Private organization, a real stake and a real danger

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The Super League project announced on Sunday goes further than the creation of an almost closed league to succeed an already more open league. Over the years, formulas and reforms, UEFA has continued to give ground to the demands of the most vindictive clubs by increasing the number of matches and minimizing the risk of elimination for the bigger ones.

Read also: The European Super League is unanimous against it

Above all, the European Football Union has replaced the vertical division at the start (European Cup of Champions Clubs, European Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Cup) with a horizontal division: Champions League for the best , Europa League for the means and, from this summer, Conference League for the others and the Swiss clubs. Brewing, Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, meritocracy or the chance given to everyone: these great ideas still exist but at an increasingly theoretical level.

UEFA has done all of this for one purpose: to stay in control. And it is this control that she risks losing with the creation of the Super League. The 12 founding clubs do not only guarantee a presence within their competition, they also ensure the organization, the mode of financing and the key to redistribution. In 1956, the newspaper The team He quickly ceded the organization of the European Cup to UEFA, which he had created a year earlier, because launching the idea was enough for him. Controlling the product and shaping it is today the sinews of this Civil War.

A public good?

The phenomenon is not unique to football, which is even rather an exception. Many sports federations today face direct competition from private organizers, sometimes totally foreign to sport such as billionaires Konstantin Grigorishin in swimming (International Swimming League) or Frank McCourt in equestrianism (Global Champions League), sometimes from other sports such as footballer Gerard Piqué, who redeemed Davis Cup tennis. Competition also comes from competitions that have become more powerful than their sport, such as the Grand Slam tournaments in tennis or the Tour de France in cycling, which the group The team did not give up.

The risk of a private organization is that which accompanies any logic of privatization: the search for cost reduction and profit maximization. In sport, what costs is often what creates a social link: training, education, inclusion. The danger lies in this capture without compensation of activities which, rightly or wrongly, are sometimes considered to be of public good. Many European countries guarantee the broadcast of the grand finals (Champions League, World Cup) or heritage events (Tour de France, Wimbledon) on public media or accessible to all.

“We can blame things on UEFA, FIFA or the IOC but these sports bodies still have in mind the concern to redistribute to develop sport, while the purpose of Red Bull is to sell cans ”, Fabien Ohl explained last week, in the dossier that Time dedicated to the future of sport. For the sociologist from the University of Lausanne, these questions on the organization of sport “also refer to what type of society we want”.