The Guardian has uncovered an unpublished European Super League document in the hidden code of its new website which seeks to justify the controversial breakaway by saying it will give fans “what they want”.
In comments that will raise eyebrows, it also claims the breakaway will offer “a sustainable and competitive environment for the whole football pyramid” – by providing more than three times the level of solidarity payments to smaller clubs than currently exist. It also reveals that the clubs are considering intriguing new ideas, including “technology-enhanced rule implementation” that are not backed by the authorities, although it does not go into details. But it seems to drastically underestimate the public criticism of the proposals. “Unanimity of view is rarely the case where fundamental change is involved,” it says. “We welcome this debate as sport is all about passion and differences of opinion are an essential part of being a fan. But in the end, we are confident that when fans are welcomed back into the stadiums and the first Super League matches are played, fans will enjoy the greatest competition club football has ever seen.”
That such a document was so easily discovered by someone with little specialist knowledge of coding will be embarrassing to the European Super League. However, its underlying message is that the 12 clubs – including six from the Premier League – had no choice but to act because of the financial costs they were facing. Citing Covid, it warns that the accumulated losses of top-level clubs exceed €5bn (£4.3bn). “The value of live media rights is stagnating or declining as some of our competitions fail to meet the needs of fans and new generations seek entertainment in ways which didn’t exist 10 years ago,” it says.
“The weaknesses in the foundations of football have been known for many years, Covid simply exposed their severity and none of the game’s stakeholders have come up with a solution. Inaction is no longer an option.”
When creating the Super League, the document says the 12 breakaway clubs had “four guiding principles”:
Exceed fan expectations: “Our aim is to deliver to fans the best football possible while providing access for qualifying clubs to ensure the vibrancy of the competition and to maintain a strong commitment to the principle of sporting merit.”
Solidarity and sustainability: including “affordable ticket prices” and “reinvestment into the football pyramid via ongoing and substantial solidarity payments”. The document adds: “Super League solidarity payments will grow automatically with overall league revenues and will be more than three times higher than payments coming from the current European championship.”
Commitment to domestic leagues: “The new Super League has been designed around the principle of maintaining strong and vibrant local leagues and we will continue to compete each weekend in our national competitions as we always have.”
Readiness to change: “The Super League ownership and governance structure is designed to allow us to rapidly adopt and incorporate new ideas into the competition. Whether it’s changes in live match distribution formats, technology-enhanced rule implementation or player development, we can no longer rely on external bodies to drive progress in these areas.”
The document says that while Uefa and the Premier League have made “good faith” attempts to improve things, fundamental change is needed. “It is a new format that will sustain the drama, passion and most importantly, the unpredictability that is the lifeblood of our sport,” the document claims. “We believe it will be the most dynamic and competitive sports league in the world.
“At its heart, this is a comprehensive solution to the critical issues facing the sport. It starts with the fans of the game, giving them what they want and deserve; the best players and the world’s top clubs competing with each other throughout the year.”
The Super League did not comment when the Guardian contacted but it later hid the code after we published the story.