The Premier League, fiercely protecting the Beautiful Game

Those who are in favor of leaving weekends for European competition and consigning national league fixtures to days during the working week have already managed to jam their foot in the door. Elsewhere, the Women’s Champions League, a UEFA tournament, has already started playing games at the weekend. This year, both semi-finals (Barcelona vs Bayern; Olympique Lyon vs Chelsea) will be played on a Sunday (the first leg on 21 April, the return, a week later). That’s caused a bit of hassle here in Spain because both ties clash with the culmination of the women’s domestic league, the Liga Iberdrola. The antepenultimate and penultimate fixtures are programmed to take place those weekends (21 and 28 April) with two teams neck and neck at the top of the table (three points separate leaders Atlético Femenino and Barcelona Femení). Under normal circumstances, Barça and Atleti would have played their last two respective games on the same day and at the same time. It’s a bit of a hot potato for the Spanish Football Federation who are keen to protect and promote the women’s league competition.

Super League plot

It’s not a completely new arrangement - last year’s semi-finals also took place on Sunday, but seeing as there were no Spanish teams involved, it wasn’t an issue. It is now though. And it reminds me of the latent threat from that little group of agnellis and florentinos who craftily conspired in a bid to reserve weekends for their proposed new European Super League. They’ve started to feel stifled in the traditional, national league and so they want to create their own exclusive tournament; they envisage a future of huge, imposing stadiums – closed off, first of all to the rain, then later to all of the lower level clubs, with whom they no longer have the slightest interest in playing. And they’ve also got Aleksander Ceferin in their pocket.

The Premier League is fine as it is

But the Premier League is having none of it. The Premier League values its own league competition with the same strength and in the same way that the English revere and defend all of their great traditions. For them - and for many others - everything is fine and dandy just the way it is now – on the one hand they have a great domestic league, one which is hugely popular, with great rivalries and an enviable television model which generates large revenues; and on the other hand, they also have a Champions League in which not only do the league winners qualify, as was the case many years ago, but as many as four teams – as is the case with Spain. They are the protectors of the statu quo because beginning a newfangled fantasy league without both of the Manchester clubs, the three top London clubs and Liverpool would be unthinkable. The statement which the Premier League issued yesterday couldn’t have been better timed.