Sport

The European Super League highlights the shameless greed of football club owners

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On Sunday evening it was announced that a new European Super League would be created in which the 12 biggest teams in Europe would play weekly matches against each other. The ‘big six’ of English football would join AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid in a competition which would alter club football indefinitely. 

There would be no promotion or relegation, meaning that essentially these 12 teams would play football without any real consequences inside an exclusive, closed shop. To me, this runs counter to the entire notion of competitive sport.

What is the point of Juventus playing Manchester United midweek if the league has no real element of danger? Would it not become stale to watch the same teams play each other each week, with no underdog club emerging and being able to go on a run of games? I certainly think so.

Do fans of these clubs supporting this proposal not realise that one of two of these teams will likely become the Super League’s version of Burnley, getting beaten regularly yet surviving midtable every season? 

The whole notion of a European Super League smacks of elitism. The idea that they are the ‘biggest’ teams in Europe is a complete twist of the truth, as the only vision uniting the owners of these teams is greed and the concern for their bottom line. Liverpool’s motto is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, but their decision to take part in and promote this competition is akin to leaving their supporters out in the cold.

These are not the same football clubs many of us have grown up and fallen in love with, but instead, are sporting conglomerates backed by billionaires and bankers. The Glazers and Fenway Sports Group want to turn football into a franchise system in which the richest clubs get all the attention whilst the smaller teams try to keep their heads above water. 

If the European Super League was to go ahead, competitive football as we know it is dead. The announcement on Sunday showed us that professional football is no longer about which clubs are the best teams but rather which ones have the most Twitter followers. It is a shallow, farcical way of looking at football. 

Arsenal is currently in 9th place in the Premier League and drew at home to Fulham at the weekend. Tottenham have just sacked Mourinho and haven’t won a major trophy since 2008. This Super League is not about the best teams but rather which clubs have the best brand recognition. Sporting equality has been dead in the water for a while, but this decision has put the final nail in the coffin.

Football is a game about community and belonging, but these 12 clubs are more concerned about profit and wealth. For the owners of these clubs, football is a commodity and treated strictly like a business, with the integrity of these institutions being slowly stripped away from a layer at a time.

Does Stan Kroenke not understand the romance of Leicester City’s remarkable Premier League triumph, or Sunderland’s nail-biting survival during the 2015/16 season? Football is about passion, emotion and rivalry, but the proposal sought to jeopardise this entirely.

There are massive problems with football and it would be naive to think that football is pure and meritocratic. It isn’t. Despotic states can indirectly own football clubs and fans have little to no say in the decision-making process unlike in other countries like Germany. The idea of a European Super League though is the most blatant example of shameless greed. Many of these clubs are already financially successful – do they really need more money?

What concerns me most is that if it had gone ahead, I believe most fans would roll over and accept this new league. Since the announcement #CancelESL has been trending on Twitter, but how long would the uproar have gone on for if the league had commenced?

In a similar way to how many criticise the 2022 Qatar World Cup, most will complain but would ultimately still tune in to Sky Sports to watch Chelsea vs. Barcelona in game week one. I wish people were more active in terms of speaking out.

I understand that people think they can’t make much of a difference, but a big part of civil society is making your voice heard. Last night, all six Premier League teams pulled out of the proposal, showing the difference people can make when they come together and organise. However, fans are frustrated such a league was ever proposed and #punishthe6 is now trending as the fallout continues. It seems people won’t be quick to forget what has happened over the last few days.

Football is commonly referred to as the beautiful game, but for many, the last few days has shown the ugly side to a sport that so many of us love. Let’s hope nothing like the European Super League goes ahead in the future, for football’s sake.

Cover image: phillipkofler via Pixabay. Image was cropped. Licence here.

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