🇪🇺 EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE, THE IMPACT OF TWITTER (1/2)
Hello ! My name is Nicolas and I am a Data Science consultant at First Link. Using my data analyst tools, I have measured the role played by Twitter in the failure of the Super League project:
Without this social network, would the closed league project led by the 12 richest clubs in Europe have suffered the same fate?
THE VOLUME OF PUBLICATIONS ON THE SUPER LEAGUE :
To analyse what happened and answer my question, I extracted a large amount of data:
2.6 million tweets posted by 876,000 unique users
5 targeted languages: 🇫🇷 🇬🇧 🇪🇦 🇮🇹 🇩🇪
56 million likes and 7.8 million retweets accumulated
The tweets collected range from 17 April at noon to 22 April at midnight. I’m going to go back over the facts chronologically so that we can relive this story from the Twitter angle. First of all, here is the breakdown of the tweets I collected over the period:
It all starts on 18 April, at 3pm: It’s a Sunday afternoon and @tariqpanja, a reporter for the New York Times, publishes an article that will have the effect of a bomb:
Top European Soccer Teams Agree to Join Breakaway League – the most detailed account so far on what could be the most seismic moment in European football for decades: https://t.co/gwPwsPxh3I— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) April 18, 2021
This article explains that the 12 richest football clubs in Europe will announce the creation of a closed league. It will no longer be a question of performance to qualify, but of the status of “founding clubs”.
This information is relayed and confirmed by influential stakeholders in the different countries (such as Mohamed Bouhafsi in France for example). It was at this point that Twitter began to catch fire.
The real fire will start in the middle of the night around midnight. These clubs that have been working in secret will officially announce the creation of this closed league simultaneously. This announcement is made via releases relayed on their official pages.
Comunicado Oficial: Los principales clubes europeos de fútbol anuncian la nueva Superliga.#RealMadrid— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) April 18, 2021
Comparison of England and Spain in the face of the announcement :
Here I focused on the reactions of English and Spanish users to the announcement of the Super League. To do this, I sampled my dataset. I also mapped the emojis used in these sample tweets to perform sentiment analysis.
What I find interesting here is to analyse the discrepancies between these mappings to detect weak signals. Thus, we can see that although the general sentiment is similar (laughter, amusement), the secondary sentiments diverge between Spanish and English.
On the English side, the vast majority of emojis that stand out represent pejorative feelings: 🤬💔🤮… A few supportive emojis are present, but in a very small minority.
As for the Spanish side, the secondary feelings are much more divided! On the one hand, there are negative emojis, but there are also a lot of enthusiastic emojis: 🤩😍😎… The presence of hearts in the colours of Real and Barça supports this feeling: ❤️💙🤍
Analysis of Real and Chelsea announcement releases:
To deepen this study of the feeling at the time of the Super League announcement, I also analysed the semantics of the responses to the releases. In the atmosphere of a Champion’s League semi-final, we will focus on Real and Chelsea’s publications:
On the side of Real, we can first of all detect 4 semantic communities corresponding to different languages
- Orange: Spanish
- Red: English
- Blue: French
- Green: Portuguese
The three non-Spanish speech fields are unanimously pejorative.
When we focus on the Spanish discourse, we notice two distinct semantic fields: one very negative (in red) that attacks the real’s decision and another very general one (in green).
The insults and injunctions are obvious, but once again it is the comparison that is interesting.
In the semantic mapping from the responses to Chelsea’s posts (on the left), we see that the negative part is much more important!
Constant pressure on English clubs:
Let’s now pick up the story. The two days following the announcement were very eventful on Twitter, especially after speaking by influential stakeholders: players, coaches, public figures…
Here is a representation of the mentions of the English clubs involved, cumulated over the period. We can see that there was almost constant pressure on the major Premier League clubs.
And then suddenly, the edifice cracked: On Tuesday 20 April at around 8pm, less than two days after the official announcement of the Super League, the English press announced that Chelsea wanted to withdraw from the project!
BREAKING— Dan Roan (@danroan) April 20, 2021
I understand Chelsea are now preparing documentation to request withdrawing from the ESL
It was then revealed that all English clubs wanted to abandon the closed league project! The same evening, around midnight, it is official: the six Premier League clubs involved post their declaration of withdrawal and thus sink the project.
A comparison of England and Spain in the face of this withdrawal from the super league:
I then again sub-sampled my corpus of tweets. The aim is to perform the same sentiment analysis and semantic mapping process. My objective is to use the first analysis as a reference to study the emotional differential on the announcement of the withdrawal.
The emoji mapping brings out the same main feeling: mockery. The ridiculousness of the situation, of such a colossal project collapsing in two days, is felt: 😂🤡🥶…
Joy is the second most represented sentiment, with celebratory and supportive emojis: 🥳👏💪…
However, what supports the first analysis is the presence of a large network of disappointed and reluctant emojis on the Spanish mapping. These emojis (such as 😔) are negligible on the English mapping.
This sentiment analysis is thus in line with various polls, which highlighted that Spaniards were the most enthusiastic about the idea of a closed league.
Finally, to bring things full circle, when we take a look at the semantics used in the responses to Chelsea’s withdrawal post, we get the following mapping:
Insults and shame have been replaced by thanks and very positive statements. But beware, fans are not fooled and an important semantic field corresponds to demands for an apology from the management!
THE FACTORS THAT PLAYED A ROLE IN THE ABANDONMENT OF THE PROJECT:
Even after conducting this analysis, it would be an exaggeration to say that Twitter was the main reason why this project fell through. Alongside this virtual popular anger, many other factors came into play.
Fans took to the streets, other clubs rallied against the super league, the UEFA and FIFA lobbied hard, and the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even threatened a “legislative bomb” to make it impossible!
However, I think that what may have been the driving force behind this sacred union against Super League is the pressure exerted by online fans. It is easy to imagine that if the fans had supported this reform, many public stakeholders would not have committed themselves against it.
In addition, the health context is also very important: in this period of restrictions, the stadiums are empty and the streets deserted. Other means are used to communicate with each other and to convey messages. Social networks have become a fundamental channel. They keep people connected and allow for real virtual demonstrations like this one.
I still have a lot of insights on this subject. I will come back soon with a complementary thread on the subject:
In this kind of crisis, who are the football opinion leaders on Twitter in Europe?
Find out more about the mapping data analysis methods we use in our article on this topic.
Nicolas Bouchaib – First Link Consultant