“I can’t understand how the Super Bowl can feel bigger than the Champions League final,” said PSG’s president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of Paris Saint-Germain, has proposed that the Champions League incorporates a Super Bowl-style opening ceremony to guarantee that every match is treated as an “event and entertainment” in the same way that the US showpiece is.
This came as the french club’s president expressed his displeasure that the Super Bowl “feels bigger” than the Champions League final in an interview with The Athletic, urging UEFA officials to follow in the footsteps of their American counterparts by introducing an opening ceremony and changing the super cup format.
“I can’t understand how the Super Bowl can feel bigger than the Champions League final,” said Al-Khelaifi, adding that the “Super Bowl, and the US generally, have this mindset, creativity and entertainment.”
In addition to an opening ceremony the chairman believes there should be “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.”
Additionally, he expressed his support for a new proposed mini-tournament designed to replace the UEFA Super Cup. This would come on top of a separate group stage opening night and an opening ceremony, in which the previous season’s winners face off against a major club.
Al-Khelaifi also revealed steps to invite Harvard Business School to PSG to provide “new eyes” and question the established quo on how things are done. To become leaders, he believes clubs must be first in “digital, OTT media, bitcoin, and NFTs.”
During the interview, he reaffirmed that PSG is an investment project, and stated that he has increased the value of the club while continuously rejecting huge offers to sell it.
In recent years, the Super Bowl has become as renowned for its glitzy pre-game and half-time rituals as it has for the NFL championship match that takes place on the night. This year’s show was accompanied with performances by some of the biggest names in the American entertainment industry, including Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and others.
In comparison, and despite a modest opening ceremony before each final, Champions League matches are much less of a spectacle.
During his interview, Al-Khelaifi also said that UEFA might explore “new venues, new formats” to appeal to US and Asian rights markets.
However, some European football fans have expressed their disagreement on social media. “The absolute last thing we need is Americanisation of sports, there’ll be 15 second ads on during VAR checks and throw ins next,” said a Twitter user.
Al-Khelaifi has gained praise from both football fans and industry leaders last year for his adamant refusal to join the disputed “Super League”, which had the potential to significantly alter the landscape of European football.
Conflict of interest accusations
When Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus proposed breaking away and forming an exclusive division with Europe’s greatest clubs, the PSG president turned down the invitation.
After adopting his renown tough position against contentious ideas for a European Super League, Al-Khelaifi, who is now the Chair of the European Clubs’ Association, has become one of the continent’s most prominent executives in the last year.
However, some critics claim that Al-Khelaifi is merely opposed to a European Super League because his television network, beIN Sport, is bound to UEFA for billions of pounds in broadcasting contracts.
The industry leader addressed this in a press conference. “When times are bad, people ask for my help. But when times are good, I’m suddenly conflicted.” He also reaffirmed that his position against a Super League is “out of principle.”
PSG’s president also defended himself against widespread claims in the industry that his many roles in sports and media represent conflicts of interest.
Prior to entering the media sector, Al-Khelaifi had a successful career as a professional tennis player on Qatar’s Davis Cup team.
In 2003, he joined Al Jazeera Sport as Director of Rights Acquisitions before being named Chairman of Qatar Sports Investments and elevated to General Manager of the Qatari-based sports broadcaster in 2008.
Al-Khelaifi was a key contributor to Al Jazeera Sport’s tremendous success after its transition into beIN Sports in 2014. BeIN Sports MENA, beIN Sports France, beIN Sports Americas, beIN Sports Asia-Pacific, beIN Sports Australia, and beIN Sports Spain were all launched under the chairman’s supervision.
Aside from his role as PSG’s president, he has a number of other responsibilities. Al-Khelaifi is the president of Qatar Sports Investments, the Qatar Tennis Federation as well as the Qatar Squash Foundation. He is also the vice president of the Asian Tennis Federation for West Asia.
In 2016, he was dubbed “the most powerful figure in French football” by top footballing French magazine, L’Equipe.
Then in 2020, France Football named him the most influential person in football.
In January, Al-Khelaifi was named as one of the most influential figures in international sport as part of SportsPro’s prestigious “Ten Influencers 2022” list.