Gary Neville on European Super League proposals

To me, many of the US "franchise" leagues have always seemed like vain cosplays of athletic enterprise. It's not that there's no talent involved, because I'm sure there are great individual athletes and great coaches, it's that there are no stakes.

In most leagues, in most sports, if you don't do well enough, you fall down one rung of the ladder, or you have to play a qualifier against one of the best performing teams in the division just below. This keeps the sport fresh, the teams giving their all and management and players from resting on their laurels. In a US-style franchise league, if a team collapses totally, they collapse totally, but that's all that happens. A game between two teams near the bottom of the table can be exciting because there are real stakes at hand. A team on the ascent can rise through the leagues quickly, and a team that doesn't know what it's doing can plummet through them.

Today's "European Super League" proposal has been met with near-universal scorn from fans of soccer all over the world. Every team benefits from the mobility of the current system. The top leagues all over Europe (and all over most of the world) are the topmost protrusions of a deep system of similar leagues. It's about advancement and setbacks, it's about solidarity, it's about improvement over time, having goals and meeting them. It's about matching the complementary skills of different players against a tableau of similar choices from the opposite team. It's about working your way to a better place. It's about dealing with the real world, where you get more than five consecutive non-TV-ad minutes, and where sometimes you go head to head for a long time and pour every ounce of energy you've got into the struggle, and the result is a tie. It is also, more than ever, about money, of course, but no one can buy their way out of the fundamental conditions of the game.

Gary Neville, legendary defender at Manchester United with a storied career in the England national team, explains better than I can in the linked clip what the specific problems are with the European Super League.

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