(CN) --- The world of soccer: In three days, it went from shock to fury to joy. In three days, Europe's biggest soccer clubs became the biggest losers.
On Sunday, 12 of Europe's richest and most powerful soccer clubs – among them Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Juventus – rocked the soccer universe by announcing plans to compete among themselves in a new league fashioned more along the lucrative American sports model of closed, and more business-friendly, leagues.
By Wednesday morning, after an outpouring of fury and faced with an avalanche of legislative and legal fights, the 12 clubs – all of them from Britain, Spain and Italy – had retreated and scrapped plans – for now, at least – to form the new league.
With billions of dollars in lost revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic, Europe's big clubs said they needed to urgently find a new model to not only revive their finances but also bring excitement back into the sport. They argued this new league, called the European Super League, would do just that.
Imagine it, they argued: Every week, Europe's biggest soccer stars battle it out as they gallop from one big stadium to the next across Europe. Their critics imagined something else: Even bigger TV contracts for the few, more sponsorships for the few, the biggest stars and clubs getting even bigger. Others imagined their old “local” teams becoming even less local as the new league goes global with the potential entry of New York- or Los Angeles-based teams into the Super League. Fear this, critics said: The biggest European teams, already worth billions, reap even more profits as they play the must-watch games week in and week out and leave scraps for everyone else to survive on.
The proposal landed with a gigantic thud and unleashed a tidal wave of condemnation from fans, soccer rivals, former players, government leaders, soccer officialdom and celebrities. Even the House of Windsor expressed its disapproval through Prince William.
“I’m heartbroken by it, genuinely heartbroken by it,” James Corden, the host of "The Late Late Show" and a Londoner with a passion for soccer, told his American audience. “I’m heartbroken because the owners of these teams have displayed the worst kind of greed I’ve ever seen in sport.”
His favorite team, West Ham, was not one of the six English clubs in the English Premier League joining the new league.
The clubs getting on board with the Super League were pilloried.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly declared to the head of the Premier League that the new league was “anti-competitive” and that he would like to “drop a legislative bomb to stop it.” Other government leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, came out against the idea.
UEFA, the union of Europe's soccer associations, and FIFA, the world soccer association, fiercely denounced the project. UEFA threatened to ban the breakaway clubs from competing in national leagues and even said players on those teams would be kicked off national teams. Huge legal fights brewed.
“I cannot stress more strongly how everyone is united against this disgraceful, self-serving proposal, fueled by greed above all else,” UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin declared, opening a nasty fight with some of soccer's most powerful team owners. Team owners blasted UEFA and said its Champions League, Europe's top cross-border tournament, was failing the sport.
Fans were shocked and furious. In Britain, they showed up at stadiums to express their disgust. Protests broke out on Monday when Liverpool arrived in Leeds to play a match. Liverpool was under fire for joining the new league and Leeds United players sported T-shirts that read, “Football is for the fans.” Leeds was not part of the Super League.