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Chelsea fans protest outside Stamford Bridge stadium in London Chelsea fans protest outside Stamford Bridge stadium in London, against Chelsea’s decision to be included among the clubs attempting to form a new European Super League, April 20, 2021 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

The Role of Gulf Money in the European Super League’s ‘Own Goal’

Monday, April 26, 2021
Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it.

What does the Middle East have to do with the spectacular launch, crash and burn of the European Super League? Though indirect, the influence of Gulf Arab state backers’ financial largesse on European soccer played a major role in the shifts that gave birth to the ESL, as the league became known in its brief moment in the spotlight.

On Sunday April 18, soccer fans from around the world were transfixed, and mostly outraged, by the announcement that the owners of 12 illustrious European soccer teams had come together to form a breakaway “super league.” As it now stands, European soccer is organized around national leagues, whose top clubs then qualify to compete in several continent-wide championships. The ESL would have created a permanent group of teams to compete every year, eliminating the opportunity for smaller clubs to qualify, but also removing these high-profile teams from the other European tournaments, thereby undermining their appeal. In so doing, it would have also locked in current inequalities in European soccer and exacerbated them going forward. ...

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