Jordan Gardner | A football club owner’s perspective on the European Super League
“By bringing together the world’s biggest clubs and players to compete against each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and support increased funding for the wider football pyramid. “
This statement from Joel Glazer, Manchester United co-president and vice-president of the new European Super League (ESL), set in motion an uncertainty and turmoil in the European football hierarchy that has not been seen for a generation. In a press release late on the evening of April 18, six English clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – announced that they had signed up alongside the Italian giants AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. , as well as the three big Spaniards of Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid for the new breakaway competition “intended to start as soon as possible”. The impact of the newly announced Super League on domestic competition, the traditional infrastructure of European clubs and international play is unclear, with the announcement throwing the entire football ecosystem into chaos.
I’ve been asked countless times over the past 24 hours what this all means for the future of European football, and the answer is we just don’t know. It is too early to say how things are going to move; whether participating clubs will be banned from national leagues, whether players from ESL clubs will be banned from international competition or how FIFA and UEFA will react.
The launch of ESL is a purely financially motivated attempt by the owners of Europe’s biggest clubs to reduce the risk of their investment. Arsenal currently sit ninth in the Premier League table and are in serious danger of missing out on European competition next season with the guaranteed millions of euros that come with it. With this new competition, clubs like Arsenal will be guaranteed admission to Europe’s biggest and most lucrative competition.
However, the simple fact is that Arsenal shouldn’t have been at such a risk of missing out on qualifying for Europe in the first place. The current system already leans heavily towards the bigger clubs, giving them the most income and ammunition to bring together the strongest teams by acquiring the best players. In fact, given the resources these big clubs have under the current system, their risk should be very low initially.
Top European clubs regularly receive € 100m ($ 120m) to € 300m ($ 361m) in domestic media rights depending on league and performance. On top of that, prize money for European competitions, trading and gaming income (Covid excluded), and player trading represent substantial inbound income. Europe’s top clubs generate more than 500 million euros ($ 603 million) in revenue per season, with Barcelona and Real Madrid reaching nearly 800 million euros ($ 965 million) according to Forbes.
It’s easy to assume with these massive revenue figures that the best European clubs are profitable, well-run businesses, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The 12 clubs confirmed for the Super League – with the exception of Liverpool, who have yet to publish their accounts – have lost a total of 1.4 billion euros ($ 1.68 billion) during the season 2019/2020 before player sales are counted. Bearing in mind that this period only includes three months during the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020/2021 figures are sure to see historic losses.
ESL’s discussions have once again brought to the fore difficult questions that need to be answered about the behavior of this industry and the motivations of its key stakeholders.
Beyond the operational losses, many of the best European clubs are heavily in debt. Spain’s Barcelona giants are reportedly up to € 1 billion ($ 1.2 billion) in debt, while many other clubs have taken out high-interest loans to cover operational losses. Based on these numbers, clubs clearly need the increased revenue that ESL would provide, but instead of looking inward to try to run better and more efficient businesses, they are looking for an easy solution that has effects. potentially disastrous for the industry as a whole. . Each of these top European clubs are expected to operate in the dark based on their revenue, global brands and resources. Instead, they try to find some handy fruit that will allow them to earn more money to continue to maintain their wastes, extending an already broken system.
If ESL continues, these top clubs will simply waste the new income on player salaries, agent fees, and inflated board salaries in the same way they did whenever new ones. Media rights contracts have received more money over the past 25 years. . The extra income from ESL will not solve the underlying problem in European football of mismanagement, bad decision-making and corruption, and in the end everyone in the industry will lose.
From a cold financial standpoint, ESL makes sense to these 12 owners if they can be successful, but in the meantime, it has the potential to destroy the sport. Which begs the question: why do these people own these clubs in the first place? What responsibility do they have towards sport as a whole? Unfortunately, many owners of the best European clubs have little to no emotional attachment or allegiance to their clubs or leagues. The quote at the top of this article is from Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer, who has apparently not attended a game at Old Trafford for more than two years. These owners have invested with a singular, finance-focused mindset and it’s no surprise that they’re launching this new contest at everyone’s expense.
Ultimately, football clubs are unique businesses with intrinsic community and emotional value. Contrary to what some fans think, owners have every right to make money and seek financial returns for their investments. Clubs can and should be run like businesses. However, I firmly believe that you shouldn’t own a football club if your only goal is to maximize every hard dollar like you would in any other industry. If your goal is purely financial, there are better avenues in this world for investing your money than a soccer club.
Owners must have an emotional attachment and love for their club and their sport to be successful, while fans must at the same time understand that these owners are risking their hard earned capital and entitled to a return on that investment. Very few individuals in this industry have struck this balance properly, and ESL’s discussions have once again brought to the fore some tough questions that need to be answered about how this industry behaves and the motivations of its mainstreams. stakeholders.
About the Author: Jordan Gardner is an American sports executive and investor in several football clubs across Europe, including Swansea City AFC in the UK and Dundalk FC in the Republic of Ireland. He is currently President, Co-Owner and Managing Partner of FC Helsingør, an American football club in Denmark, and was previously Vice President, Investment and Business Strategy of digital media company JUGOtv prior to its acquisition by Relevent Sports Group. He was also the owner and general manager of a ticketing and live events technology company based in San Francisco, California.