Is this a situation where the only winners are lawyers?
Not quite. The big clubs clearly believe the chance not only to increase their income but to control their expenditure is worth it. Their conviction that this is a chance to give fans more of what they want should probably not be dismissed entirely. It is hardly irrational to believe that regular games between some of the sport’s most famous names will attract an audience.
But there are far more people who lose, right?
Yes. By some distance. UEFA now faces the prospect of its showpiece competition being devalued. The national leagues would be rendered largely irrelevant, and even the national associations — the people who actually run soccer — would be helpless bystanders.
But others would suffer more: the clubs who have been excluded, of course, and would now be deprived not just of appeal and audience and income but hope, too; Europe’s minor leagues, cast yet further into shadow; even players, who might find their negotiating position on salary weakened by the super clubs’ ability to cap wages.
Most of all, it would explode the idea that anyone can, in theory, rise and fall on their own sporting merit. That may not be true in any real sense any more, and its absence may not hold back the major leagues in North America, but it is central to soccer’s identity and mythology.
What happens now?
As things stand, nothing is off the table. A long, unseemly legal quarrel seems unavoidable. The breakaway clubs have already filed papers designed to protect their interests, and their plans.
So it is going to happen?
That is difficult to answer with any certainty. There is still a suite of obstacles between here and there. And, crucially, it is hard to see how the clubs can back down at this point: This is no act of brinkmanship, as previous suggestions of a super league have been, to elicit more control or more money from UEFA.
They have invested far too much capital in the project, even in the last 24 hours, to turn back. A couple of the founding clubs — principally Barcelona and Real Madrid, both in theory owned by their members — may yet have internal power struggles to win, but it would be surprising if that had not figured in their thinking.