In the broader history of really terrible business decisions, there are lots of private decisions — Blockbuster passing on the opportunity to buy Netflix for $50 million and the entire newspaper industry’s bungling of the internet revolution, for example. The standard for nearly four decades, though, because it was so dreadfully public, has been New Coke.
We may have a new loser in this derby.
(We should pronounce that dar-bee, by the way, to fit the topic).
The decision Tuesday by Chelsea FC to file paperwork to withdraw from the proposed Super League competition that was designed to revolutionize European soccer may cause the entire enterprise to unravel. BBC subsequently reported that Manchester City also had chosen to withdraw. It soon was reported that Atletico Madrid was planning to withdraw, but Chelsea and City always can say they were the ones who Jenga’d this thing to the ground.
Those decisions came less than 48 hours after the Super League’s introduction late Sunday.
Hey, Coca-Cola didn’t acknowledge defeat and commence shipping its “Classic” formula for nearly three months after its 1985 blunder.
If it were to develop to fruition, the Super League effectively would supersede the current UEFA Champions League tournament that is the richest and most prestigious in world soccer. The founding members were to be constantly involved, while a smaller group would have the opportunity to qualify to compete. That constant presence of the richest and most prestigious clubs in England, Spain and Italy infuriated soccer fans who expressed belief that all teams should be required to qualify for such a competition.
The response to Super League has been so overwhelmingly negative, it seems unlikely that the other 10 founding members can continue moving forward, though one never should underestimate the stubbornness of billionaires.
Liverpool fans hung banners on the gates outside the club’s Anfield stadium, including one proclaiming the club’s death date as “2021.” Fans who decorate the Kop — the end zone stand that is so fiercely loud during big games at Anfield — are removing the banners that have taken the place of spectators during the pandemic. Leeds players wore UEFA Champions League T-shirts prior to their Monday game against LFC that said “EARN IT” beneath the competition’s familiar logo. Sassuolo manager Roberto De Zerbi discussed with his team the possibility of boycotting a Serie A game against Super League founding club AC Milan scheduled for Wednesday.
Chelsea fans staged a massive protest outside the Stamford Bridge stadium. Whether that precipitated ownership’s desire to withdraw is impossible to say. But Manchester United fans noticed and are planning a similar rally for Saturday afternoon outside Old Trafford. They likely won’t need to follow through. The resignation of Man U executive vice president Edward Woodward Tuesday, as reported by Sky Sports, appeared to be another response to the obvious failure of the Super League plan.
Most menacing: FIFA president Gianni Infantino made a public speech in which he warned the Super League clubs, “If some elect to go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choice. They are responsible for their choice. Concretely, this means either you are in, or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out. This has to be absolutely clear.”
That warning can be read as a reinforcement of UEFA president Aleksander Seferin’s promise that players for Super League clubs will not be permitted to compete in the quadrennial Euro championships and World Cup, prestigious events to which nearly every soccer player in the world aspires.
All of this does not assure the Super League founders will withdraw their proposal. But they are down to 11 clubs. Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain all declined to participate. And other potential entrants witnessed the furious backlash against the founders. This is not an ideal environment in which to sign up other possible entrants.
The original goal was 15 founding members and five participants qualifying from year to year. Super League announced its formation with only 12 founders in place, with three high-profile rejections and now with two defectors following the briefest of stays. How Super can a league be if so few want to be involved?
A drone ant gets to live only three days. But, as it turns out, that might be longer than the Super League.