European Super League: Amid widespread outcry, investors cheer

Apr 20, 2021
While inclusion would bring new revenue for founding clubs, there remains much uncertainty about whether the new competition will go ahead

The announcement of a new European Super League (ESL) by 12 soccer clubs has been greeted with widespread opposition. 

A range of players, coaches, national football associations and even world leaders have voiced opposition, with many complaints saying the plans go against the spirit of open competition and are motivated by greed. 

But one group appears to be cheering in support: investors. Two of the founding clubs are quoted on the stock market, and their share prices surged yesterday following the official launch of the ESL.

UK club Manchester United, which is listed on the NYSE, saw its share price close around 7 percent higher on Monday. Italian team Juventus advanced even further, rising 16 percent on the Borsa Italiana in Milan.

In addition, German side Borussia Dortmund, which is not among the 12 founding clubs but has an invitation to join, saw its Frankfurt-listed shares climb nearly 11 percent.

In early European trading on Tuesday, shares of Juventus and Borussia Dortmund gave up some of their gains from the previous day.

The new competition would see founding clubs play every year without fear of relegation, in contrast to the existing Champions League where teams must qualify through their own national leagues. JPMorgan Chase is financing the ESL with an initial grant of €3.25 bn ($3.9 bn). 

Discussions about a breakaway league have been under way for years, but the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on soccer teams has hastened the plans. 

‘The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model,’ says a statement released by the clubs. 

Criticism of the new league has been fierce. Ex-Manchester United player Gary Neville said he was ‘disgusted’ by the plan while UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would ‘look at everything we can do’ to block it. 

While inclusion in the ESL would bring significant new revenue for the founding clubs, there remains much uncertainty about whether the proposals will go ahead and what changes could occur to the format. 

In a statement on its website, Juventus acknowledges the future of the league is unclear.

The Italian club says it expects the ESL to ‘create long-term value for the company and for the football industry as a whole’ but ‘cannot assure that the project will be eventually successfully launched or predict the exact timing of the project.’

As a result, it says it ‘does not have all the necessary elements to assess in detail the impact of the Super League on its financial and economic conditions and performance.’

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