The Premier League’s attack on the proposed breakaway European Super League is the height of hypocrisy. It’s also unintentionally hilarious.
Try this one for starters. “Fans of any club in England and across Europe can currently dream that their team may climb to the top and play against the best. We believe that the concept of a European Super League would destroy this dream.”
Any club in England? Like Lincoln City, who in the 119 years since they joined the league, have never played in the top flight. Or Port Vale, Walsall and Crewe Alexandra who were also part of the original Football League second division in 1892 and have never made it either.
It’s over a hundred years since Southend United, Gillingham and Doncaster Rovers joined the league for the first time and a hundred since Rochdale and Tranmere Rovers did. They haven’t “climbed to the top and played against the best” either, even before the foundation of the Premier League massively increased English football’s gap between rich and poor.
Many other clubs haven’t cracked the top flight in the past half-century. Most clubs in the bottom two divisions are more focused on avoiding the nightmare of relegation to the National League than achieving the dream of the Premier League. Which is less of a dream than a mocking delusion.
So it’s slightly nauseating to see the Premier League use the lower division clubs as a kind of human shield. Never mind UEFA condemning the proposed breakaway competition on the grounds that “this persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.” In fact UEFA’s Executive Committee is today expected to rubberstamp proposals for a radical overhaul of the Champions League designed to pander to the demands of those “few.”
The new league is predicted to provide the major clubs with many more games, and award places based on past European performances. It will overshadow the domestic leagues in the same way as a Super League.
UEFA have no problem with a league catering to the interests of the continent’s wealthiest clubs. They just don’t want someone else running it.
The proposed Super League would be an obnoxious, elitist and entitled competition. So it’s not surprising to see no top Bundesliga clubs among its proposed membership. The culture of German club football with its low ticket prices, emphasis on financial stability and rule that every club must be majority-owned by its fans is the opposite of the Super League mentality.
Yet Premier League apologists dismiss the Bundesliga model as impossibly idealistic even if the Germans had the world’s best-supported league back when there were crowds. It’s no surprise that the majority of clubs named as members of the breakaway league come from the Premier League which with its expensive tickets, exorbitant wages and huge transfer spending, has always been the greed is good league.
It’s never been too fussy about where the big money comes from. The UAE regime figures who own Manchester City, the Russian oligarch who owns Chelsea and the rich Americans in possession of Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal will hardly be swayed by claims that a breakaway league is a betrayal of English football history. What’s English football history to these guys? They probably think Bobby Moore is Demi’s brother.
When the Premier League complains that the money men it’s encouraged to take over the game are motivated by greed, they sound like a businessman complaining the interest rate on his loan from the Mafia seems a bit high.
A breakaway league will indeed be a monument to greed and selfishness. But what is the Premier League? One of its major achievements has been to make fans worship wealth. The billionaires at the top hear the demands for a ‘war chest’, suffer opprobrium for not spending enough and reach the understandable conclusion that money is what really matters to supporters.
The Premier League and UEFA talk of rallying the fans to their side. Those fans, it is suggested, “won’t stand for this.” But most fans will go along with whatever their club decides and will perhaps relish the chance of seeing their season ticket include matches against Barcelona and Juventus rather than Brighton and West Brom.
Football’s direction in recent years has made a breakaway league inevitable. It will probably function along the lines of an American sports league where the same sides compete against each other year after year. Without the draft system and salary caps which keep those leagues competitive, a handful of clubs will share the honours between them.
The likes of Arsenal and AC Milan will find themselves fulfilling the same role as Brighton and West Brom in the Premier League. Their owners won’t care. The Super League will be where the money is and money is their God.
Perhaps UEFA can postpone the Super League for a couple of seasons but it’s going to happen eventually. The threat of banning players from international football seems an empty one.
With the massive rewards on offer quite a few players might decide they have better things to do on a Wednesday than travel to Albania. Soon leagues which always believed that financial might is right will see their prize chickens flying away to roost.
The Premier League will be destroyed by clubs who’ve learned the lessons it taught only too well. It was fun while it lasted.