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Photo: David Cliff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The 48-hour rise and fall of the European Super League is the perfect encapsulation of how anti-greed sentiment has changed the rules of capitalism.

Why it matters: The highly-complex structures of capitalism are built from the mostly base motivations of individuals chasing money. That's been condemned and celebrated in equal measure — but has also largely been accepted.

  • Not everyone makes most decisions on the basis of financial considerations, and no one makes all their decisions on that basis. But, in aggregate, economies tend to behave as though people generally act that way.
  • When entrepreneurs get the opportunity to become dynastically wealthy by taking their startups public, for instance, it is almost certain they'll end up doing exactly that.

The big picture: The structure of European soccer does not maximize profits. It creates a lot of l0w-interest matches that are hard to monetize (Osasuna vs. Eibar, for instance) and many fewer of the big-name match-ups like Manchester United vs. Barcelona that are avidly watched around the world.

  • The Super League was an attempt to create many more of the real money-spinners, with the profits, naturally, mostly accruing to the owners of the super-elite clubs.
  • That violated the sense of fair play that underpins most sport, as I explained on Tuesday. Even if the Super League was Pareto-optimal, thanks to its "solidarity" payments to lower-ranked clubs, it wasn't fair. And that brazen unfairness led to its almost-immediate death.

What's new: A small group of 12 ultra-elite soccer clubs had access to the finest strategy, polling and public relations advice that money can buy. The deal they unveiled on Sunday night was years in the making. But they and their advisers missed something big — that society as a whole is now willing to forego wealth if it means more equality.

  • Brexit made almost everybody in Britain worse off, for instance — but it also hit the rich London cosmopolitans and bankers the hardest.
  • The Fed is openly embracing the prospect of higher inflation — something that erodes wealth and hits rich savers, while inflating away the debts of the poor.

The bottom line: If Peter Thiel is right that "monopoly is the condition of every successful business" — and a lot of Americans would agree with him on that — then every successful business should start getting worried.

  • When the source of a company's profits is manifestly unfair, those profits are more likely than at any time in decades to be facing existential threats.

Go deeper

Apr 21, 2021 - Sports

European Super League faces collapse after English soccer teams quit

Fans of Chelsea Football Club protest the European Super League outside Stamford Bridge soccer stadium in London, England. Photo: Rob Pinney/Getty Images

The European Super League announced in a statement Tuesday night it's "proposing a new competition" and considering the next steps after all six English soccer clubs pulled out of the breakaway tournament.

Why it matters: The announcement that 12 of the richest clubs in England, Spain and Italy would start a new league was met with backlash from fans, soccer stars and politicians. The British government had threatened to pass legislation to stop it from going ahead.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Apr 21, 2021 - Sports

How the European Super League collapsed in spectacular fashion

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Plans for a European Super League fell apart on Tuesday, just two days after the proposed soccer competition was announced.

How it went down: Manchester City, one of the six English Premier League clubs set to join the 12-team breakaway league, was the first to confirm it was out.

Updated Apr 20, 2021 - Sports

Super League in super trouble as clubs confirm withdrawals

David Silva of Manchester City looks dejected during the Premier League match. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

The European Super League is on the brink before it even manages to launch.

The state of play: Manchester City was the first to confirm Tuesday it "formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League. Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea followed suit.

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