Super League collapse: New Apple document goes deep into football ‘coup’ attempt

To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the richest football clubs are different from you and me. They are sports for the world’s super-rich, luxury yachts built on sports far removed from their working-class roots. Soccer, especially in Europe, has long felt at the crossroads between the desires of rich clubs (more revenue to continue their galactic spending sprees) and those unable to compete in the solar system and wanting to support the game’s community. – Root based.

That contrast and push and pull is told extraordinarily well in Apple TV’s newly released four-part documentary, “Super League: The War for Football,” by executive producer and director Jeff Zimbalist. Filmmaking focuses on – and ultimate failure — of a proposed “Super League” competition between Europe’s most popular teams. The Super League was launched around 2021 and featured the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Juventus and others competing in the often-exclusive competition. Had it succeeded, it would have ended the importance of the Champions League. (And the saga May not be completely finished yet.)

Zimbalist, who along with his brother, Michael, directed the sensational “The Two Escobars” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” in 2010, makes what is essentially a sports business story a compelling piece of filmmaking. He does so with remarkable access to key players in the saga, including Alexander Ceferin, the leader of the Confederation of European Football Associations (UEFA); Andrea Agnelli, scion of Italy’s most famous family and then head of Italian team Juventus; Florentino Perez, longtime president of Real Madrid; Javier Tebas, President of Truth Telling La LigaAnd all sorts of various other characters, including politicians and top football reporters.

“When the story broke in April 2021, it was shocking,” Zimbalist said. “It was the one coup d’état Attempts at the highest offices of power within the world’s largest sports industry. This will obviously have an impact beyond sports in economics, culture and politics. Rarely do we get a chance to lift the hood and see the machinery at work. It’s a $40 billion-a-year industry where most decisions are made behind closed doors by men in suits and we hear about it later and are left to guess how we arrived at those decisions.

“Football is in an identity crisis right now. We cling to the values ​​of the working people’s game of the past, reluctantly accepting the inevitability of the present that this is an entertainment business. Those two forces were pitted against each other here, and this was a chance to go behind those closed doors.”

The documentary is divided into four episodes, representing the four days since the announcement of the Super League in April 2021 and the subsequent crash. European football leaders held their summit in Montreux, Switzerland, after the league’s alarming reaction in Europe. Zimbalist calls his documentaries character-driven thrillers that look at questions about whether soccer culture can be owned.

The film fuses archival footage, with power players like Čeferin and Agnelli agreeing to let the filmmakers recreate what happened during the four days of that UEFA Congress. Zimbalist said he believed he had access from all parties (FIFA President Gianni Infantino was the only power player who refused the filmmakers’ request for an interview) because all parties involved know that the war is still being waged in the court of public opinion.
The total running time of the documentaries is 223 minutes, with each episode lasting between 53 and 59 minutes.

“For an American audience, you need to explain the whole pyramid system and how promotion and relegation work,” Zimbalist said. “You need to give some context as to why the fans in Europe feel that it’s their birthright, that they own these teams, whereas in America we certainly feel that the fans are the customers. That’s capitalism. ‘What is social democracy?’ ?’ So that context felt like it needed enough room to breathe, and we wanted to explain things in a way that didn’t feel like it was information overload or an essay on sports economics.

“On the other hand, you want to make it short enough that you can make the thriller components of it and the story drama work. We looked at the four days between April 17 and April 20, 2021 when it unfolded, so structurally each episode could be one of those days.” As an opportunity.

Zimbalist believes it is irrelevant how he personally feels about the prospect of the Super League. His goal as a filmmaker was to let each viewer process what was best for European football in the long term.

“I think my job is to try to be as persuasive as possible for both arguments,” Zimbalist said. “I see the arguments on both sides, and I’m fascinated by how football shows itself as a mirror of our changing values ​​at a certain moment in history.” I think, realistically, there are turbulent times ahead and there will be some growing pains. But I’m also hopeful that the roots of the game that have made it so magical for more than 150 years will find a way to continue to write the future of the game.

Go deeper

Plans for new ‘attack’ on new-look Super League football, warns Tebas

Episode 269 of the Sports Media Podcast features a roundtable sports media discussion with Boston Globe sports media writer Chad Finn and Sports Business Journal managing editor/digital Austin Karp. In this podcast, Deitsch, Finn, and Karp discuss NFL wild-card weekend; ESPN’s Cowboys-Bucks coverage; Greg Olsen; Tony Romo; Al Michaels; Tony Dungy; Tom Brady’s Future; Fred Gaudelli; Netflix’s sports documentaries, including “Break Point”; Apple TV+’s “Super League: The War for Football”; Australian Open coverage and more.

(Photo: Rob Pinney/Getty Images)


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