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Tottenham’s Harry Kane, left, is challenged by Manchester United’s Harry Maguire during an April 11 English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin says players at the 12 clubs setting up their own Super League could be banned from this year’s European Championship and next year’s World Cup. (Clive Rose/Pool via AP)

 

The proposed Super League experiment was an absolute disgrace, even in its failure.

First some background on how the current soccer model in Europe works for the uninitiated. At its core, soccer throughout most parts of the globe operates under the single tenet that any team, at any level, can ascend all the way to the top of the food chain. A path exists even for clubs playing several divisions below the top leagues in their respective countries to scale the top of the soccer mountain.

If you’re playing in England’s second division, for example, you can win the league title and earn a promotion to the Premier League the next season. Win the Premier League championship, and you’ll qualify for the UEFA Champions League — which pits the best teams from all of Europe’s domestic leagues against one another in an annual season-long tournament that runs simultaneously with the regular season.

For clubs, for players, for fans, Champions League glory is something to bask in. It’s a celebration as a team’s status as Europe’s — and by proxy, the world’s — best side. It’s something that was earned, first through a grueling domestic schedule to earn qualification and then through a daunting months-long grind involving the 32 best teams on the continent the following year.

Which is what made the Super League such a travesty.

A bunch of greedy owners — among them John Henry, to nobody in New England’s surprise — tried to close out all but 12 of the biggest and richest clubs in the world by staging their own “Champions League,” in which all the money would be distributed evenly and the teams would never be in any danger of missing out on the big competition in the face of poor performances.

Finish sixth in the Premier League? No problem, Liverpool, you’re in. Finish 10th in a 20-team league, Barcelona? Don’t sweat it, come play for the big trophy and collect the check, anyway.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, whose team is rolling to what will be a fifth English Premier League championship in the last 10 seasons, described the proposal simply. And profoundly.

“It is not sport when the relation between effort and success and reward doesn’t exist,” Guardiola said earlier this week. “It is not a sport. It is not a sport if success is already guaranteed.

“It is not a sport if it doesn’t matter if you lose.”

Fans, boisterous and aggressive in their protests of the proposal, stood the most to lose.

The biggest draw of the domestic schedules and playing for a league title or the right to qualify for the Champions League is the week-to-week competition it breeds. Tottenham versus Brighton Hove Albion or Manchester United versus Aston Villa is the Premier League’s version of the National Football League’s “Any Given Sunday” mantra.

Absent of any stakes, void of any ramifications in the standings, when outcomes no longer matter domestically the best players get additional days off and the best squads have no incentive to perform at top levels.

And for fans of the smaller clubs like the Getafe in Spain’s La Liga or Torino in Italy’s Serie A, any hope of staging upsets and pulling off the dramatic — as Leicester City did in winning the Premier League title in 2016 — to somehow qualify for the top club competition on the planet are long gone.

Imagine rooting for Auburn or Ole Miss and knowing you’d never, even if you go 13-0, win the NCAA football championship despite playing in the SEC, the premier college football conference in the country?

That’s what the Super League was hoping to create, an atmosphere where all of the University of Alabama football, New York Yankees baseball, Montreal Canadiens hockey and Los Angeles Lakers basketball teams decided to anoint themselves and create a world championship only for them.

It’s disgraceful.

It should not be tolerated, not for anybody who is a fan of sports — whether soccer is your jam or not.

You, as a sports fan, as a lover of competition at high levels, should be insulted.

You should be outraged.

Guardiola had it right, critical of the process even though he’s at one of the clubs who would have been involved.

“It is not a sport if success is already guaranteed.”

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