The football world was stunned on Sunday as plans were revealed for a breakaway European Super League.
Twelve of Europe’s elite clubs – AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur – have all signed up for the midweek competition that will rival the Champions League.
The plans have been met with widespread criticism, with supporters and pundits alike slamming those involved for their greed.
UEFA have released a joint statement with the football associations and top-flight leagues in England, Spain and Italy condemning the move.
“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” they said.
“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.”
But what do the plans mean for clubs lower down the ladder? Supporters of Cardiff City and Swansea City will be watching the chaos unfold over the next few days wondering quite how it affects them.
One of the more obvious outcomes would be that we could likely see Cardiff and Swansea in the Premier League much more regularly as spots would open up in the division.
While the Super League would be played alongside domestic football, the Premier League would need to give permission to its six clubs in question that want to compete in the breakaway tournament.
As this seems certain not to happen, the clubs would be forced to leave of their own accord. UEFA has also reiterated that all teams involved would be banned from all other domestic and European competitions.
Since the Premier League was formed in 1992, Cardiff and Swansea have spent just nine years combined in the English top flight. The Swans spent seven consecutive years there, while the Bluebirds have been relegated after just one season upon both of their promotions.
But if six clubs were to suddenly depart the top tier, both Welsh teams would be near the top of the list to replace them. They have consistently proven that they are among the best teams in the Championship over the last 15 years.
Since 2008, neither club has finished lower than 12th in the second tier, with six appearances in the play-offs between them (and another on the way this year).
However, the Premier League would not be as financially lucrative without those six 'elite' clubs in it. As a commodity, its value and attractiveness would drop, and the amount that broadcasters pay for television rights would undoubtedly decrease.
Cardiff know better than anyone what even one season in the top flight can do for your bank balance. The Bluebirds cut their losses from £34 million to £755,000 when they were relegated from the Premier League in 2019.
That was thanks to an increase in turnover from £35 million to £125 million, which the club’s accounts stated were due to a “significant increase in TV and league revenue”.
Even if Swansea and Cardiff were to stay in the Championship, their income would suffer as a result. The Premier League distributes 15% of its total revenue outside of the top division, and in 2019/20 made payments of £409.3 million to EFL clubs for things such as academy development and community projects.
Cardiff received £43.2 million from the Premier League, while Swansea received £36.1 million, although both those figures included parachute payments. Nonetheless, they are sums that would drop considerably in line with the top-flight’s decrease in value if the top teams left.
The sad truth is that the presence of global powerhouse clubs in the Premier League generates a huge amount of revenue not just for those sides in question, but also for teams all the way down the pyramid to grassroots football.
By taking all that money for themselves in the Super League, the elite sides are depriving clubs of income that keeps them afloat and may even drive some teams out of business.
To end on a more positive note, Cardiff and Swansea may be able to attract bigger-name players if the Super League comes to fruition.
UEFA have said that any players who take part in the new competition could be banned from participating in international football. This may persuade some players to leave their clubs if they wish to continue appearing for their country.
Particularly in Wales’ case, it is clear that so many of the national team squad love putting on the red shirt and belting out Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. Would the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies be willing to sacrifice that just to play in the Super League?
That’s not to say that Ramsey will instantly make the switch from Juventus to Cardiff if the breakaway occurs, but it certainly increases the likelihood of a reunion with the Bluebirds faithful later down the line.
In general, more international players could choose to join non-Super League clubs, and smaller teams may be able to keep hold of their academy stars for longer – such as Joe Rodon at Swansea – instead of losing them to bigger sides.