European Super League Derided as 'Americanization' of Soccer, But U.S. Fans Hate it Too

A controversial soccer competition proposed in Europe this week was blasted as the Americanization of the so-called Beautiful Game.

But while some fans slung blame at the U.S., in part because several teams involved have wealthy American owners, fans of the sport who live stateside also expressed disdain at the prospective European Super League.

The contest was launched initially with 12 of soccer's biggest teams set to be involved. These would be "founding clubs," qualifying for the competition each season automatically.

However, after a fierce backlash from fans over the contest's format, several clubs have already announced plans to pull out, including all of the English teams.

In the U.S., the concept of the same teams being in a league in perpetuity is the norm—but for soccer in Europe, or football as it's known there, the contests are in constant flux.

Teams can be relegated to lower divisions, or promoted higher if they're successful. For continent-wide contests, teams qualify based on how well they do in their home country.

"I think people should like the fact that winning and losing matters in a way it doesn't in American sports," Andrew Tripp, a member of the New York City branch of the Manchester City supporters club who has followed the team from the U.S. for the last 25 years, told Newsweek.

"In football, aside from MLS and a very few other leagues, if you don't perform, you get relegated. You have to fight for and earn your position.

"In a game, a business that has become (and probably always was) fundamentally dishonest and driven by money above all, it's one of the few honest things left about it.

"The American franchise model is horrible to me for that; there's ultimately no real consequences for owners who choose to neglect their teams."

John Pepper, president of the New York City Manchester City supporters club and originally from the U.K., said he thinks this dynamic is one enjoyed by people in the U.S. watching the sport.

"Footy is gaining popularity in the US; it flows, is a team sport instead of a gladiatorial contest between quarterbacks, or pitcher vs batter, and soccer is not (yet) crammed with sponsor messages," he said.

"The Premier League has caught on, and there's something riding on game results for almost all teams."

Alex Goldberg, a U.S.-born and based fan of London's Chelsea Football Club who runs The Byline podcast discussing the team, told Newsweek that he does not think the relegation system of European football would work in American sports—and similarly that removing it would not work for soccer in Europe.

On the contrasts to U.S. sports and soccer, Goldberg said: "Right away I appreciated the difference in this sport. This sport is deep-rooted into who people are.

"I'm speaking for many who are from America: They appreciate the fact this sport is so full of tradition. It's full of possibility and hope. It's full of romanticism."

chelsea super league protest
Petr Cech (front center), a legendary Chelsea F.C. player, talking with fans protesting against the European Super League before the Premier League match between Chelsea and Brighton & Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge on April 20, 2021 in London, United Kingdom. Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Goldberg spoke of the possibility—even if it is against the odds—of teams from the lower divisions being able to work up to become and play against the biggest and best sides.

"There can be a story, there can be drama, there can be the unexpected," he said, adding that a contest such as the Super League would remove "hope and purpose" from the game.

"As an American, I realize this sport is supposed to be the way it is," he said. "This sport means a hell of a lot."

Arsenal America also released a statement on the league, questioning the lack of "competitive fairness."

"Football exists atop ideals of competitive fairness and respect for your opponents and the game itself. There's little concrete information on the proposed Super League but what is clear is that it abandons those ideals," its statement said.

"The members of Arsenal America have an up-close and personal insight into the dangers of close-league systems. We have one in this country—one driven by commercial interests and rather than sporting interests.

"A bread and circuses league, astroturfed into existence at the expense of the sport rather than earned from the glories of the game itself, may have the immediate backing of billions of dollars but is borne on the backs of the people you most need—the supporters themselves."

The European Super League has prompted a widespread backlash, with its closed format which would see a set of teams remain in place permanently brought into question.

British newspaper The Telegraph branded it "the obvious next step in the Americanisation of European football."

super league placard at elland road
A placard with a message against plans for a European Super League outside Elland Road ahead of the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Liverpool in Leeds, northern England, on April 19, 2021. Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

The Washington Post ran an analysis with the headline "The Americanization of the global game reaches a tipping point."

And an opinion piece in the English local newspaper The Blackpool Gazette said the move would be the "the ultimate 'Americanisation' of our system (or should that be Americanization?)."

The American fans' comments and those opinion pieces came prior to details of several teams pulling out of the contest.

Following the backlash, including a protest outside Chelsea Football Club's stadium in London on Tuesday night, each of the six English teams involved announced plans to withdraw from the Super League contest.

These were Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. Italian side Inter Milan has also detailed its exit from the proposed contest, as has Spanish side Atletico Madrid.

Italian side Juventus' chairman has also said he does not think the project can go ahead now these teams have withdrawn.

The Super League issued a statement on Wednesday, which insisted it felt change to the current system was necessary.

"The European Super League is convinced that the current status quo of European football needs to change," the statement read, adding that it plans to "reshape" the project.

"Despite the announced departure of the English clubs, forced to take such decisions due to the pressure put on them, we are convinced our proposal is fully aligned with European law and regulations as was demonstrated today by a court decision to protect the Super League from third party actions," the statement continued.

"Given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidarity payments for the entire football community."

Newsweek has contacted representatives of the Super League for comment.

chelsea fans at super league protest
Fans of Chelsea Football Club protest against the European Super League outside Stamford Bridge on April 20, 2021 in London, England. Rob Pinney/Getty Images