For now at least, that European Super League nonsense is off the table. Ultimately it was halted by thousands of angry supporters who believe world football competitions should be based on sporting merit, not cherry-picked by billionaires with enough expendable income to form their own private club. It didn’t hurt that the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) threatened to boot teams from their domestic leagues and bar players from World Cup and other tournaments.
The owners of the clubs have been properly shamed, and the Super League is back to being a bad idea instead of a bad reality.
Scott Adamson writes stuff. Follow him on Twitter @adamsonsl and Instagram @scottscribe60
Still, all this got me thinking …
How would American fans react if the game they’re most passionate about went rogue? Just for fun – knowing it could never happen – let’s say 12 NFL owners decided to break away and form a new American football Super League in the spring.
According to Forbes the most valuable franchises in 2020 were the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams (those four are worth at least $4 billion), San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Washington Football Team, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, and Las Vegas Raiders. For our purposes, we’ll make them Super League members (although as a Jets fan I realize the word “Super” hasn’t been associated with Gang Green for more than half a century).
The NFL Super League would be divided into three, four team pools: The Giants, Jets, Patriots and Eagles in Pool A, Cowboys, Bears, Football Team and Texans in Pool B, and Rams, 49ers, Broncos and Raiders in Pool C.
Pool play would be round robin (six games per team) with the playoffs contested single-elimination style among the three pool winners and wildcard team.
Using my format, the NFL Super League would span eight weeks in April and May.
Is it ridiculous?
It’d be difficult for a cyborg to make it through a year-round football season, much less a human. And of course the NFL would never allow anything that didn’t involve all 32 of its cash cows.
But that’s not really my point – I’m thinking more about the perception of it all.
The 12 soccer renegades in the Super League (AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur) weren’t leaving their domestic leagues either – they were just creating a closed, big-money extravaganza outside of their regular season fixtures and other annual events. That’s what enraged supporters.
This NFL Super League would be (theoretically) doing the same thing. So when news broke about a norm-busting soccer series involving iconic clubs, I wondered how such an earth-shattering decision would be received by pro football fans. I assume that – unlike sports enthusiasts in Europe – Americans would be wildly excited about a gridiron super league, with TV ratings rivaling those of traditional playoffs. Sure, fans of the franchises left out would bitch and moan, but they’d be bitching and moaning while watching. And the reason they’d be watching (me included) is because those of us in the United States are conditioned to accept the franchise model.
According to Market Watch, the NFL is the most profitable sports league on the planet, raking in $13 billion annually. And teams don’t belong to a city or the citizens of a city (Green Bay being the notable exception). You might live in Atlanta and identify with the Falcons, but make no mistake – they belong to Arthur Blank, not you.
NFL owners will do what they want with little regard to the fan base, whether that’s threatening to move to another city unless they get a palatial new stadium or actually using moving vans and doing so in the middle of the night. That’s why, for example, the Baltimore Colts are now the Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders are the Las Vegas Raiders. A team might have a rabid, loyal fan base, but if an owner sees a better deal elsewhere he or she will pursue it. That’s how the world of the NFL turns and it has long since been accepted by those of us who follow tackle football.
It’s not, however, how European association football fans view their clubs because for them there is a real sense of ownership – sometimes literally. The leaders of the potential Super League clubs tried to tear a page from their peers across the pond, but underestimated how deeply ingrained these teams are to the culture and fabric of their cities and citizens. Roots run deep, and traditions span generations.
The beauty of global soccer is that any club – regardless of how far down the pyramid – has a path to reach the summit of the sport. Because results are the most important criteria, the smallest club can win its way to the top tier of soccer, raising the hopes and spirits of its community along the way. It’s a massive party, and everyone’s invited.
In the NFL, however, that’s not the case. We pay money to watch the franchises play, but those franchises are playing for the NFL, not us. It controls the dance and the dancers – and we’re perfectly happy to be wallflowers.