While many people are writing what a college football Super League might look and debate about whether Oregon or FSU belongs, I prefer to look at what we can learn from an attempt by some of the biggest sports brands in the world to hijack their sport and make the rich richer.
Make no mistake, soccer's Super League is failing because fans spoke up and their passion and anger could be heard across the globe. It put billionaire franchise owners in the corner of their large corporate office with nowhere to go.
It's not that fans in America care less about their sports teams. It's not that fans here understand corporate business better than those across the pond. It's just the structure of sports and what fans care about that is different.
Some of the owners of these soccer clubs who wanted to form the Super League are some of the same owners of teams in this country that run their business with their biggest priority being...money. It's not that John Henry, majority owner of Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox, doesn't care about baseball fans in New England and it's not that he doesn't support the many charities the team supports. But Henry also wants to suck every dollar he can from Fenway Park and that's why there are seats atop the Green Monster and sponsor signs everywhere inside the park.
Stan Kroenke, majority owner of Arsenal, moved the Rams back to Los Angeles because he had a chance to more than double the team value and own the $5.5 billion stadium the Rams and Chargers play in.
The Glazer sons, who own the Bucs, are majority owners of Manchester United. They have been in bed with JP Morgan for years so it was no surprise to learn the investment bank was putting up the $6B for the Super League. Manchester United is publicly traded and when the initial announcement was made about the Super League the stock from between 6-8% and that was worth almost $200M for the Glazers.
The beauty of soccer in countries like England is that those teams are the fabric of communities- some as big as London and some as small as Cambridge. In Cambridge, Abbey Stadium- with a capacity of 8,000, was built in 1932. Cambridge United was founded in 1912. They play in League Two, the fourth division of soccer in England. To residents of that town, their club represents them. Whoever owns that team may have a sheet of paper with their name on it that says owner, but the town is that team. And every year and every match they ride the roller coaster of emotions with the lads that wear their colors. Cambridge United sits atop the table in League Two. If they hold that position they will be promoted to League One. If that happens, a town celebrates and another chapter in their history is recorded.
But Cambridge United fans know this, no matter who owns their team it's not moving. No new stadium in a different town can lure Cambridge United to pick and leave. And even though the Glazer family is the majority shareholder of Manchester United, they are not going anywhere.
In this country, owners can play games with municipalities and make threats about the needs of a new stadium or arena. League rarely stand in the way of an owner who wants to move a team if makes that owner and the league more money.
The plan of the Super League was about money. But the fans saw such a plan as an attack on them and their passion for their clubs and the structure of their leagues that encourages success on the field and also offers the dangers of relegation.
Those fans expressed their anger and marched in the streets and made their passion the story. They didn't just call out billionaire owners from America, the Middle East, Russia and more- they embarrassed them. Fans, media and even political leaders voiced their views and the pressure mounted that some of the biggest brands who had committed to play in this Super League realized how challenging it would be to continue with such a plan.
Chairman of boards and club presidents and other front office members of these soccer brands were asked to resign and did so. Within one day after announcing their Super League, it was crumbling to the ground.
There will be fallout for weeks, months and years to come.
We often think that fans have little say in this country when it comes to the hiring and firing of a head coach or the trading of a player. But American fans can learn from what we are watching in Europe. Pro leagues grant franchises to cities and don't forget that. Owners are chosen based on how rich they are. It doesn't matter if they are from the city where they own a team or not. And while it is their money that allows them to become the owner, that team is supposed to be part of your town. When your owner tries to do something to your team you have a voice. Use it. You can impact that team in so many ways. Be passionate. Be a fan. You may realize the power you have can get things done.
Final thought: In 1973, George Steinbrenner- and group of investors- bought the New York Yankees for $8.8M. Today, the team is worth around $5.75B.
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