The events of the last few days in football have been astonishing. There are red flags that suggest the event was staged from beginning to end.
The Inexplicably Incompetent Launch
Here is how a BBC reporter describes the announcement of a new European Super League (article 21st April):
It would be naive to think discussions around a European Super League (ESL) have not been happening for some considerable time. It was also fairly obvious criticism would swiftly follow the announcement of the proposed competition.
Given that backdrop, a swift, positive message had to be delivered early to counter the negativity.
Instead, after the first rumours began to surface on Thursday and then the first reports were published on Sunday lunchtime, there was nothing official from the Super League camp until 23:11 BST later that day. Then, Real Madrid president and proposed Super League chairman Florentino Perez gave an interview with a Spanish media outlet in the early hours.
There were no more statements or interviews given by executives of the 12 clubs prior to project collapsing on Tuesday night.
Instead, the vacuum was filled with negativity – from fans, media, players and managers.
Even Prime Ministers and Presidents condemned it, as did Prince William. There was no attempt other than from Perez to explain what the 12 clubs viewed as the positives. By Monday evening, the narrative was set and it already felt impossible to change it.
This is not some minor PR mishap. You would have to be a marketing idiot to think dropping one press release, with no supporting materials, and then being silent for three days, is a good plan for a product launch. These billion-dollar clubs have large marketing budgets and lots of highly-paid and highly-skilled people working for them. If this was a serious proposal, this must surely go down as the biggest PR blunder in history.
In reality, they would not launch it like this. Press teams at all the clubs would be armed with the party line, and ready to address the many inevitable questions from fans. They would be all over traditional media and social media defending the plan to the public. They would have football celebrities promoting it, brand ambassadors, adverts, FAQs, etc. The selling points of the proposal would be clear and simple, and repeated often. They would be pushing hard their message: this is good for football, and has x, y, z benefits, etc. They would be all over it, a marketing blitz.
The “drop a press release and then stay quiet” method of product launch being so incredibly dumb is strong evidence that this product was designed to fail.
The Worst Press Release in History
The 18th April press release from The Super League is here. It is badly written beyond belief. It seems to be deliberately confusing, leaving many obvious unanswered questions. Here is how it starts:
Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new mid-week competition, the Super League, governed by its Founding Clubs.
AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid CF and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as Founding Clubs. It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable.
What the heck does “anticipated” mean? Who are the other three clubs? Why aren’t they on the list already? Have they been chosen? How are they being chosen? What if they can’t find three more, will the league go ahead with 12? If this were a serious product launch, these things would all be resolved. There would be no uncertainty on something of this importance.
Then we get this strange paragraph:
Going forward, the Founding Clubs look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole.
That almost sounds like a threat, or at least hints at some rivalry or antagonistic relationships at the heart of football. Maybe there are, but don’t put that in a press release of a new product!
Then we have this:
The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model. Further, for a number of years, the Founding Clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.
The pandemic has shown that a strategic vision and a sustainable commercial approach are required to enhance value and support for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid. In recent months extensive dialogue has taken place with football stakeholders regarding the future format of European competitions. The Founding Clubs believe the solutions proposed following these talks do not solve fundamental issues, including the need to provide higher-quality matches and additional financial resources for the overall football pyramid.
It is poorly written, and full of jargon and management-speak. It isn’t really saying anything at all. The last sentence is especially hard to parse. Are these supposed to be the justifications for launching this product? It’s just confusing. This whole press release has not been written with clarity of communication in mind.
The press release then has this section, titled “Competition Format”:
20 participating clubs with 15 Founding Clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season.
Midweek fixtures with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game.
An August start with clubs participating in two groups of ten, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.
There are so many obvious questions about this that fans will want to know. Where are the 5 extra teams picked from? What is the qualifying mechanism? Will the clubs still field their best players in the domestic league? These things are quite obviously what fans will be asking, and no answers are provided.
Next we have this remarkable sentence:
As soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a corresponding women’s league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women’s game.
As if it wasn’t already confusing enough, they now invite a whole load of questions about the women’s league. What does “as soon as practicable” mean? For maximum woke points, why not launch them both at the same time? If there aren’t concrete plans yet, don’t mention it, save it for an FAQ. A press release launching a serious product would stick to the product actually being launched.
Despite this being a press release about a new product, we haven’t actually been presented with any benefits yet. Next comes this extraordinary paragraph:
The new annual tournament will provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues. These solidarity payments will be substantially higher than those generated by the current European competition and are expected to be in excess of €10 billion during the course of the initial commitment period of the Clubs. In addition, the competition will be built on a sustainable financial foundation with all Founding Clubs signing up to a spending framework. In exchange for their commitment, Founding Clubs will receive an amount of €3.5 billion solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.
Solidarity payments are paid to the clubs in the league. They are talking about the benefits to themselves! They call bigger payments to the biggest clubs “support for European football”. This paragraph tells us the 12 Founding Clubs expect to be a lot better off because of this deal. Well, great for them! Of course you are going to get accused of being greedy if you brag in your own press release about how much extra money you are going to make from your new product. No benefits to fans or grassroots football are mentioned in the entire press release.
The final part of the press release is three quotes, from the heads of three of the clubs in the scheme.
Florentino Pérez, President Real Madrid CF and the first Chairman of the Super League said:
“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world. Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”
He presents this new league as a deliberate pivot away from local fans and towards a global audience, motivated by money. This quote seems designed to irritate fans.
Backing the new European league, Andrea Agnelli, Chairman of Juventus and Vice-Chairman of the Super League said:
“Our 12 Founder clubs represent billions of fans across the globe and 99 European trophies. We have come together at this critical moment, enabling European competition to be transformed, putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future, substantially increasing solidarity, and giving fans and amateur players a regular flow of headline fixtures that will feed their passion for the game while providing them with engaging role models.”
More drivel and jargon. Are “solidarity” and “role models” really what football fans think is missing from the game? Do fans want “a regular flow” of games between the same 15 rich clubs every year? Even I know the answer is no. “Amateur players” are mentioned, but without explanation how they might benefit.
Joel Glazer, Co-Chairman of Manchester United and Vice-Chairman of the Super League said:
“By bringing together the world’s greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid.”
Finally, in the very last sentence of the press release, we have something fans actually care about: more money for the small clubs and the grassroots. But what does Mr Glazer mean by “increased financial support”? If this were a serious proposal, the entire press release would have been written with that as the headline and a thorough explanation of how exactly the new league is going to result in benefits for the wider football pyramid.
If this was a genuine product launch, this is quite possibly the worst press release ever written. It is beyond credulity that this is just incompetence.
An Unbelievable Political Gift
Another red flag that this was a staged event is the role played by the media and the politicians. The press release was made at lunchtime and this BBC article was posted at 4:57pm. It is a not a report about the new league, but about the reaction to it. No mainstream media sources I can find reported the announcement in a positive way, or even neutrally. No one was advocating or defending the product.
From the very beginning, the story was not “a new league is being set up”. The story was “greedy capitalists are choosing profits over the wishes of fans, and this will destroy football”. The story was political from the very start. The media were not primarily quoting football experts or fans on the matter, but politicians. The first person quoted in the BBC article was not Gary Lineker, but Boris Johnson. The article goes on to quote two more politicians: Oliver Dowden and Keir Starmer.
Why are politicians even involved? Because this whole affair is the most unbelievable political gift. A cause with near-universal support is an opportunity not to be missed. The politicians were falling over themselves to side with the fans against the “greedy capitalists”. It is too good to be true.
Here is Boris Johnson’s tweet:
In the context of increasing rebellion against the police state measures being imposed in the UK, this is a dream for Boris Johnson. His popularity will have gone up as a result of his “swift, decisive actions” on this issue. Many other politicians will have likewise benefited (and obviously none of them spoke in support of the new league).
In his tweet, Boris Johnson is clearly not just speaking as a fan, who happens to be Prime Minister. He is speaking on behalf of the government, and pledging the power of the state to support football authorities in “taking action”. Over the coming months and years, we shall find out what this really means.
The politicians keenly pointed to the German model of fan-ownership of clubs as the solution to this “problem”. Some, like Jeremy Corbyn, have been outspoken on this issue before and are now claiming vindication. It seems likely that in the near future the power of the state will be used to transfer control of the clubs from the existing owners to supporters trusts.
This action would, of course, be very popular. The danger is not how the power of the state will be used in this case (football), but how it will be used more widely. If there is a supposed need to enforce “community ownership” of football clubs, why not do they same in other industries, they will say. For years to come, politicians and statists will hold football up as an example of why we need more communism.
An Alternative Explanation
The mainstream story here is that these 12 multi-billion dollar clubs committed the most monumental business misjudgement in corporate history. The Super League will replace New Coke as the go-to example of a failed product launch. The biggest football clubs in the world apparently decided the best way to launch their new product was to announce it in a press release. It was probably the worst press release in history. They had no supporting materials and no ambassadors. Then they kept quiet for 48 hours, while outrage dominated the conversation. Then, supposedly “underestimating” how strongly the fans feel, they apologetically pretend they have listened to the fans and abandon the idea. This is an incredible story – literally.
I humbly suggest an alternative explanation. That this was a staged event, never a serious proposal. It was always going to be “abandoned” after 48 hours, once the announcement had had the desired effect. This explanation seems more credible to me than the “incompetence theory”. The details of how it was carried out will no doubt emerge as investigations are carried out. It appears the billionaire owners of these 12 clubs decided the damage to their reputation (and likely future loss of ownership of the club) was worth it.
What might the owners have been offered to do this? I don’t know. That would require more digging into who they are and what interests they have. I do not expect it will take long to find evidence of corruption and associations between these club owners and the billionaire global elites trying to bring about The Great Reset.
The “European Super League” was not a serious proposal. It was designed to fail. The clubs did not make a “mistake” that they rectified a few days later. It was designed to create exactly the backlash that it did create. It was planned to be “abandoned” shortly after the announcement. It was political. I see no other reasonable explanation for the events of this week.