Commentary

Big European Soccer Teams Try To Go Rogue For More Money

Twelve major financially thriving European soccer-football teams wanted to control consumption of major soccer-football fans through a new European Super League set to start in August.

And, of course, big TV/media rights revenue.

Within days of that announcement, massive negative reaction from fans, players, competing leagues/organizations and others forced most of the teams to abandon the plan.

The ESL was looking to create more of a U.S.-type pro sports league -- but severely restricting the number of teams.
The league would have had a total of 20 clubs -- including 15 founding teams. Big teams signing on -- now virtually all have abandoned the effort, including Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Liverpool, and AC Milan.

The target wasn’t their own home country competition. But the bigger revenue UEFA Championship league, the annual event that pits all European clubs against each other. That league pulls in half its revenue -- $2.37 billion from media rights to TV networks and other platforms.

Each of the founding clubs would get a collective $425 million in support for infrastructure investment -- around $5 billion in total. JP Morgan was to be financing the proposed new league. The announced league had yet to disclose its TV/streaming strategy.

Another big piece to all this was the news reported before the announcement -- that total broadcast TV rights for all of European soccer leagues was expected to fall this year, due to what analysts called the lack of competition among broadcasters.

Last year, teams were hit hard due to the pandemic. Growing interest in streaming platforms across the world might have pique more interest in the sport. The league was looking to accelerate that revenue.

In the U.S., there are TV companies with growing streaming platforms in Europe, as well as other territories.

Early on, just after NBCUniversal’s Peacock launch last year, Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, said the streamer’s airing the U.K.-based Premier League was one of its strongest content performers.

Beyond that, the ESL was looking to work the supply-and-demand formula -- to construct a more closed-market system that resembled U.S. sports leagues.

There are 37 professional European football leagues, amassing more than 1,000 clubs in 30 countries, by one estimate. Many smaller pro European teams can have tougher financial balance sheets.

By way of comparison, in the U.S., there are only 150 major league sports teams/franchises from Major League Baseball, NHL, NFL, NBA and Major League Soccer. Though not perfect, this is a less iffy financial health situation for U.S. sports teams under a closed-league sports system.

Big soccer-football teams in Europe were tired of sharing the wealth with smaller European professional teams. The rich wanted to get richer. Capitalism is also a contact sport.

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