What's New(s)

WHAT’S NEW(S) – 23/04/2021

WHAT’S NEW(S) – 23/04/2021

 EU-Russia tensions and a scandalous League

A fraught week this week with Russia-EU tensions flaring up again, leaving Russia’s relations with the US, EU and NATO are at their worst point since the end of the Cold War, according to Der Spiegel.

Besides, much attention for the potential launch of a so-called new Super League, a plan that turned into a bitter failure. 

You'll find the script below :

After a short break, glad to have you back for a new What’s New(s). A fraught week this week with Russia-EU tensions flaring up again, and an enormous outrage over a Super League.

Starting with the EU-Russia conflicts, what did the press write about Russia’s military menacing ?

The Navalny case and Ukraine crisis: Russia’s relations with the US, EU and NATO are at their worst point since the end of the Cold War, states Der Spiegel. In Politico, Christoph Meyer compares the massing of Russian troops at the Ukraine border with the 2008 war in Georgia and the annexation of the Crimea in 2014, pointing towards the likeliness of a new invasion. Europe better takes the Kremlin’s warnings seriously, he argues, citing Kremlin official Kozak who talked about “the beginning of the end”. Guardian correspondent Oksana Grytsenko also writes that “the massive buildup of Russian combat troops” and effective collapse of the ceasefire spark the alarm that Moscow is preparing to invade.  Dutch NRC correspondent Mark Duursma is less sure about Russia’s intentions. In his article “What does Putin want at the southern border?”, he compares different scenarios. “Few analysts think Putin is out for war” he shows. Most likely, his actions are grounded in political motives, states Duursma: Putin is presumably testing Joe Biden and challenging Ukraine’s president Zelensky.

And what stance should Europe take, according to the press ?

According to Piotr Smolar in Le Monde, the two simultaneous challenges of Navalny and the military menacing in Ukraine revive the ongoing Western dilemma: How to take a firm stance against the Kremlin, while at the same time avoiding a rupture? Does Europe have to leave the door open for dialogue? Following the reasoning of Christoph Meyer, Europe has no time to lose. “With rhetoric heating up again, and Russian troops massing on Ukraine’s border, odds remain high that Moscow will once more catch Europe by surprise” he writes. Lending tangible support to Ukraine could still prevent a worst-case scenario. Deutsche Welle predicts however that Europe will not get beyond appeals to stop the Russians. Even if EU foreign chief Borrell and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated that the massive deployment of Russian troops is unacceptable, “Brussels is still pondering what the consequences will be” according to the newspaper.

But then moving to the Super League scandal, who came up with this ill-received plan ? 

The 12 richest clubs in Europe, or the “dirty dozen”, as the English media have described them, announced early Sunday morning the launch of the Super League, a private and closed league, an elitist league as described by journal Público, in which these teams would be guaranteed qualification for life. 'War in European football' was the front page of the newspaper ABC on Monday morning. The Daily Mirror went one-step further with the headline 'Beautiful game's ugly civil war'. Pretty much opposed to the words of the main promoter of this competition and president of Real Madrid, Florentino Pérez, who said in Spanish TV show El Chiringuito that their intention is to 'save football'.

And what made the plan so scandalous, according to the press ?

According to France 24, the clubs participating in the Super League would share a €3.5 billion pot just for signing up. La República reports that the Super League would be a major split in European football, damaging severely the Champions League. Clubs, supporters, players but also EU leaders took a stand against this project. Boris Johnson told football authorities on the same day of the launch that he was prepared to “drop a legislative bomb” to stop the breakaway league reports the Evening Standard. So did Macron, who also issued a statement condemning the breakaway. In less than 48 hours, all the English clubs dropped out following pressure from their fans and other three teams considered that the project was not viable anymore. “A bitter failure” as described in Les Echos.

And where does the EU stand on this issue ?

Although some media such as La Voz de Galicia called the EU the “political enemy of the competition”, the truth is that it is not so clear what its role in this dispute might have been. Mehreen Khan, Financial Times reporter described the situation as "a fight between two cartels in football" and considered the Commission "unlikely to flex its antitrust muscles". In addition, Commissioner Margerite Vestager told Bloomberg correspondent in Brussels, Maria Tadeo, that she is "kind of relieved" that the Superleague is suspended.

Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

Image: Larry Koester, CC BY 2.0

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