Ali Shah: America, The Super League

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Ali Shah says that when a planned super soccer league crashed and burned spectacularly, it marked a rare defeat for American-style elitism.

If you’re not a fan of international soccer, you probably missed last month’s sudden rise and fall of the Super League, a grab for ever more bucks and entitlement by a dozen of the richest clubs in Europe, half in England. Conspirators included a Russian oligarch, an Emirati Sheikh and several billionaire Americans. The Super League bypassed the normal competition for entry to the European club tournament known as Champion’s League, allowing its members to play each other in big-money games without the inconvenience of earning it by finishing near the top of their domestic leagues.

Those leagues use a system that is virtually unknown in America. Every year, the worst performing clubs are demoted or “relegated” down to the minors, while top minor-league teams are “promoted” up to take their place. It’s meant to prevent a permanent aristocracy, which is exactly what the “Super League” tried to create. The subsequent uproar from English fans in particular turned into a rare defeat for the owners, who quickly and shockingly capitulated within two days.

Unsurprisingly, this rich-get-richer scheme reportedly had American roots. Despite the up-by-the-bootstraps American mythology, our social mobility compares poorly to other developed economies. Going from bottom to top is rare, but it’s even harder to move down from the top. Why? Because not only are U.S. sports leagues free from the concept of relegation, our social, economic and political systems are too.

Our tax code allows generational wealth to pass untouched, admission to elite colleges favors legacy applicants and the offspring of wealthy donors, our property-tax based system for public education cements rather than mitigates social gaps, and on it goes: the justice system, campaign finance, the healthcare system, access to capital.

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The USA is the Super League’s dream realized at a national scale: a permanent upper class where the only thing relegated is the uncertainty of dropping out of it. Who would have figured the home of Buckingham Palace would reject the Super League’s Royalism, while our rogue Republic, alongside sheikhs and oligarchs, would be the very embodiment of it.

With a Perspective, I’m Ali Shah.

Ali Shah is an attorney. He lives in Sunnyvale.