A European Soccer 'Super League'

April 21st 2021

 

English football fans have prevailed the self-styled “Big Six” Clubs have withdrawn their support and the `European Football (super) League has crumbled. At least for the time being. Now we have to make sure that it does not rear its ugly head again.

 Let us be clear: the proposal to create this European league was not, as the embryonic League`s Chairman, Real Madrid President Florentino Perez, sought to claim, “to save football”.  It was about big, foreign, money. It might have been good, in the short financial term, for the handful of participants but it would have been bad for the British and the European game and it would have been particularly bad for the smaller clubs who have always looked forward to emerging as the `giant killers` that have injected so much excitement into the game.

 It is not as though the `Big Six` English clubs are even at the top of the charts  but by building a protective financial wall around  themselves they sought to insulate against a loss of form and potential relegation .That might  fit neatly  into the game plans of Russian oligarchs and American business investors seeking to guard their assets but could  there be anything much more boring than seeing the same cluster of `elite` clubs fielding their over-priced muscle  to play each other every week? A Saturday afternoon watching paint dry might be rather more exciting.

It is now clear that the Managers and the players of the clubs lined up to join the `European Football League` were kept in the dark about the secretive discussions taking place as were, so far as we can ascertain, UEFA, FIFA and our own domestic governing bodies. And as were, of course, the people who matter most – the loyal fans who on good days and bad days, come rain or shine and whether on the way up or on the way down, have stood by their clubs at every level and are the bedrock of what the football community and family is supposed to be about. They were taken for granted as Senor Perez and his buddies tried to take them for a ride.

 For the great and the good of The FA and UEFA and FIFA, not all of whom have in the past always been squeaky clean, the creation of an `EFL came as a monumental shock because of the potential for the loss of their own power to control the game. And Money.  While much sabre-rattling took place not only in Whitehall but in the corridors of footy-power and we were told that “We will talk to them” and “if they do not listen then we will take sanctions against them” the nature of those sanctions was desperately vague.  These are private businesses and if they want to play with each other and if the star players believe that their bread is buttered on that side and are willing to literally play the game then how are you going to stop them?

 Looking to the future we are up against big bucks and a little lateral thinking is required.

Football matches require grounds and those grounds and the fans visiting them again, when Covid permits, have to be serviced.  There is crowd control and traffic control and policing and fire and health and safety requirements that have to be met. And if, suddenly, not only those attending the matches but all of us were to decline to patronise the burger chain or the drinks supplier or anyone else that gives these Behemoths succour then that might begin to send a clear message that while we welcome innovation and investment in sport and that while we are not opposed to reasonable profit we do not like naked greed and that the fans that support all football clubs have to be treated with respect.  If they are taken for granted we could go a step further and boycott all of the brands that are advertised around the grounds or on the teams` strip and if we did not buy all of that expensive sportswear merchandise either then we would begin to hit the EFL club owners in the only place where it really hurts them –  in the wallet.  The threat may have gone away for the moment but it could return and we have to be prepared – and the club`s owners have to know that we are prepared -  to all play our part in any future battle for the soul of football. 

In the meantime, there are all of the many fan-orientated and honourable teams to get behind and there is also Parliament`s secret weapon, Dame (as she must surely become) Tracey Crouch.   She has rightly been asked to continue her inquiry into the future of the game in Britain and if I were the owner of a “Big Six” football club I would not put too much of my carefully squirreled away fortune on the chances of coming out of a skirmish with our Tracey unscathed. We shall all await her findings with very great interest indeed!