By Joe Harker
The information reported by Der Spiegel is uncovering the seedy underbelly of football and the actions super rich clubs are willing to take to stay on top. Some clubs have managed to duck and dive Financial Fair Play rules and those same ones are part of a cabal of European teams working to make a European Super League a reality.
The claims of a super league suggest clubs could break away as early as 2021 and see Europe's elite leave their Football Associations for a more lucrative competition. Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus, Arsenal, Manchester United and Bayern Munich are the clubs accused of "going behind UEFA's back" to form the league and would be the "founders" of a 16 team league with 11 regulars and five initial guest teams.
The other founding clubs would be Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and PSG, none of whom could be relegated from the competition for 20 years. The first five guest clubs would be Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Roma and Marseille.
Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said back in May that a European Super League was "inevitable" and domestic leagues would be shunted to being midweek fixtures to make way. He argued that the draw of the big clubs and their increasing desire to chase the money would make it a certainty in the future. Indeed, the games between the biggest clubs naturally attract the biggest audiences on TV.
However, many in football absolutely hate the idea. David Walsh of The Sunday Times believes the clubs trying to break away from their domestic leagues are "selling the soul of the game". Although money is increasingly powerful in football, the game should be about more than chasing a bigger payday.
The fact that the founding 11 clubs can't be relegated for at least 20 years is another issue. Some of the founding clubs would likely end up at the bottom of the heap come the end of the season and no punishment for failure will reveal the super league to be a rich boys club designed to make money rather than provide a real competition.
The polarising nature of Europe's top leagues has contributed to this debate. The Premier League is dominated by a "top six", five of whom would be founding members of the super league. Ligue 1 is PSG's playground, they've won the league in five of the last six seasons are are already 11 points clear at the top this season. Juventus have won seven Serie A titles in a row and are clear favourites again this season. Bayern Munich can boast of having six consecutive Bundesliga titles and the fact they are not storming to another one this season is seen as a crisis. In La Liga there have only been two times in the last 15 years where a club not called Real Madrid or Barcelona won the league.
A group of super rich clubs that enjoy almost unassailable dominance in their domestic leagues has developed and it has left them wanting to make the next step. The bigger clubs make more money and have more success, leading to more money and in turn more success.
It's an ongoing cycle that is seeing them pull away from the other teams in their domestic leagues in terms of quality and unbalancing the competition to the point that other clubs find it almost impossible to bridge the gap.
It is somewhat logical that they'd eventually decide to ditch the league altogether. What lustre does weekly clashes against relegation fodder and mid table sides hold compared to regular matches between the biggest and best teams?
However, Sam Wallace of the Daily Telegraph argues that big clubs are trying to break away for the wrong reasons, and should resist the urge to do so. English clubs already make enough TV money from the Premier League, while most other top leagues also have multi-billion broadcasting deals.
He also suggests that Real Madrid and Barcelona are backing the idea because their lavish spending has caught up with them. Paying massive wages and having to sell players to stay in profit, they would back a new league because they desperately need more money to fuel their success. The likes of AC Milan are big names in football, but not currently great teams. Wallace argues that they will "vote for anything that rescues them from the mediocrity".
Ultimately, a European Super League would be created for those watching on TV, not the fans who go to the stadiums and certainly not to the fans who follow their team to away games. It's a soulless idea designed to churn out money rather than create a better spectacle. There's more money to be wrung out of football, but clubs should be careful they don't warp the beautiful game by trying to do so.