Sport and business are not always directly proportional to each other. Sometimes, one thrives at the cost of the other.
A football match between Frosinone and Carpi is more of a sporting event than a business event, primarily because the majority of Serie A fans all over the world wouldn't even know where Frosinone and Carpi are in Italy.
That's vastly different from, say, a football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona, which is as much a business event as a football one. The LaLiga chiefs consider this match a cash cow, and it is easy to see why. You take out this fixture from LaLiga Santander, and the league doesn't have too much to offer from a business point of view.
Once you start using sport to serve only the business interests, you enter a swamp from where there is no escape.
Sport is based on the concept of meritocracy. You win only if you're good enough to win. Of course, there are times when lady luck takes over the wheel of fortune, and the results don't reflect the actual picture. However, there has never been a story wherein consistency was not rewarded.
That may change in due course of time if Andrea Agnelli get his way.
Agnelli is the current president of the Juventus football club. He is also the current chairman of the European Clubs Association or what is popularly known as the ECA. The ECA was created to represent the interests of professional football clubs across Europe.
Recently, Agnelli spoke at the Financial Times Business of Football Summit in London about the degree of fairness with which Atalanta qualified for the most significant club competition on planet earth. And what he said sounded more than a little dangerous.
Football lovers have known for long what some of the super-rich in Europe have in mind for the future of the Champions League: the reformation of the Champions League into a bandwagon exclusive to the super-elite. But we also know that if the wealthiest football clubs all over Europe never have to earn their place in European competitions, the spark of unpredictability in the sport will no longer exist.
If sport were something that only the rich could indulge in, we wouldn't have the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi entertain us week in week out. Both these legends started their careers in abject poverty.
Football is made beautiful by the possibility that everyone has an equal shot at glory. And killing that just to serve the selfish interests of a few would be nothing short of a crime.
Agnelli doesn't have a problem with football itself. What bothers him is the possibility that Juventus could fail to qualify for the Champions League if it finishes outside the top 4 in Serie A, and thus miss out on premium European football. Agnelli wants to erase this possibility.
He has employed a business model for Juventus that requires it to make a certain amount of money every football season, so that it can emulate the kind of revenue English clubs generate from the Premier League. But the problem that lies herein is that the Serie A simply doesn't have that kind of appeal in the market.
When it comes to revenue generation, there is no comparison between the Premier League and the Serie A. They are miles apart. A report from Deloitte Sports Business Group's annual review of football finance published by CNBC last year confirmed that. As per the report, the English Premier League continues to earn about 72 percent more than its nearest competitor (which is not even the Serie A).
Agnelli wouldn't have a sliver of a problem with the current format of the Champions League had Juve been making it to the semifinals year in year out. The fact is that they aren't. This, in turn, means that they earn a lot less from the Champions League than what they need to fill in for the difference in earnings from Serie A and their official revenue target.
The solution to this problem as per Agnelli is the creation of a tournament in which only the richest and most popular clubs all over Europe play each other in a round-robin format. And the amount of money that goes to the winner would be about as much as that earned by everyone else.
Hence, by making a European competition monopolized by the elite, Agnelli aims to make up for the enormous gap in revenue generation between Juventus and the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid.
A purported European Super League would also make it possible for Juventus to continue to reach its revenue targets without having to play any better than the likes of Atalanta, who, as per Agnelli, do not deserve to be in European competition on the back of "one great season."
A mere business person would have Manchester United and AC Milan play in the Champions League all day long, despite none of the two being good enough to finish in the top 4 of their respective leagues. It takes a bit of sporting integrity to understand the worth of earning glory. That's something Agnelli could never buy with money.
At the moment, there is a tremendous backlash against the slightest hint of a possible European Super League. Hence, it has become a near-impossible task for Agnelli to make any sort of a compelling argument in support of his proposed model.
Agnelli might not succeed in the foreseeable future at turning the Champions League into his own customized private pastime, but it is worth learning for the sake of football's future that ideas like his need to be nipped in the bud.
As long as people understand what football is and what the word "sport" stands for in general, Agnelli will have to remain content with what Juventus can earn by their merit. Most would say that is not a bad thing by any standard.
Future generations of football lovers will know what football truly is, while business people will know that tampering with a competition that has almost 65 years of history behind it is always going to be met with resistance. And rightly so.
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