European soccer was shaken by Sunday night's formation of a breakaway Super League of 12 elite soccer clubs, threatening the more-or-less egalitarian nature of the continent's favorite sport. On Tuesday, six of the teams — all from the English Premier League — pulled out of the potentially lucrative project, bowing to pushback from fans, Britain's government, and soccer's governing authorities.
Chelsea and Manchester City were the first teams to say they were quitting the $4 billion enterprise, and Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham soon joined them. The six remaining teams — Spain's Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, and Barcelona, and Italy's Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan — said in a statement Tuesday night that "given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project."
The idea of a U.S.-style European soccer league, with a set number of teams splitting a huge pot of money, has been discussed for at least 20 years. What elite soccer teams "saw in the NFL was a model for making money from modern sports, complete with glitz, lionized dynasties, and lavish television contracts," The Wall Street Journal explains. "The odd crummy season wouldn't matter — the Super League could have its own New York Jets and that club would still make money."
At least half of the 12 Super League teams are owned by foreign investors, including four American-owned franchises: Arsenal (L.A. Rams owner Stan Kroenke), Liverpool (Boston Red Sox investment group), Manchester United (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Glazer family), and AC Milan (Elliott Management Corp.). The Glazers were one of the key drivers of the Super League plan, the Journal reports, but Real Madrid President Florentino Perez is the public face.