English football was shaken to its foundations on Sunday evening as 12 European clubs, including six from the Premier League, declared themselves founder members of a new European Super League.
Although it’s a traditional film trope for supervillains to reveal their dastardly plan to their unsuspecting targets ahead of carrying them out, perhaps these sinister 12 may have underestimated the fury which their Machiavellian scheme would provoke from the sporting world and beyond.
The 12 clubs in question are based in England, Spain and Italy; Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. Three additional behemoths, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and PSG, were conspicuous by their absence, with the French and German clubs receiving widespread praise for their apparent resistance to the idea.
However, the bombshell statement, released late on Sunday evening, suspiciously alluded to 15 foundation members, with only 12 currently announced. It appears that the door has been left ajar for the three to join at a later date should the European Super League weather this initial furious storm and the rumours are already intimating that they will.
But what though of the impact of the European Super League on the Premier League, which now seemingly finds itself at a hellish crossroad? Premier League rule L9 states that;
“Except with the prior written approval of the board, during the season a club shall not enter or play its senior men’s first team in any competition other than; the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, the F.A. Cup, the F.A Community Shield, the Football League Cup or competitions sanctioned by the County Association of which it is a member.”
The European Super League is a clear breach of this directive and, therefore, early threats from governing bodies that the clubs could be expelled from domestic competition aren’t unfounded. Realistically, how could the clubs now stay?
One of the most striking aspects of the statement was that the 15 founding clubs would receive an equal share of a €3.5 billion windfall from the JP Morgan-funded competition for their ‘loyalty’, a word that, you assume, will be spoken a lot in the coming days. Working out at around £200 million per club on top of their existing wealth and income, this would extend the gap between the ‘big 6’ and the rest of the league to the point where it would no longer be fair competition, not that it already is.
Yet clearly the notion of expelling the six largest, most marketable and supported clubs from the Premier League would be the worst imaginable scenario for Premier League chairman Gary Hoffman. With the television rights for the 2022-2025 seasons due to be negotiated later this year, a Premier League devoid of its biggest members and stars would decimate the value of the rights package and place the remaining members in serious financial trouble.
It is the seismic impact of this knock on effect, one of many, which makes a mockery of one aspect of the statement which promises “additional financial resources for overall football pyramid”. That the group should have the audacity to imply that they are considering the wider health of the game with this soulless cash grab, is an insult to the intelligence of everyone that they are leaving behind. It’s the footballing equivalent of being caught in bed with your wife’s sister and arguing that you were thinking of her the whole time.
Perhaps the crassest aspect of the European Super League news is the timing. Having already had one attempt to hijack the future of football sabotaged during a global pandemic overturned, Project Big Picture, the same clubs wasted no time devising and implementing and even more nefarious scheme.
With the official figure of UK Covid-related deaths now standing at well over 100,000, unemployment remaining above 5% and businesses around the country, including lower league football clubs, continuing to fight for their lives, that these six clubs would choose this moment to put the entire future of the English game in jeopardy in such a manner is reprehensible, if unsurprising. It is also entirely inconsistent with the financial state of the wider world at the moment, showing how far removed from reality football clubs are.
It has never been more apparent that football, at the highest level, is no longer the people’s game but fan power could be crucial in slowing, or indeed halting, the European Super League. Whether it’s TV rights, sponsorship deals, matchday revenue or any other income stream, ultimately every financial avenue that these clubs possess leads back to the general public.
With the domestic leagues, UEFA, FIFA and, indeed, the government vowing to do all in their power to block the European Super League, fan protestation could be crucial. Premier League supporters successfully mobilised to boycott the cynical Premier League PPV idea that was trialled last year and was quickly scrapped as a result.
Admittedly, the Super League appears a far more daunting enemy to take on but fans can still starve it of the required oxygen. Supporters of the these 12 clubs must boycott their products, decline to purchase season tickets and unfollow participating clubs and players on social media. The European Super League is a monster that was born from greed and it is, perhaps, only the threat of financial loss that might see it defeated.
Similarly, fans will be looking to players such as Joran Henderson, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford to demonstrate that they aren’t simply paid mercanaries by coming out in opposition to the idea themselves, especially with their international careers allegedly at stake. After all, the European Super League is an idea which only works with the inclusion of the world’s biggest and best players.
Even should the idea ultimately fail, seemingly unlikely given the number of participating clubs who have now resigned from the various European club associations, the cat is well and truly out of the bag. In the increasingly unlikely scenario of a collective climbdown and the Premier League resuming as normal next season, it will be extremely difficult to forgive and forget what the greedy cabal of super clubs have attempted to this weekend.
Sunday was an extremely sad day for football and it seems as though, one way or another, the game as we know it won’t be the same in the future. With football having been gradually ripped from the clutches of the average fan in recent years though, perhaps it is an opportunity for a reset. All supporters, whether following a European Super League member or not, should boycott this monstrosity and take back control from these wealthy and greedy enemies of the game.
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