Damn, we all got super angry, didn't we??
I wanted to simmer before I vented, so here we are...
After the most bizarre few days in off-the-pitch football history, we have to talk about the Super League.
I'm not going to delve into what the Super League is or was. There's plenty out there deep diving into that nonsense (TL;DR a league of 20 cowards). What I do want to do is talk about what we do next. And by "we" I mean the football community. The people who actually matter, yet are often left behind, and that's the fans.
There is this black cloud now hanging over football thanks to the tyrants who organized the Super League and attempted to break away from the rest of the sport. And it's not the players and the managers, it's the owners. The Super League is not a new idea. There have been hideous rumors and ideations for almost two decades surrounding the concept of a league where the big and mighty always face off against the big and mighty.
I never took it seriously because I never thought it could work. But, to a degree, that's being naive. Especially, in today's game with today's owners and today's society in general.
Gone is any semblance of romanticism this beautiful game held for so long. It had been dwindling and bopping about on fumes for the last few years, but now it has officially been fully extinguished. And this isn't simply nostalgia speaking, but also, and most importantly, factually speaking. I grew up on football when fans ran the roost and players showed club loyalty. There was genuine heart and character and respect for tradition. You didn't sign for a rival. You didn't jump ship when times got tough. You played for the fans and wanted to become a terrace hero. Obviously, there are examples of players not doing that but for the most part, there was always this gorgeous aspect to the game and culture.
Now? The exact opposite. And I'm not trying to sound like an old head pining for yesteryear. Because I am neither an old head (I am, kind of) nor jonesing for what was. I am a proponent of progress. And thanks to the money infused into the Premier League, it is the most competitive and most talented league in football (as opposed to the 80s and 90s and most of the 2000s when it most certainly was not).
But, that growth has its sinister side. Which is what we see now where we have an even more extreme version of the cash rich league. The money cascading in from television rights has made even clubs getting relegated from the Premier League lucrative entities. And that directly translates to how football has become solely a business. Money is the only singular thing that matters today.
That's how the Super League finally got formed. These big, rich teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Liverpool saw other smaller teams eating good off them. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus in particular saw that their finances were finally catching up to them. And broadcast deals in Spain and Italy are in a right shambles having decreased in value post-pandemic (in contrast, the Premier League extended its TV contracts at the same, current, hyper-ludicrous rates). The Super League and its corresponding mammoth influx of green was their means to always staying relevant, always being on top and always having the power. But, as has been seen by the entire globe, it did not work.
So, now the question is what happens next? Because what we saw was the fans vehemently pushing back against a group of individuals trying to incinerate tradition and mug off the most prestigious (albeit also wildly flawed) tournament in football in favor of a risk-free, glitzy yet pathetic, we-all-win midweek kickabout. And not just that, the fans across the world recognized the risk of 12-15 teams having limitless cash and skewing the trajectory of the sport forevermore. It was greed and it was throttled.
But now, NOW, is the time to keep going. We can't stop here because there are larger wars that must be waged.
The owners involved need to sell and need to go. That won't happen due to the aforementioned waterfall of bills and notes raining down on these clubs, but it is imperative that it does. These tycoons have come in with zero knowledge of the game and with no ties to its culture and its deep-rooted history. Annihilating the gem of football is nothing to a bunch of Americans who have never come across the concept of relegation and promotion before. Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal are ran by Americans. Tottenham is run by ENIC (a British investment company owned by Joe Lewis), Chelsea by Roman Abramovich (a Russian criminal who can't step foot in England due to the government's reluctance to renew his visa). Manchester City is run by Abu Dhabi. None of these cowards care about football. They care about relevance and showpieces and the infinite chase for even more coins in the purse.
And this isn't news to anyone. The Glazers bought United with unthinkable amounts of debt and have sunk the club's finances whilst enjoying lavish bonuses. John Henry and Fenway Sports furloughed staff when the pandemic hit only to renege once backlash became so deafening. The same people who raised ticket prices to an exorbitant amount only to renege once backlash became so deafening. The same ones who tried to trademark "Liverpool". And yes, the same guys who stayed silent as one of their most pivotal employees, Luis Suárez, was found guilty of spewing a barrage of racist remarks at Patrice Evra. So, you think they care about if West Bromwich Albion are gonna survive??
-- as a related aside, I am not allowing LeBron James to escape blame here. He upped his share and became a co-owner in Fenway Sports Group just before news of the Super League emerged. I cannot imagine a scenario where he was not fully briefed on what was on the horizon and I cannot imagine a scenario where he had zero input on the matter --
Let's also not forget about the clubs showering themselves with praise by supposedly refusing to join the Super League. Bayern Munich strategically said no knowing full well under their ownership structure of 50+1 (there are many wonderful resources online fully explaining this German ownership system whereby the fans, in the end, have final say), there would be an apocalyptic rebuke from the fans. Bayern and PSG used their opportunity to power play their way into the UEFA hierarchy. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge replaced Juventus honcho Andrea Agnelli on the UEFA Executive Committee. PSG's Nasser al-Khelaifi became the new chairman of the European Club Association, an association Agnelli was the president of before resigning upon formation of the Super League. In normal times, this would be newsworthy.
These aren't normal times. Just look at UEFA. They went ahead and expanded the Champions League in their own cash-grabby manner and now no one can be arsed to say anything because we just witnessed the rise and fall of the Super League! UEFA are looking like the heroes when UEFA are just as much the issue.
The footballing authorities, as a whole, need an overhaul. There is no oversight of the ones regulating and running the game. FIFA and UEFA are run by people who have overarching powers, are not policed and rake in gargantuan salaries (and whatever bribes fall their way). UEFA are the same gang who decided not to punish Manchester City, Barcelona, Chelsea and PSG to any meaningful degree for their significant breaches of Financial Fair Play. Now we're applauding these crooks for passing judgment on the Super League?! And rewarding the heads of formerly-investigated-and-definitely-guilty clubs with elite leadership roles in the governing association?! Watching FIFA and UEFA heads immediately decry greed is laughable and beyond hypocritical. They won't decry racism (or any human rights violations) and that is an actual facet of society running rampant and free throughout football on a daily basis.
Football needs a third party adjudicator. A watcher to watch. Former Manchester United defender, and the man who should be the Prime Minister if anyone is asking me, Gary Neville has argued for an internal regulator of the Premier League for quite some time. I am saying that should be the norm in the biggest 5 leagues all the way to the very top. These leaders need to be held accountable in an era where the fans see them use football to fatten their pockets. The expanded Champions League is a perfect example. UEFA slid that amendment in as "oh, it's just a few extra games for a club" when in reality after totting it all up it is 100 extra matches UEFA gets to get paid off of. There are also more teams as if all clubs are Oprah audience members finding a Champions League group game under their seat. The entire scenario is pitiful. But predictable.
The people with the money have too much power. FIFA, UEFA, the owners. There's too much power in the hands of minds solely focused on generating revenues at whatever cost comes across their paths. The domestic leagues need regulating, too. The ways of bowing to the whims of the mega-rich clubs has to end. These 12 clubs made this move knowing the football world would have to follow them. They banked on the audiences not being able to survive without their favorite teams. They believed fans would buckle after overcoming their grief and be forced to watch the Super League due to the content it was creating. These owners thought that because that is generally how they operate within their leagues and within UEFA. The money they have makes decisions in their favor.
And we haven't seen the last of this. Real Madrid and Barcelona are still hanging on to the Super League dream. And whilst many owners half-heartedly apologized in abysmally shot iPhone videos, don't take them at their word that they are now all of a sudden for the fans. Because, for one, the fans don't believe them.
Manchester United fans stormed the Old Trafford pitch and protested outside the ground before the pivotal match versus Liverpool. Their goal was to delay or postpone the match to make a statement. And it worked. The biggest match on the Premier League calendar was stopped. And I fully applaud the fans who have had enough. The owners take and take and take from the club with no regard for the state it is left in. The Glazers have stolen billions of dollars from Manchester United leaving the club behind (the stadium is worsening, the training ground is obsolete and the proposed development of the actual Old Trafford area has never materialized). And that was the desperation you saw last weekend. And it's not a novel disgust. United fans have been protesting the Glazers ever since they riddled the club with debt upon their overtaking in 2005.
And we will see much more of this if nothing changes. The disenfranchisement of fans was the Super League's greatest folly.
It's not an easy fix. Nobody is confused about that. You don't just rev up a laptop one day and solve football. But what I do know is that, without question, it is imperative that the fans have more control. The owners aren't going to sell (bids will be made as you've seen at Arsenal, but even then, you're transferring power from one billionaire to the next albeit with a few former legends thrown in) and the 50+1 won't work in the Premier League with the amount of money at stake and current owners unwilling to part with any of it. Fan forums should become a normality (owners meeting with designated fans in a town hall sort of setting). There needs to be a drastic overhaul in the engagement between the Board and the ticket-paying fans. A constant and regular dialog should be a requirement. As for the clubs themselves, Financial Fair Play needs to be enforced. As of now, teams openly violate FFP and get slaps on their wrists in return. That needs to stop and will stop if UEFA is held accountable to its actions. Also, there needs to be genuine punishment doled out to the clubs when disruptive violations of any sort take place. That could be by points deductions, bans, transfer freezes, empty stadiums, etc. But, just something, ANYTHING!, instead of fining teams paltry sums. The corruption and evil looms so large that the fans are on the outside wary that there is zero recourse whenever one of the big boys runs afoul of the regulations of the sport.
There will be audibles for the Super League showrunners. This is not the end. There will be future plans (keep in mind, many of these owners feel their biggest mistake in the Super League was the fashion in which it was rolled out). So, all we can do now is keep fighting back. Push for transparency. Push for a semblance of morality. Push for anything that doesn't involve a handful of men in suits destroying the sport we all love. Football is ours and we have to keep it that way.
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