Shocked, US owners of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United withdrew from the European Super League last week, the hastily staged elite competition that offended and killed football fans. The plan was forged from an American example: no demotion, a salary cap, and above all: domination for owners. In their homeland, Americans are not used to doing otherwise.
Yes, even in the United States, outrage reigns when big and wealthy sports club bosses do their own thing again, but in most cases anger quickly gives way to resignation. In American sports, the dollar rules. It’s like that.
In 2016, Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke without hesitation withdrew his St. Louis Rams football team from the soil of Missouri, the state in which he grew up and built his fortune as a billionaire in the United States. immovable. The soil was depleted, Kroenke said, in Los Angeles the grass was greener and juicier.
He is having a brand new stadium built in the Inglewood neighborhood, with billions of dollars in support from JPMorgan, the bank that had wanted to finance the start of the Super League.
Kroenke, also owner of Colorado Avalanche (ice hockey), Denver Nuggets (basketball) and Colorado Rapids (football), became persona non grata in his home state, but with the move to California he has definitely established himself. in one of the most lucrative. sports markets of the country.
Last week, Kroenke did what he had never done in Missouri: he got down on his knees, reportedly apologized to Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta, among others. Like John Henry, head of the Fenway Sports Group and owner of Liverpool, and the Glazer family of Manchester United, he was wrong about the culture of European football, which almost immediately threw up the American sports model.
“They did not know what football means to the supporters, it is the mistake they made,” said American Brad Friedel, former Premier League goalkeeper, on British television channel Sky. . “They saw dollars, but they lacked the human element.”
The Glazer family also walked through the dust with an apology to United fans. Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox (baseball), sat down for the camera to address Liverpool supporters. “I am solely responsible,” he said. “We heard you. I heard you. ‘
Although the idea for the Super League came mainly from Andrea Agnelli (Juventus) and Florentino Perez (Real Madrid), the competition design was clearly aimed at the backyard of Kroenke, Henry and the Glazer family. The elite group’s 15 regular customers couldn’t be relegated, as is customary in America, and clubs could only spend a portion of their budget on salaries and transfers.
The American plan was not copied one by one. In the United States, leagues (except baseball) operate with an absolute salary cap: a set amount for everyone, rather than a percentage. For every dollar above the cap, clubs pay a hefty tax (which the wealthiest can still afford more easily).
Another difference: to create equality, the lowest ranked clubs are rewarded with the following Rough draft, the selection round during which young talents are selected in universities or abroad. They can choose first. In recent years, this has led to a race to the bottom of the NBA, after which the league changed the rules: The worst team these days no longer automatically come first.
In the search for balance, American sport has sometimes been compared to an island of socialism in an ocean of capitalism, but it is the owners who shake this position.
Without UEFA’s supervision, Super League participants (by their own estimate) could have shared billions of dollars in TV money, much like in American sports, where owners swim in dollars through TV transactions. lucrative. The American football league NFL has a TV contract worth $ 100 billion, spread over eleven seasons, the NBA soon wants to double its revenues via broadcast rights to $ 8 billion per season.
Years ago, America’s sports leagues catered to a global audience, just like the Super League intended. China’s Tencent pays the NBA $ 1.5 billion annually for broadcast rights, while the league has put Latin American games on the schedule, among others. The NFL, in turn, regularly visited Europe.
It’s not inconceivable that an NBA or NFL team will play, say, in Europe in the future. It’s another American phenomenon: expansion. Clubs pay large sums to join competitions, money which is redistributed to existing teams. A European Super League could have followed this example in the future, it has been whispered, perhaps with clubs from another continent.