Pandemic life has felt like Groundhog Day for most of us, and that’s even without England’s so-called ‘elite’ clubs playing silly buggers (and ultimately being made to look like proper dickheads) for the second time since August.
For the second time in just over six months, football’s self-declared big boys have been caught with their pants down. Last summer they tried to hold the clubs further down the football pyramid to ransom, but were ultimately sent packing, and now there’s the European Super League fiasco.
Fortunately, the latest coup has been defeated – for now – with owners falling over themselves to issue syrupy public apologies following a massive (and totally predictable) backlash. Well, almost everyone. Florentino Perez has more or less told the peasants to naff off, which is also totally predictable. But rich knobs like him have always been a menace to society (and football), but that’s a topic for another blog.
The ESL has really boiled a lot of piss. It’s pretty outrageous that any club feels it’s so much better than everyone else that it needs its own ‘super-league’, but it’s even more galling to see the Arsenal and Spurs owners to mark themselves out as elite when they’re having such poor seasons – and have had poor seasons for a long time. Inter and AC Milan are both having great seasons, but they’ve been far from ‘elite’ for a while now. Why do these clubs think they’re above everyone else?
And then, of course, there’s the scale-back. Every apology was weak, generic and insincere. Never mind that they’d put football and the fans of these clubs through the wringer; these clubs are only sorry their nefarious plan didn’t work.
At least Sky Sports and BT Sports did a good job of giving the plan the slagging off it deserved, and I applaud the likes of Gary Linikear and Gary Neville for going all-in on these twelve rebel clubs. It gave a voice to the fans when the clubs weren’t listening (though let’s be honest: both companies were only so forthright because they stood to lose a LOT of money. Had they been companies with the ESL broadcast rights, I imagine the stance may have been very different. Would the Garys have walked from their jobs? I guess we’ll never know.)
That said, now that the dust has settled I have seen Sky and BT take a different stance. They seem to be wheeling out the good ol’ boys like dinosaur Graham Souness, who say that these clubs shouldn’t be punished because it wasn’t the fans’ fault. Which is all well and good, but I didn’t see that stance being taken for Bolton, Palace, Bournemouth, Leeds, Wednesday, Southampton, Coventry, Portsmouth, Wigan, Luton, Crawley, Darlington, Halifax, Plymouth, Port Vale, Rotherham, Stockport, Wrexham, Aldershot, Boston, Bury, Cambridge or Chester – that’s all the clubs who have had points deducted since 2004. So why – for England at least – should all those clubs suffer a points deduction for breaking the rules, but the Big Six shouldn’t because now all of a sudden it hurts the fans who didn’t make the choice? Give over.
In the Premier League a rule was broken, and those clubs should be punished. I do hope it is a points deduction at the start of next year. With regards to the UEFA competitions, Serie A and La Liga, that will be for lawyers and people with the knowledge of the leagues to sort out. (Again, I hope it’s a points deduction and a ban from European competitions.)
I feel it’s important to say I do feel really sorry for the fans of these clubs, and the sense of betrayal must be huge. I have spoken to a few friends who are fans of these clubs and the response was a universal, ‘Fuck this’. I had one friend say he had come to terms with turning his back on his boyhood club. That is brutal, and to be put in that position because of a greedy owner isn’t right.
If we are being truly honest though, football has been broken for a long time. Owners can buy the whole club and do what they want with it (see Bury as a particularly odious example). You know what they call unchecked power in the real world? A dictatorship. Fans are taken for bigger and bigger rides. Football is a working man’s game that’s become a cash cow for the absolute worst kinds of people. FA Cup Final (and Semi-Final) tickets start at £45 for a seat up in the gods, and rise steeply up to £70, £115 and finally £145. That’s insanity, but people will pay so they can get away with it.
It would also be lovely if UEFA, FIFA, EPL, Sky and BT would show this level of outrage and determination when it came to tackling racism in football. It would be eradicated within a week, but as always nothing is done because at the end of the day, their income isn’t affected by racism, so they don’t care.
I hope the outcome of the ESL leads to government reforms in England for club ownership. Once again, the Germans are smashing football, ‘50+1’ is a fantastic ownership model and one that puts the fans back in the picture and gives us back a voice that’s been stifled for way too long. This model would also help ensure that these owners never have full control of a club again, hopefully resulting in fans coming first.
It’ll never happen, but it never hurts to dream, right?