality, or questionable ethics of any of the various parties involved in the last few days, however it was interesting to see how the views of UEFA, and their broadcasters completely dominated the media agenda, with little to no reply from the Super League members, bar one defiant interview by Super League Chairman Florentino Perez with El Chiringuito, in which he hit back at claims that Super League teams will be expelled from European competition and domestic leagues, and argued that the league was the way forward to save the game of football.
While it may seem strange to talk about ‘saving’ the most popular sport in the planet, the reality is that most of the top clubs in Europe are in critical financial situations. Astronomical player salaries, spiralling agent fees, and uncompromising fan demands for instant success have created an environment where many top clubs are overstretched, and must either secure new and significant income streams or cut back on their expenses. In fact, collectively the clubs that signed up to the Super League owe over £2.3 billion in debts (though some sources estimate the real figure is much, much higher). While many in the media referred to the formation of the Super League as a ‘power grab’ or ‘coup’, I see it as more of a desperate gambit to try and redress the precarious financial positions of some of Europe’s most historic football clubs.
However, where they went wrong is that they had completely lost the media narrative as soon as the story broke. None of the club football coaches, managers, or players were even briefed beforehand, and so they had no spokespeople to fight for them in the many televised debates. When the likes of Alan Shearer or Gary Neville were emotionally ranting about the games traditions on Sky Sports, there wasn’t a single person invited in the studio to go in and bat for the Super League – the result? Within 48 hours of launching their endeavour they had to bow to plummeting public opinion and perform an embarrassing retreat having had their brand reputations completely savaged on the global stage.
Had they instead launched a coordinated media campaign before hand against UEFA and FIFA they could very well have found a receptive audience, after all these are organisations who’s former presidents Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were removed for fraud not so long ago, and who awarded a questionable World Cup to Qatar despite it’s human rights record, and who remain completely mute to the issue of hundreds of migrant Indian workers dying in appalling conditions to build their stadiums. And that’s not even getting into the headache of how broadcast earnings are redistributed across the football pyramid.
Had these would be Super League clubs come together to brief the media before hand of their intentions, and start a public debate about the corruption and structural issues plaguing the current system, they may well have won considerable public support, or at the very least have had a better idea of what sort of public opposition they were likely to face in creating a rival league.
With all that being said, let’s not kid ourselves about public opinion, the traditions of the game, fair play spirit or whatever, this whole saga is about money plain and simple. Football clubs are financially hurting, and something in the current football pyramid will have to give. It seems unlikely that it will be player wages or agent fees, as the first league to introduce a salary cap will see all of its best talent snapped up by its rivals, so logically the big clubs will have to seek new income revenue streams somehow or face going bust.
So don’t be surprised if this Super League idea, or something similarly cynical resurfaces in the near future.