The attempts by Europe’s elite were thwarted by the passion of fans, but what will come from the fallout?
The European football world was thrown into turmoil on Sunday evening after plans for a ‘European Super League’ (ESL) were revealed. The league proposed to involve the “big six” of English football – Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham. This would see these apparent European giants join a breakaway competition alongside three teams each from Italy and Spain. The reception to the proposal was rightfully hostile and the threat posed by Europe’s biggest football clubs in attempting to create an exclusive competition was the greatest betrayal to the world’s most popular sport.
The wider footballing world came together to condemn the plan and the government started to explore legislative possibilities to scupper the competition going ahead. On Monday, it was announced a fan led review involving supporters trusts and boards would look further into the disgraceful governance of the game we hold so close. This government action and unfettering persistence from fans across the world saw a monumental U-turn from the Premier League clubs in question. Even as the Premier League clubs have now withdrawn themselves from the proposed league, only 48 hours after it was conceived, there is still a sense of unrivalled disgust amongst both fans and players who hold the game so close to heart. Ed Woodward, one of the devisers of this money grabbing frenzy, failed to glance across at many of the banners hanging around Old Trafford. The most telling of which reads a quote from Manchester United’s Sir Matt Busby stating: “Football is nothing without fans”. Clearly this was not something that even crossed Woodward’s mind when he called up his old friends at J.P. Morgan, ready to pump ludicrous sums of money into perhaps the most controversial idea in football to date.
As heartening as it may seem that the Super League outrage is over, this is far from the truth. To the fans this is merely a cowardly retreat, a ceasefire of epic proportions. For a matter of moments Roman Abramovich became a protector of the people’s game, an enemy of the money grabbing elites, discarding his oligarchical status to be a commander for the masses. This was soon followed appropriately by Manchester City and the other Premier League clubs following suit as Sky News reported celebratory scenes on the Fulham Road: “banners flying, lager in hand and countless Chelsea fans embracing as their club was saved from this absurdity.”
There is every right to rejoice in the short term, yet this, if anything, acts as a dark warning of what football has the potential to become and what it is allowing itself to succumb to. The true owners of football are not the billionaires sitting behind a computer screen, funnelling money in and out of offshore accounts, football’s actual owners are the supporters, whose lives are entwined with these clubs. The overruling regulators and governing bodies have been exposed to exactly what football means to the millions. That is the least they have to take from this disturbing episode. Perhaps the most heartening aspect of such a daunting ordeal is to feel the energy, the sense of ownership and community roused by this sudden presentation of the facts of where we are. Yet, this retreat from the ESL is almost expected given the strangely amateurish manner in which the league was proposed almost seemed to be designed as a gambit designed to shock. Did the boards and the moronic money movers really expect a different reaction? Surely no one expected millions of fans, who have not been able to see their teams play in months, become intrigued and excited by such a mundane statement from a Glazer of all people. In retrospect, this was all a part of extreme posturing, barging in with steroid induced overclass deluded muscles.
Leaving football fans furious, the ESL is such a brazen attempt to shield the powers that be from any consequence, yet still portray themselves as some sort of patron of the game at the same time. This brass necked cowardice is rare to witness to such a degree but is not completely ill founded in football. Among this greed and despicable behaviour, a positive take can still be found. More apparent than ever is a startling feeling of unity. No fan base was in favour, no fan was in favour, and as social media has revealed no player approved of this either. This is a collective force that must be preserved and utilised in the future when the powers that be will inevitably storm the integrity of the game with intrepid voracity. The ESL may be postponed for the time being, but the overarching concerns and the damage this has caused cannot be ignored. The governing bodies in football are blatantly self-serving and opaque. There is a dire need for reform and there is a consensus that indicates that it should come from below rather than this thoughtless money orientated regime.