Last week was strange to say the least. The short lived “Super League” threatened to shatter the structure of the game in a spectacular carve up of TV cash by a cartel of self-appointed big clubs. But it has made everyone think about what is important about the game we love and united fans in defence of what is important.
Football as we know it is changing and although we’ve had large changes such as the introduction of the Premier League and Sky Sports and even as recently as VAR, none of these are as detrimental to the game as the Super League would be.
Usually I’d sit on the fence, hear both sides and make a decision. I cannot do that on this subject. Football to me is my dad and me, it’s local pubs and businesses, it’s working class people enjoying a sport that was created by them and for them. It’s Saturday at 3pm, the smell of grease from the burgers vans and the bellowing calls of “Programmes!”. It’s for people like me who get to the end of the week knowing we have a release, something to look forward to no matter what has occurred in the last 7 days, it’s 90 minutes to forget it all. It’s the “Agueroooooo!” moment, that Cantona celebration, Giggs’ hairy chest and Bullard’s wacky celebrations. It’s a beautiful game and a way of life, not a cash cow for businesses.
For those who’ve been under a rock, the ESL (European Super League) was a mooted breakaway league to be formed of the 12 “greatest and elite” European clubs made up of 6 English, 3 Spanish and 3 Italian teams that include no form of relegation. It would have smashed the Champions League and degraded domestic competition. Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur were the 6 from the Premier League poised to break away, which is laughable as Spurs have lifted the same amount of trophies as little old Middlesbrough since the start of the millennium.
The idea was that the league would play fixtures midweek, starting from as early as August, and still partake in the Premier League, La Liga and the Serie A as well as the Champions and Europa League. After the announcement it all quickly unravelled under a backlash from fans, pundits and football authorities then politicians waded in too.
FIFA and UEFA suggested that any participating player will be banned from competitions such as the World Cup and the European Championships this summer. That left players in a very awkward position where they would have to choose between club or country. Many made public their unhappiness. It wasn’t their decision. They had not been informed.
Fans – even of the bid clubs involved – almost universally rejected the plan. There were protests outside grounds. Broadcasters denounced it. Politicians were dragged in to make public statements in support of the protests and in support of reform. The whole sorry affair may have collapsed but it has thrown the key issues in the game into focus.
I think it’s disgusting how out of touch the owners of these clubs are. Liverpool base their whole club on the phrase “You’ll Never Walk Alone” but this decision is exactly the opposite of that. The fans are now walking alone against the American conglomerate that has essentially ruined THEIR club. This isn’t up for debate anymore, it needs to change.
Manchester City were a club from the lower divisions as recent as 20/30 years ago. This is a club that is owned by a man who has tirelessly worked with the community and has improved the surrounding areas of the Etihad so much, which to me is as hypocritical as it comes when a decision has been made to hurt the fans and the community they say they care so much about. It is a decision that is fuelled by nothing but greed and the want for more power and the want for a more commercialised, diluted, unrecognisable version of the sport that I was brought up to follow and adore.
John W Henry, Joel Glazer and Stan Kronke never have and never will understand what football means to people like me. It is the want for an Americanised, foam fingered, The Weeknd on the pitch at half time at the FA Cup Final sort of sport that has created this absurd, ridiculous idea which is the Super League.
Manchester United are at the forefront of this Super League announcement and the creation of this league, yet local club Bury, only 30 minutes up the road now cease to exist after getting no financial aid from any of “The Big 6”, it’s embarrassing. Clubs such as Wigan, Portsmouth, Blackpool, Hull, Bury, Dover and Bolton have all suffered financially in recent years and for me, it is genuinely upsetting to see fans of these clubs have to watch their club die when the “worlds greatest” are raking in the billions and looking after nobody else but themselves.
Joel Glazer made a statement that included the words “The worlds greatest clubs”. This is the man who owns Manchester United, “the world greatest club”. That has dropped points to Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Everton. The same club that has been knocked out of the cup by 2nd league teams like Derby and Middlesbrough.
So does that mean those clubs listed are amongst the “Worlds Greatest”? No, of course it doesn’t. On the day this league was announced, 10th place Arsenal drew with relegation favourites Fulham at home and a few weeks prior Tottenham were knocked out of the Europa League after losing a 3 goal lead to Dinamo Zagreb. Does that mean Fulham and Zagreb are amongst the “Worlds Greatest”? Again, of course it doesn’t.
Both the ESL announcement and reaction have shown me how lucky I am to support Middlesbrough Football Club. Ran by a local fan who saved the club from the brink of extinction for only a pound. It’s people like Steve Gibson who are the backbone and the spine of English football. Steve Parish is another brilliant example, a local south London fan who bought his boyhood club and has run the club as a fan, not as a business.
I seriously hope that the togetherness and united feeling from fans continues. This is all about money, pickpocketing the wallets of genuine fans. Football owners are lucky to own our club, our memories, our crests and colours, our livelihoods and this idea has shown nothing but a complete disregard and disrespect for that.
Football without fans is nothing, but football isn’t football anymore. It has become a cash grab for foreign investors who haven’t been to Stoke on a cold Tuesday night, haven’t hugged a random person in pure euphoria when a last minute winner bursts the back of the net, who hasn’t cried when their team has fallen at the final hurdle.
They have never met their friends in the local at 5am, ready to jump on a 6 hour coach to Bournemouth, they have never seen the things we have seen, and that is the difference. Football is the centrepiece of millions of lives in this country and is so much more than just a game. It’s a way of life.
So what happens next? . There has been widescale condemnation of this idea but fans need to stay united. We need the to show that our clubs are so much bigger than the businessmen that own them. These clubs are The Kop, The Stretford End, The Shed End. The scarf sellers outside the ground and the stewards and staff that make a matchday, a matchday.
It’s time we stood up for OUR game and made it ours again. It’s time we gave these clubs back to the people that matter and not the ones who want adverts every 10 minutes and gourmet meals on the terraces. Let’s get football back to what it used to be, what our parents and grandparents fell in love with just like we did.
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