Singapore football fans react to breakaway European Super League as fury mounts globally
SINGAPORE — A new breakaway football tournament by 12 of Europe’s leading clubs have been met with some opposition from certain football fans in Singapore, where the sport is known to be a popular pastime. When interviewed by TODAY on Monday (April 19), these fans supporting the teams that have chosen to take part in the new league were disappointed by the clubs’ decision and believe that the move will diminish their enjoyment of the game.
- Most of the Singapore football fans TODAY interviewed were disappointed by the formation of the Super League
- This breakaway league was announced by Europe’s top clubs on April 19
- The league will rival the existing Uefa Champions League
- Fans said this new league goes against the spirit of fair competition and lessens enjoyment of the game
- Overseas, many fans and various stakeholders in the sport are opposing the move
SINGAPORE — A new breakaway football tournament by 12 of Europe’s leading clubs have been met with some opposition from certain football fans in Singapore, where the sport is known to be a popular pastime.
When interviewed by TODAY on Monday (April 19), these fans supporting the teams that have chosen to take part in the new league were disappointed by the clubs’ decision and believe that the move will diminish their enjoyment of the game.
The new Super League is set to rival the Champions League under the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa).
The Champions League is an annual club football competition that is contested by the top division of European football. Teams have to top their respective domestic leagues to qualify for the competition.
However, in the new Super League, the 15 founding members are guaranteed a spot every season.
The 12 top-flight clubs that are involved in the formation of the new league are:
Six English Premier League clubs, namely Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur
Three Italian teams, which are AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus
Three clubs from Spain, which are Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid
There are plans for three more clubs to join ahead of the Super League’s inaugural season, which is expected to start “as soon as practicable”, a joint statement by the clubs said.
Still, the 12 clubs said that they will continue to compete in their respective domestic leagues to “preserve the traditional domestic match calendar”.
To spectators, a team having a guaranteed spot in the Super League lowers the stakes of the domestic league and causes fixtures to be predictable.
One Liverpool fan in Singapore, undergraduate Bharatth Sakthimogan, 28, said that he will be less inclined to stay up for early morning Premier League fixtures as the domestic games will have no bearing on whether or not the club qualifies for the Super League, since Liverpool is one of the founding members.
Football fans here are not alone in opposing the formation of the new league.
Supporters worldwide have expressed frustration and disbelief at the decision, arguing that the new tournament undermines the spirit of open competition and merit at the heart of the sport.
Even world leaders such as British prime minister Boris Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron, as well as top club players and managers, including former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, have come out to condemn the move.
Mr Ferguson, who won the Champions League twice with Manchester United and saw European success with Scottish club Aberdeen, said in an interview with news agency Reuters that he enjoyed “special nights” in the Champions League.
“Talk of a Super League is a move away from 70 years of European club football. Both as a player for a provincial team Dunfermline in the 1960s and as a manager at Aberdeen winning the European Cup Winners' Cup, for a small provincial club in Scotland, it was like climbing Mount Everest," he said, adding that fans all over the world love the competition as it is.
Fans of Arsenal Football Club under the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust said in a tweet that the move signals “the death of Arsenal as a sporting institution”.
The top division heads of Spanish league La Liga said in an official statement on its website: "Today, football fans across Europe can dream that their club, no matter the size, may excel, climb to the top and compete at the pinnacle of European football.
"La Liga defends this European tradition of football for all. The concept proposed by 12 European clubs destroys that dream, shutting the door to the top of European football, allowing in just an elite few."
HOW THE NEW LEAGUE WORKS
The Super League will have 20 participating clubs, with the 15 founding members guaranteed qualification for each season.
Another five teams will need to qualify yearly based on achievements in the season before.
The match fixtures will take place in the middle of the week and there are plans for the tournament to have an August start.
The participating clubs will be split into two groups of 10, playing home and away games.
The top three in each group will then qualify automatically for the quarter-finals, while teams in fourth and fifth place will compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions.
A two-leg knockout format will then be used until two teams are left. The finalists will play a single game at a neutral venue.
For their commitment to the league, the founding members will share a fund of 3.6 billion euros (S$5.6 billion) to “support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the Covid pandemic”, the joint statement read. The money would not be available to spend on players.
Stock prices of these clubs have risen since the announcement was made on Monday morning.
Juventus’ shares soared over 10 per cent — the club’s biggest jump in a year — following the news that it will be one of the teams joining the breakaway league.
Manchester United are up 10 per cent in pre-market trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
A 'CYNICAL PROJECT’
Since the announcement, Uefa — along with the English, Spanish and Italian leagues and football federations — have released a statement threatening to ban breakaway clubs from taking part in domestic and international competitions.
Players could also be prevented from representing their national teams at the World Cup.
Uefa criticised the proposal as a “cynical project… founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever”.
Uefa on Monday also announced an expansion of the Champions League from 32 to 36 teams from 2024, and a change in the format of the competition with more round-robin games.
NO FUN WATCHING GAMES
Various fans of the participating clubs said that they oppose the Super League because it looks as if fair competition in the sport is giving way further to the controlled machinery of profit-making.
Chelsea fan Caleb Tan, a 24-year-old undergraduate, said: “Imagine Leicester’s win in 2015 of the EPL (English Premier League) or Fulham’s storied Europa League journey in 2010. Fans of the game have watched these underdogs work their way up to the top and don’t want to see these stories go away for the top teams coalescing in a single league.
“(This) just shuts out any other team not inside the association, since this Super League is bound to cause sponsorship and top players to gravitate to them.”
Arsenal supporter and lawyer Yeo Kheng Jing, 27, on the other hand, foresees that the promise of more big match-ups between top-tier teams will eventually lose its novelty as they become a common occurrence.
Despite the criticism, some supporters such as Mr Harpreet Singh believe that the backlash is overblown. The move is consistent with the way football has evolved to become more commercial over the years, he said.
“Anyone who argues that the Super League is a money-grubbing, all-about-profit league is missing the point, because this already exists today,” the 38-year-old associate director at the National University of Singapore said.
He pointed to examples of clubs such as Manchester City that have rose within the ranks of the English Premier League by assembling the best team money could buy.
The Liverpool fan added that it would be naive for fans to believe that the sport can go back to what it was like in the 1970s and 1980s.
“The game will continue to evolve, and the game in 10 to 15 years’ time will not be the same as now.”
And even then, some fans told TODAY that they are unlikely to stop supporting their favourite clubs and join the boycotts suggested by some overseas fans.
Undergraduate Abel George, who supports Liverpool, 25, said: “I completely understand the frustration of fans, particularly in Europe, who worry about the impact on competitiveness in the domestic leagues. But at the same time, for those of us who don’t live in Europe... I feel this won’t really change who we watch on TV or the merchandise we buy.
“We still want to watch our club’s players win matches and play top football. We might even get to watch our club play even more nail-biting matches on TV than before.”