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The European Super League: What Is It and What Does It Mean for Roma?

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As per usual, Roma are on the periphery of this one. But that doesn’t mean what happens next won’t be critical for the Giallorossi.

France v Turkey -EURO Qualifier Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images

A European Super League has been rumored for quite some time, but it was always a nebulous concept, something that seemed to be more of a bargaining tactic when it came time to renegotiate television deals with UEFA or FIFA than an actual long-term plan. That all seemed to change this morning, however, when a spate of articles from the New York Times, ESPN, and Sky Sports were published. All of these outlets agree that the Super League is closer to reality than previously thought.

And, moments ago, the 12 charter members were confirmed by multiple outlets:

So, let's take a look at the Super League nuts and bolts and what it might mean for Roma and the future of domestic football in Europe.

Super League Rumors Quickly Becoming Real

Manchester United v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

As of right now, there are twelve clubs expected to sign on to the Super League: from England, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur; from Italy, Juventus, Inter Milan, and AC Milan; and from Spain, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid. Reports suggest that Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Münich have been asked to join the Super League as well, but both clubs have so far rejected the proposal.

If these clubs moved to a Super League, they would ostensibly leave the Champions League and Europa League behind, as well as their domestic leagues (potentially). The key benefit these super-clubs will gain by moving away from the current system (beyond getting scads of money, of course) is that the European Super League won’t have relegation for any of these founding clubs. Arsenal, Tottenham, or AC Milan could be the worst clubs in the Super League every single year, but they won’t ever have to worry about a Leicester City or an Atalanta boxing them out of lucrative matches against the biggest clubs in the world. The Super League essentially promises “super matches” every week while ensuring that no “super-club” could face real challenges to the established hierarchy.

FIFA and UEFA Respond Harshly

FBL-SUDAN-POLITICS Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images

Naturally, FIFA, UEFA, and the domestic football associations are not exactly thrilled by the prospect of a breakaway movement by their most lucrative clubs. After the first reports of the Super League broke, any organization even remotely associated with European football roundly condemned the proposed Super League, with FIFA and UEFA even suggesting they will ban any associated players from national team play:

That’s as strong of a statement that these organizations could possibly make about the Super League, and it’s easy to see why they’d be so vehemently against it. Even beyond the obvious ideals of club mobility and protecting historical significance, the domestic top-flight leagues affected would probably cease to exist if these super-clubs left them behind; similarly, a UEFA without a real Champions League would have to be drastically reimagined.

What It Means For Roma

AS Roma v Ajax - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: Leg Two Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images

You’ll notice that the plans for the European Super League don’t mention everyone’s favorite almost-super-club, the Associazione Sportiva Roma. The cynics among you might say that there’s good reason for that; the Giallorossi are sitting in seventh place in Serie A right now and certainly aren’t in the same financial class as Juventus, Real Madrid, or Liverpool. Since I’m a more optimistic type, and also don’t really think Stan Kroenke’s mid-table Arsenal are far ahead of Roma in any way, shape, or form, I’ll point you to an interesting line from the New York Times article on the Super League:

The leaders of the breakaway group have been trying to get other top teams, like Germany’s Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund and the French champion Paris St.-Germain, to commit. But to date those clubs — and others — have declined to walk away from the domestic structures and Continental competitions that have underpinned European soccer for generations.

If there were a club that fits the bill of a potential new member of the Super League if not for cautious new ownership, it’s Roma. The Giallorossi only got new management last August, and considering that Jim Pallotta’s Roma were always in the mix as a member of the Super League, you’d think the same courtesy would be given to Roma’s new, wealthier management. The fact that the Giallorossi aren’t on this list makes me think that the Friedkins are understandably hesitant to enter the lion’s den so quickly into their tenure with the club.

Because all of this is still speculative, though, we’re not really sure where a Super League would leave Roma. One has to imagine that if it becomes a reality, the Giallorossi would find it necessary to take part; all of that talk about becoming one of the biggest clubs in Europe would be totally moot if they can’t break into this Super League. Even if they are offered permanent membership in the Super League along with their Northern Italian brethren, I certainly hope that Roma and European football avoid this huge change to the structure of club football. Indeed, it’s easy to see how such a competition could prove to be a trap for a club of Roma’s stature. What if the Super League just becomes a license for Roma to lose to the biggest clubs in football year-round? If the Giallorossi’s “easiest” match each season is against a club like Arsenal, and any hope of winning silverware requires defeating most of the other super-clubs, where would that leave them?

As this looks like it will be the biggest story in club football for quite some time to come, expect further updates from us here at Chiesa di Totti as the story develops. It will certainly be fascinating to see where the Giallorossi might fit into the scheme for a new Super League.

Update:

Here is a good thread from a journalist who received access to the earliest Super League documents, particularly as it relates to the financial structure of the league.