“As soon as practicable after the start of the men’s competition, a corresponding women’s league will also be launched, helping to advance and develop the women’s game.”
These twenty-seven words — out of 733 — were the only mention of the women’s game in the European Super League’s (ESL) press release Sunday night.
The release outlined the format of the men’s competition and the financial benefits it would afford those teams. However, it did not describe any plans in regard to the women’s game, making it seem like the one sentence was mere tokenism, with one half of the sport being an afterthought to twelve clubs.
Florentino Pérez, President of Real Madrid CF and the first Chairman of the Super League, did nothing to quell skepticism in his appearance on the popular Spanish talk show El Chiringuito de Jugones. The women’s game was not mentioned once throughout the entire program dedicated solely to discussing the Super League.
Regardless of your opinion about this new competition, it is evident, and has been clear for some time now, that the people in charge of the ESL will not make women’s football a priority and the statement “advance and develop the women’s game” is empty.
Even if some of these actors’ interest in women’s football is genuine, they have not yet built up enough credibility to simply gloss over the near-complete disregard for futfem in the aforementioned statement and Chiringuito interview.
Real Madrid only acquired CD Tacón in 2019, making this is the second season for Las Blancas but only the first with the official name and club crest. Andrea Agnelli is the Chairman of Juventus and Vice-Chairman of the Super League and Juventus did not establish a women’s team until 2017. Joel Glazer is the co-chairman of Manchester United and another Vice-Chairman of the Super League and Manchester United’s women’s side wasn’t founded until 2018.
There also seems to have been little thought and consideration on how a women’s Super League would affect domestic competition, particularly in Spain. The country’s first division, Primera Iberdrola, has struggled to get the same legitimacy as other women’s leagues around the world. The Spanish league has still not been deemed professional by law and the players of all teams had to come together to demand better and more professional treatment when play resumed during the pandemic.
As poor as the Royal Spanish Football Federation’s (RFEF) handling of Primera Iberdrola has been at times, the RFEF has made minuscule strides in the right direction. Most notably, Primera Iberdrola struck a deal with Ata Football to make more matches available to fans around the world and announced that the league will become legally professional in the 2021/22 season.
If Primera Iberdrola loses their best team, FC Barcelona, along with the two Madrid clubs, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, to a ban, capturing a more lucrative TV deal or even holding onto their agreement with Ata Football could become very difficult. Their non-involvement would likely occur due to actions from UEFA, but this is something that Pérez and co. should’ve anticipated. Furthermore, even if those sides stayed, they would have access to a pool of TV money that would be largely inaccessible to Iberdrola teams, advancing only the interests of the twelve founding teams throughout Europe while the rest are left to struggle for scraps as they have been doing for so long.
Which brings us to the next point: what have some of these women’s teams done to deserve guaranteed access to such wealth? It appears as if the decision on who these twelve clubs would be was made based solely on the status of the men’s sides. Arsenal is the only team in the potential women’s ESL that has won the UEFA Women’s Champions League (UWCL). Olympique Lyonnais, the most successful women’s team, having won seven UWCL titles, along with the German and Swedish clubs that have combined to win eleven UWCL trophies, would not be included as far as we know.
Meanwhile, the recently formed Real Madrid Femenino, who haven’t even made European competition yet, Juventus, and Manchester United could possibly be in a Super League, not to mention Liverpool, who currently compete in the English second division. Atlético Madrid, who have been historically good, currently look like they will fail to qualify for the UWCL, with teams like Levante, Granadilla, Madrid CFF, and Real Sociedad ahead of Las Rojiblancas.
The ESL organizers may have a different plan but they have declined to say anything about it at the time of publishing, which is part of the point.
Ultimately, Pérez and his Super League will not help “to advance and develop the women’s game” — it will harm it and Madrid’s president is letting Las Blancas down in the process. Throughout the entire league season, there has been one goal: qualifying for the Champions League, the tournament with which this club has so much history. But that quest may be all for naught if this Super League project goes through, voiding the blood, sweat, and tears put in by the players and the coaching staff and the immense emotional investment the fans have poured into this season.