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UEFA Champions League

Super Bowl should not feel bigger than Champions League final, says PSG president Al-Khelaifi

11:10 AM EDT 4/4/22
World Cup Champions League Super Bowl trophy
The Qatari businessman, who is also chair of the European Clubs’ Association, wants to explore ways of making continental football even more exciting

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has become one of the most powerful figures in football and is determined to help broaden the game’s already mass appeal by making events such as the Champions League final more of a spectacle, similar to the show put on for American audiences in the Super Bowl.

European football already captivates a global audience, while viewing figures for the World Cup dwarf anything that can be achieved by other sports, but there is still a sense that more can be done on the entertainment front.

Al-Khelaifi, who is also chair of the beIN Sports television network and the European Clubs’ Association (ECA), intends to help lead that charge as he starts to float ideas which would allow the biggest games in club football to stand alongside the greatest event in NFL circles.

What has been said?

The Qatari businessman has told The Athletic of his hopes for the future of Champions League competition: “The final should be bigger.

“I can’t understand how the Super Bowl can feel bigger than the Champions League final. The Super Bowl, and the US generally, have this mindset, creativity and entertainment.

“That’s what I have suggested, to have an opening ceremony to the Champions League, to have one match on the opening night where the winners take on a big team — maybe it is not a good idea, but at least let’s challenge the status quo. Each match needs to be an event and entertainment.”

He added: “We’re also thinking with UEFA about event formats and experiences.

“Take the Champions League — by far the best club competition, but how do we make each match an event? My suggestion is to have a creative and entertainment department as part of the new joint venture between UEFA and ECA.

“How do we make the group stages compelling? The time difference is a problem for the US and Asia. So how can we work on this for international rights which have huge potential?

“We are thinking about all kinds of things — new venues, new markets, new formats.”

The bigger picture

The Champions League final already pulls in a far greater audience than the Super Bowl enjoys.

Continental football’s most star-studded showpiece tends to attract viewing figures of between 380 and 400 million, while the NFL’s flagship event only pulls in around 100m in the United States and a further 50m around the world.

Al-Khelaifi believes the potential is there for soccer to claim an even bigger slice of the pie, or at the very least give those that already tune in more of a reason to watch the entire performance from start to finish.

He will be hoping to see PSG figure prominently in that process heading forward, but the French giants have suffered another last-16 exit from the Champions League this season and – despite investing in the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi – are still waiting to land that trophy for the first time in their history.

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