The European Super League and the Role of Fans as Key Stakeholders

April 2021

This report analyses the breakaway European Super League (ESL) plans in the context of the commercial performance of European football more broadly.

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Key Findings

European Super League: the proposal

Seeking ways to address the sustainability questions in European club football, the ESL was pitched as an anti-dote to increasing economic uncertainty in the game. More akin to US leagues, promotion and relegation wouldn’t be competitive mechanisms within the league, which was one of the many reasons the idea was soundly rebuked by stakeholders as news of the league emerged. Member clubs, led by English football teams over the following days retreated from plans to join.

Domestic leagues reliant on the big clubs

A breakaway league has also revealed some difficult truths. Stark disparities exist across domestic leagues and the global pandemic has been an accelerant of financial uncertainty. In La Liga, smaller clubs remain heavily reliant on fixtures against Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. In Italy, similar issues exist. In all, digital fanbases of smaller teams pale in comparison to the select few that can call themselves global brands.

Stakeholder impact

Stakeholders, in particular fans, took to social media and in some cases to stadiums to revolt against the plans. Armed with a belief that they can influence change, consumers globally (sports fans being no exception) are more willing to engage in political issues and make decisions that align with their own personal values.

Beneficiaries

High profile clubs that rejected offers to join will benefit, reinforcing trust and confidence with fans. Players and Managers that voiced discontent have also been praised by fans. In the long term, European football more widely will benefit from changes that will likely be instituted to ward off any similar efforts to breakaway from existing competitions in the future.

Introduction

Scope
Key findings

The ESL and the State of Football

The ESL Plan and immediate stakeholder reaction
Signatory Clubs: Index Rankings and Key Events
The Premier League without the ‘big six’
La Liga without its ‘top three’
Serie A without its ‘top three’
What happens now?

Stakeholder Reaction to ESL

Shareholder versus Stakeholder: the ESL Case Study
The reaction to the proposal online
Tracking influence: in football, history trumps celebrity
Empowered fans believe they can institute change
Women’s Football: why it should have been at the core of ESL plan
European Football: stakeholders that benefited from ESL downfall

Key Learnings

Three Key Takeaways from the ESL
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