An American Sports Executive Is Pushing For More Exclusivity In European Football

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European football has a lot of problems, but few would look at it and say that the solution is to radically restructure it to make it more like MLS.

Yet that’s basically what an American sports executive is arguing as part of a push to make the biggest and most marketable clubs in Europe even richer— while shutting everyone else out.

Charlie Stillitano is the chairman of Relevent Sports, a US-based company focused on bringing international football to American markets. Among other things, they’re the principal organizers behind the International Champions Cup.

Stillitano, along with billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross, was in London this week for a secret meeting with five Premier League clubs to discuss changes to the Champions League and, reportedly, a European Super League. The reaction to the prospect of a breakaway league of Europe’s wealthiest elite has been swift and largely negative, forcing even the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea to do damage control.

Yesterday, Stillitano defended the idea of a more exclusive vision of European football in an interview on Sirius XM Radio. His thesis boils down to a need to restructure elite competition in Europe to focus on the biggest and most marketable clubs in the name of bigger profits.

Stillitano singled out Leicester City’s incredible run this season, putting them in contention for the Premier League title with less than ten games remaining in the season, as essentially a problem that needed to be solved.

What would Manchester United argue: did we create soccer or did Leicester create [it]? Let’s call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role, Manchester United or Leicester? It’s a wonderful, wonderful story – but you could see it from Manchester United’s point of view, too.

There’s, uh, a lot to unpack with that statement. Putting aside the short-sided (and self-serving) idea that the perspective and interest of the American soccer fan is the only one that matters, the notion that Manchester United created soccer is absurd. It’s something you’d expect to be thrown out ironically on Soccer Twitter, yet Stillitano was being entirely earnest.

He continued by pointing out that, if the season were to end today, Leicester would win the title and Tottenham would qualify for the Champions League, which is terrible news for the people who really matter— Manchester United and Liverpool fans.

Maybe that is absolutely spectacular unless you are a Manchester United fan, Liverpool fan … or a Chelsea fan. I guess they don’t have a birthright to be in it every year but it’s the age-old argument: US sports franchises versus what they have in Europe. There are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful elements to relegation and promotion and there are good arguments for a closed system.

Gotta hear both sides.

As we mentioned on Wednesday, it’s no accident that a lot of the noise surrounding a more exclusive Champions League or a European Super League is coming from American investors, who likely only see European football as a worthwhile investment if it can be made to function more like MLS. (Or the NFL.) It’s also no accident that this is happening in the midst of a power vacuum in Europe, with disgraced UEFA chief Michel Platini appealing his six year ban from football and Gianni Infantino recently getting a promotion and a big new office in Zurich. Between the Euros starting in a few months and billionaire sharks circling with renewed talks of a European Super League and an end to promotion and relegation as we know it, this is a bad time for all the adults to have gone.

But who knows? Maybe in five years we’ll be writing articles analyzing Saido Berahino’s trade to Aston Villa for Targeted Allocation Money.

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