European Super League – A Plague On All Our Houses

I want to make clear from the very start of this piece that I am completely against the European Super League. It is an abomination and I hope that it completely falls apart and fails as an enterprise. This article is not a defence of it, nor is it a critique of what it appears to be, for the simple reason that you’ll be able to read significantly better take downs of it elsewhere online. Instead, this is a piece about the hypocrisy of football and the voices that have spoken up about the Super League and the clubs that are involved in it. It is my fervent hope that when the Super League project is defeated, football as a whole undergoes a root and branch review and one that is led by supporters, not by a government that has done nothing about it for ten years but decided to pipe up now because it is popular to do so. The issue is, self-interest continues to rule football as a sport.

Whilst the idea of the European Super League that has been put forward over the last couple of days is abhorrent, it is worth noting that a challenge to UEFA has been due for a long time. Their attempts to paint themselves as the arbiters of what is good and holy about the sport is laughable, with the changes proposed to the Champions League that they forced through yesterday whilst everyone was looking in a different direction doing damage to the competition. There are very few parties that come out of this well, up to and including supporters. When Liverpool won the Premier League, ending a thirty-year wait for a top-flight English title, there were many who took to social media not to celebrate but to ask which players we’d be signing in the summer. If you’re the sort of person that replies to every tweet from Liverpool’s official Twitter account asking when they’re signing Kylian Mbappe, you’re part of the problem that has led us here.

It’s The Natural Conclusion Of A Money-First Sport

Prior to football becoming professional, players were not allowed to be paid for playing the game. Obviously this changed and players began to earn money, with the amount earned spiralling ever since to the point that they now earn more in a week than most of us will earn in a year. The sport developed year-on-year, culminating with the launch of the Premier League in 1992. This was the natural development of clubs being run like businesses, which had started in the 1980s. The driving force behind the new league was Rupert Murdoch’s Sky who, along with the BBC, promised to pay £304 million for the broadcasting rights, which was significantly higher than any deal that came before that. They had walked away from the Football League in order to form their own breakaway league because it would allow them to earn more money than ever.

Perhaps, in many ways, the only surprising thing about the European Super League is that it has taken so long to be launched given the way that the Premier League came about. Self-interest is the only thing that matters in football, which we’ve witnessed time and again. Gary Neville has been speaking with passion and eloquence about his objection to the European Super League, but last season he was shouting ‘null and void’ from the rooftops when it looked as though Liverpool were going to win the league and yet has remained surprisingly silent during this campaign when we haven’t been doing so well. On top of that, he’s helped to financially dope a football club in the lower leagues with his Class of ’92 teammates, which is hardly a demonstration of someone that cares about the soul of football. The Super League is the next step on a journey that is taken on streets that are paved with gold.

No One Comes Out Of This Well

Will Gary Neville think twice before pouring more money into Salford City on the back of the Super League debacle? Will supporters stop themselves before demanding that Liverpool spend hundreds of millions of pounds on players without any sense of where the money is coming from? Is it likely that UEFA will note the error of their ways and put fans first moving forward? Of course none of that will happen, nor will the Premier League take a moment to consider whether a country using a football club to sportswash its image is really a fit and proper owner, provided their own pockets are lined in the process. Football is rotten to the core and all the launch of the European Super League has done is allow us to peak behind the curtain in a way that shows it up for what it truly is. Gary Neville was ranting and raving on the channel that helped to change football in this country in 1992 and even now refuses to say whether it will broadcast the Super League if it happens.

As I said in the intro, I am completely against the Super League but I’m also sick and tired of hypocrisy in football. We should use this as an opportunity not just to shoot down a ridiculous, poorly thought-through idea in the shape of the ESL but also to demand that football is fixed from the inside out. When Liverpool played Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final in 2019, they did so in a stadium that could host 68,000 people yet the supporters were assigned just 32,000 of those tickets. The rest went to sponsors, UEFA executives and club cronies. As Patrick Bamford pointed out in the wake of last night’s match, this reaction has been because clubs and organisations stand to lose significant amounts of money whilst a player or set of supporters guilty of racism get nothing but a slap on the wrist. Football’s priorities have been heading in the wrong direction well before a Super League was launched, so let’s use this to get them back on track.

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