Hierarchy and Hubris: The European Super League Fiasco

With an estimated population of 3.5 billion worldwide, soccer fans are a horde to reckon with. Our topic today involves a situation that reverberated through this massive population and its associated institutions. 

The storm began on Sunday, 18th April, with an announcement that sprung dramatically out of nothingness. 

Some of the largest clubs in Europe planned to form their own cross-continental league. 

This league, the European Super League, would have 15 slots reserved for big-name clubs and 5 remnant slots that other clubs would compete over. It’s strongest proponent was (and still is) Florentino Perez, president of the Real Madrid Football, who stepped up as the chairman of the nascent Super League. 

The idea sparked uproar from football associations, politicians, managers, national governments, former and current players, and, last but not least, a significant percentage of the 3.5 billion-strong multitude we mentioned earlier. 

At the grassroots, long-time fans fuelled outrage. These fans felt betrayed by the same clubs they had followed and supported from childhood, for reasons we will mention in a minute.

At the organisational level, FIFA and UEFA (the global and European football associations, respectively) released statements condemning the idea. Both associations asserted they would ban players and teams that participated in the ESL from all other matches under their purview. 

The brunt of the criticism was directed at the league’s anti-competitive practices. Notably, the decision to reserve 15 spots for big-ticket clubs was met with a level of repugnance that would seem disproportionate to those unaware of the deep passions that run through the football world. 

For context, almost every other football association promotes a putative meritocracy. No slots are reserved for any teams, and even the smallest minnow harbors the hope that they could make it to the top on the strength of their performance and become one of the ‘big fish’.

Fans also opposed the manner in which the announcements were made. Players and managers were not consulted beforehand, with the decision coming directly from owners. 

We shall discuss the owners’ rationale for the ESL in a minute, but for now let us simply note that the decision appeared elitist, heavy-handed, and unreasonable. 


Discussions pertaining to forming a continental Super League go as far back as 1998. 

In 2021, these discussions gained further momentum, powered by various impacts of one of the most significant worldwide events since World War 2: the (ongoing) coronavirus pandemic.

Historically, a large chunk of club revenue comes from matchday revenue, which includes revenue from matchday tickets’ and season tickets’ sales. 

For elite clubs, commercial and broadcast revenue outstrip matchday revenue. As the CoVid pandemic bit deep into the economy, matchday revenues fell and many clubs faced (and continue to face) financial struggles – if not outright disaster. 

It is against this background that elite club owners decided a new competition was required to ‘save the game’. 

Founding clubs of this new competition were promised as much as €10 billion over the course of their initial commitment period. 

Without dipping too much into the details of the revenue breakdown, we can confirm that founding clubs would take home a larger proportion of league revenue than they currently do as part of the UEFA or as part of their home country’s football association.

The mind-boggling sums of money being discussed (in excess of €120 billion) were sourced from the coffers of renowned financial institution JP Morgan. 

For comparison, the annual GDP of Kenya is ~ €83 billion. The €120 billion associated with the European Super League is almost 50% higher than the aforementioned GDP.


In less than 72 hours, the league that would ‘change the game forever’ was no more. 

Within two days, fans (specifically British fans) showed up physically at key club properties to make their feelings known. Chelsea supporters besieged Stamford bridge, the club’s iconic football stadium. 

Cadiz supporters showed up in thousands outside a hotel where Real Madrid players were staying. 

The social media outrage did not die down. 

By Tuesday night, all six British ‘founder’ clubs made U-turns and announced their departure from the league. Chelsea was first to capitulate to the angry hordes, and the other Premier League clubs quickly followed suit. 

The worst losers from the entire debacle turned out to be the clubs. 

Their credibility shot, fan protests against the ESL have now spilled over into wider protests against foreign ownership. According to leaked documents, these clubs face up to €130 million in fines for withdrawing from the ESL. UEFA is reportedly considering sanctions against the offending clubs. The British government announced a football governance review, which will partly focus on the possibility of introducing new ownership models to reduce external investors’ outsized influence.

It is ironic that Florentino Perez wasn’t entirely wrong: the English Super League has changed the game permanently. 

The twin forces of socialist reform in English football and the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic are two powerful trends that are setting the stage for a dynamicity that football has not seen in a long time.

What does the future hold for the beautiful game? 

Only time will tell. 

Author’s Notes

  • An edited version of this article will be published in The Consulate, May edition. Visit The Consulate website for more information.
  • Special thanks to Anmol Garg. A die-hard football fan, his input was invaluable to the creation of this article. You can connect with him on his Instagram.

Bitcoin: The Future of Decentralized Finance?

This article was originally written for and published in the first edition of The Consulate, an up and coming magazine focusing on the analysis of macro-scale international occurrences.
The magazine is the brainchild of a fellow USIU-A alumni.
Click here to visit their webpage.
**End Note**

Decentralized Finance (commonly known as DeFi) is a hot trend, fuelled by the skyrocketing growth of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. 

DeFi encompasses several technologies that have one main commonality – they do not give one central entity the power to control transactions. 

For contrast, think of transactions made using platforms like Visa or PayPal. Such transactions have that specific company acting as an authority, middleman, and gatekeeper for each transaction. When you send someone money over PayPal, the company guarantees that you have sent the money and that the other person will receive it. 

In return, you lose some percentage of your transaction in the form of transaction fees. 

Zooming into Bitcoin, this cryptocurrency is a decentralised digital currency – it avoids centralised administrators or banks. Payments in Bitcoin happen peer-to-peer (from one individual directly to another) and do not require any intermediaries. 

Centralised currencies usually work in conjunction with a bank or other financial institution to provide a central point of control over the currency. With Bitcoin, decisions regarding money supply are agreed upon democratically. 

Transactions performed using Bitcoin are verified cryptographically by nodes on the network. These transactions are stored in a ledger that is available to all nodes on the network. This ledger, which is public and distributed, is what is known as the blockchain. 

Moving on to our next point of focus, let’s look at some macroeconomic trends of the year 2021, specifically concentrating on Bitcoin-related movements.

The 2020-2021 period has been a turbulent one for the economy. Experts have claimed (several times) that we are in an asset bubble, with both US stock prices* and crypto prices soaring beyond belief or understanding. What’s even more interesting is that we can’t see any end in sight, with governments pumping billions (or trillions) into the economy via stimulus packages.

In the US, retail traders are making themselves known as a force to reckon with. Excess liquidity due to a pandemic-related drop in consumption and government-sponsored stimulus checks allowed retail traders to make waves in the stock market, notably with the attempted stock squeeze on Gamestop and AMC (which, according to users on the Reddit forum r/wallstreetbets, might still not be over). 

Citadel securities estimate that retail trades made up over 20% of all trades in 2020, double the 2019 volume. While we do not have exact numbers for 2021, it is not unreasonable to assume that increased social media-driven interest in retail trading has driven that number up to at least 25%.

We are, as cliche as the word has become, in unprecedented macroeconomic waters. 

To hammer home this point, let’s look at the performance of BitCoin through 2021. 

In the first three months of 2021, bitcoin’s value jumped 70%. Its closest physical comparable, gold shed approximately 5% in the same timeframe. In comparison, the three main stock indices in the US (Dow Jones, S&P, Nasdaq) are all up between 4% and 5%**.

It is clear that Bitcoin, in the first 3 months of 2021, outperformed every traditional investment. 

I will not decompose the performances of all the different cryptocurrencies in this article due to time and space constraints, but I will point out that:

  • The broader crypto market has also seen massive gains, well in advance of 25% for many cryptocurrencies.
  • No major cryptocurrency has matched the massive growth exhibited by Bitcoin.

Returning to the topic at hand, we have to ask ourselves: why has Bitcoin’s value jumped so high? 

Speculation has fuelled growth to some extent, and another factor we should consider is the rise in institutional interest in and uptake of the cryptocurrency. Just this year, we have seen the following institutional moves related to Bitcoin:

  • Grayscale added over $2 billion worth of BTC to their holdings
  • Tesla bought $1.5 billion worth of BTC
  • The City of Miami announced the addition of BTC to their balance sheet
  • PayPal announced they would allow payments in BTC in 2021
  • Coinbase announces a proposed public listing, opening up billions of dollars in institutional investment to BTC and crypto in general. 

Our list is by no means comprehensive, but clearly puts across a salient point: Bitcoin’s powerful first-mover advantage and increased institutional inflows make it clear the cryptocurrency is here to stay. 


* focus is placed on the US stock market due to its disproportionate impact on world markets
** as of time of writing (08/03/2021)

Notes from the author

  • While it is my honest belief that cryptocurrency is an excellent investment vehicle, I strongly clarify that this is not investment advice. Cryptocurrency markets are amongst the most volatile in the world, so do your research before investing.
  • Once again, this is not investment advice.
  • To the moon and beyond, fellow HODLERS.