INTERVIEW. “The clubs break with sports fairness” by creating the Super League, says historian Paul Dietschy

Champions League
According to a sports historian, the creation of the Super League marks a turning point in the history of sport, and will not be without consequences.

Professor of contemporary history at the University of Franche Comté, and specialist in the history of football, Paul Dietschy looks back on the historic turning point in the world of football, with the announcement of the creation of the Super League, a closed competition organized by 12 of the richest clubs in Europe and the world. The opportunity to take a little height after the announcement of the creation of a European Super League.

Will Sunday April 18 go down in the history of sport?
Paul Dietschy: “It’s historic because for the first time it is clubs that announce the creation of a European competition. Until now, it was a project but there, they cross the Rubicon and are ready to supplant the Champions League . This declared and assumed desire is historic. It recalls the beginnings of football at the end of the 19th century when clubs created their national leagues parallel to federations in order to be able to become professionals. small clubs, and to constitute a format compatible with their economic model. In fact, the logic which animates this Super League is that which rhythms the history of European football since the end of the XIXth century“.

In this case, how is this decision a turning point?
“Until then, the clubs had always respected the federal framework. We have already seen pirate leagues, but they were always on the periphery of world football, for example in Colombia in the 1950s or in Australia. example of Italy in the early 1920s, with already big clubs like Juventus and Inter who wanted a championship apart. Periodically there have been examples, these conflicts are inherent in the history of football because that the federation must defend the interests of all footballers while a league defends those of professional clubs, of the richest.But the current crisis is unique. It touches the essential competition that is the Champions League with a real desire for divorce. Until now the big clubs were a lobby, there they break with sporting equity, with the principle of free competition, and become a power. The other historical aspect is that there is a desire to follow the American model of the NBA. By creating a closed Super League, we want to break with the European model of promotion-relegation which ensured a kind of continuity between the amateur club and the professional club. The goal is to get the slices of the global sports pie “.

Does this announcement come as a surprise to you?
“What surprises me is the speed, I imagined that in the next 5 to 10 years. Without a doubt, the Covid has precipitated things. But otherwise, not at all: the Super League is the culmination of ‘a process that began in the 1980s: football business. Since then, a club is often considered as a business. The sporting objective is no longer the priority, it is the economic objective that becomes it. Some are very successful. well to combine the two, like Olympique Lyonnais in France. The Super League is a competition that is not necessarily created to win it but to play it and generate income. It is very damaging for the history of European football and that of many historic clubs eliminated from this process, but it is a logic that is coming to an end“.

Is it a reform that goes in the direction of the history of sport?
“This is in line with the history of sport if we consider that this history of professional sport is marked by the desire to find formats that make it possible to ensure greater resources. It is already the logic that has prevailed. brought to the creation of the Champions League in 1993. In other words, it goes in the direction of football business yes. But sport has other dimensions. which the social ascent of the player, of the club is allowed. It is part of this imaginary of football. But there, no, the Super League breaks this dynamic and will have disastrous effects on the football ecosystem. – being super rich who goes against the culture of national football. “

What steps have European football taken to this advent of business football?
In fact, from the very beginning, professional football started this path from the moment it was linked to industrial fortunes. Who says businessmen says business logic which varies according to the projects. This is why Peugeot created FC Sochaux de Peugeot, Fiat took over Juventus Turin etc. Since the beginning, there has been a contamination of sporting logic by that of business, and it has accelerated over time. The other fundamental aspect is TV and the growing income it generates“.

By allowing the free movement of players, the Bosman ruling has also fueled this express liberalization of football, right?
“Obviously, today what we see follows from this stop in 1995. Before, we had a relative equal distribution of the best players in each country. After, we had a concentration of the best players in the world in a few clubs of a or two championships. We can see this clearly with French football which was gaining in strength before 1995, and which then collapsed. However, today the best clubs invest a lot to afford the best players. investments justify their having the right to decide, the right to afford a bigger slice of the pie, including TV rights. We also see several new rich in the list with Tottenham, Manchester City, Atlético Madrid . That means that it is a big money business, even if some have sporting legitimacy like me Real, Barça or Juve. ”

The Super League, is it an insult to the history of this sport?
“Football was built on national championships, national teams and international competitions. There we constitute a transnational football space, above the championships: there is no longer the need to be the best at home for go and challenge the best of other countries. It’s a real change, a real break with the European model which is based on this democracy of sport. Normally, you can be rich but lose and be relegated. In this Super League, you just have to to be rich. This model establishes the metropolization of European football. Moreover, the big clubs involved risk losing their identity by participating in these leagues, they position themselves as brands ultimately in a global TV product. loss of local identity. “

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