Sitting in the airport in Geneva I asked the guy next to me, ‘Surely there’s a danger that the other side might walk away?’ The answer was, ‘Well you have to understand that there is nothing else like this out there, if they walk away – somebody else will take their place’.
He was talking about the Champions League. This was a conversation I had a number of years ago with an exclusive marketing company that worked on behalf of UEFA. The bottom line was that UEFA had such a dominant position in these commercial conflict discussions, that there wasn’t actually much conflict – i.e. That’s the price. Those are the terms.
Not so surprising in what was in essence a monopoly situation, but of course everything changes over time….
Fast forward to the present day, soccer is now an even bigger global brand, and it seems like UEFA and FIFA are struggling to keep the bloated genie in the bottle. I have a huge amount of sympathy for the view that the Super League is a potential attack on the very fabric of football.
Remember though, there are more issues at play here - not just the soul of soccer. I imagine those big brands that found it difficult to negotiate Champions League rights in the past will watch current events unfolding with much interest - people and organisations can have very long memories. The birth of a Super League would present those brands with another premier football option, potentially damaging the associated UEFA revenue streams.
If however, the move by the Super League is a commercial conflict tactic, UEFA will need to be very careful in offering any improved commercial terms in the full glare of publicity, the spectre of precedent may be waiting in the wings in future.
Conflict often escalates because the attention shifts from the task or objective to the relationship. I’d suggest that the major ‘players’ move away from the emotive language ‘spitting in the face of football’ and focus on being objective – with of course a healthy dose of empathy and creativity!
Sam Macbeth 20th April 2021