Well, they’ve gone and done it. Fearful of their lock on the top places and Champions League money, the owners of Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur have decided they like guaranteed money and a closed shop rather than competition and the football pyramid. It’s a greed- and fear-driven move for which all the adjectives have been used: Shameful, disgraceful, disgusting, grotesque, outrageous, cynical…there’s plenty more. I’d add this: It’s an asshole move.
They’ve benefitted enormously from the current set-up, gotten all the money and prestige it has to offer, and now they want to piss on it.
Sadly, there’s no small amount of American influence in this, given the ownership at Liverpool and Manchester United, and indeed, the Glazers in particular, who apparently can’t wrap their heads around relegation.
Notably, American professional teams don’t face relegation. They make money even when they lose year after year. They hold communities to ransom to pay for stadiums, and take all the money, including that from concessions and parking, generated by games played in stadiums that taxpayers fund under threat of teams being relocated.
For them to come into England, buy venerable clubs, and then turn them against their own supporters and the fabric of the game itself is a despicable act. A betrayal of everything football has stood for, a dismissal of history, meaning and passion, and very much in keeping with the arrogance inherent to professional sports ownership in the US. It’s a product, a money-making device, nothing more, and the fans are just suckers who throw their money at it. The advertisers and broadcasters follow because the fans need it too much. Bread and circuses.
One might argue that the Premier League had started us down this path, and I wouldn’t disagree. But even its current state, it’s still linked to the other leagues. There’s relegation and promotion. A chance to share in the spoils, even just the money from a lucrative cup tie.
Everyone’s read all the details. Fury is widespread. Villa’s Christian Purslow has responded well, as have the Premier League, UEFA, and even FIFA. The French and Germans have reached rare common ground in refusing to join. How much idealism is involved there, I can’t say, given the German ownership model. But at least they haven’t even tried, making the whole arrangement even more farcical. England, Italy, Spain. Of course Barcelona would sign on, being in a financial shambles after years of dominance. Likewise Inter and AC Milan, who aren’t tearing up trees these days.
You’ve got greedy Americans leading on other European giants who are already, or in danger of, declining in relevancy and competitiveness. And perhaps the paucity of competition in their domestic leagues makes them more inclined to join. But that also makes their Champions League places guaranteed, along with that money. But they don’t get PL TV money. They want in on bigger, guaranteed income and permanent enshrinement in a pantheon above the mortals. Their proud traditions and previous glories apparently mean nothing anymore.
Villa have just been through relegation and promotion. We’re back, fighting and climbing, yet club which has won the European Cup will be excluded in favor of teams that haven’t: Spurs, Arsenal, City. And whatever definition you apply, Spurs and Arsenal are certainly not “super clubs.” Proud clubs? Yes. A significant part of the game? Yes. But you can see why they’d want inclusion even though they don’t merit it. Clubs like Villa, Leicester, West Ham, Everton, Wolves, and even Leeds are knocking on their door. Spurs and Arsenal could find themselves finishing out of the top half of the table next year. So of course they’d follow right along. They don’t want any more competition. They want the guaranteed money and prestige that they haven’t earned on the pitch.
They dismiss our anger, our history, our game with the contempt of aristocracy.
Me, I fully support moves to expel them from the Premier League immediately, if not sooner if there isn’t a u-turn. They won’t be martyrs, they’ll be simply be the shameless, stateless clubs they wish to become. I fully support their players being unable to play for their national teams. And if it all falls apart and they retreat before measures like expulsion, they should be docked at least enough points to either guarantee relegation to start the next season, or leave them in a relegation battle. The other 14 clubs have the votes, and the anger of the governing bodies should support it. Hell, they should all be relegated to League 2 with no parachute payments. Let them work their way back up, and see how they like it when they finally get back and a new top six have taken root.
If these cynical bastards want to cut ties and alienate supporters, they likely can’t be stopped. I’m sure the loophole letting some clubs qualify is meant to avoid anti-competitive rulings, and it’s an open question as to which way court challenges will go.
So what needs to happen is that the rest of the footballing world boycott their circle jerk. The TV money will dry up if people don’t watch. It’s only there for advertising. No eyeballs, no ads, no money. The players who care about representing their countries? We’ll see. You’d think there are still some who’d like to be at the World Cup. Some who want to have their names etched in that history book along with the greatest who’ve ever played.
It will be messy and drawn out however it goes, but there’s no small chance these owners will succeed in destroying their cash cows because enough wasn’t enough. The bigger loss is to football and the spirit of the game.
As far as these national team competitions, I’ve read the breakaway owners’ glee extends to not having their players in national team games, cups, or even PL matches. Maybe they’re counting on revenue from Asia and elsewhere. They don’t believe their brands are reliant on the context of league football, that no one else from any of these European nations with any love of the game will signing up to watch (which is obviously a large viewing audience), and they believe that foreign, plastic and glory-hunting fans are enough to sustain them. Whether lifelong supporters of these clubs want their sides to become the property of people with no actual attachment to English football, per se, is an open question.
What does it mean for the Premier League? Anyone’s guess, at the moment. If it returns us to the days of football yore, then it will be more exciting for everyone, and Villa probably will become royalty. There’ll be less TV money from Sky, yes. But I’m sure a European club competition will continue, and if true supporters flock to that, it will help everyone. Perhaps structuring it with more revenue falling downstream will help strengthen other leagues. A little bit of altruism goes a long way. There’ll be a lot of Spanish and Italian fans who’ll probably enjoy being released from the stranglehold.
Would I support Villa being one of the extra included clubs? On principle, no, of course not. If it were the only way to continue my affiliation and love of the club? It’s a question no supporter should ever be asked to consider. But I’d be hard pressed to embrace it. Would it feel nice to be considered a European giant? Sure, especially for a club instrumental in founding the FA. But taking away the derbies, history, continuity and all the rest? No soul, no meaning. Just a traveling circus.
The path forward is simple: Football supporters around the world simply need to boycott the so-called Super League. How many will? I dunno. But I’m pretty sure supporters of every other club in the UK and Europe who are getting the shaft can be counted on. And without the meaning of the domestic leagues, how many true supporters of these clubs, never mind the rest, will stick around? How long will their anger last? The oligarchs are counting on it not being for very long.
They’re counting on their supporters behaving like Americans. (To be fair, Americans have never had any choice other than a closed shop.)
So this is the question they’re putting to us. Football supporters everywhere need to stand united. I, for one, don’t give a shit about this Super League and never will. I’d be happy enough playing Ajax and Bayern Munich again in something resembling the old European Cup. And it won’t be devalued for the supporters who will happily forget the entrenched oligarchy who’ve been set on ruining 100 years of tradition for years now.
I feel for the real supporters of these clubs. I really do. The question being asked of you is impossible. I hope some of you stand with the rest of us.
Perhaps money and television had already ruined the game as many of us feel. Yes, Villa have money now, too. But I don’t get the feeling Compass would support breaking away if Villa’s position were reversed. I think they bought in knowing what it was and wanting to win (and certainly make money) within the current confines. I could always be wrong. But that’s what I like to think, anyway.
I obviously and very fervently hope this backfires and that these clubs suffer the consequences of what they’re doing to the rest of football. They’re pissing on every single supporter outside this so-called Big Six and should expect an appropriate reaction if they come crawling back on hands and knees. If this doesn’t go as well as they think, their owners will abandon these clubs.
We can play a part in that—it’s the only thing we can do. Don’t tune in to another game any of them are playing, ever. I know I won’t be. Hell, maybe even when we play them, too. Give me West Brom vs Fulham, thank you very much. And I sincerely hope that if we can’t beat City on Wednesday, we at least give them a good kicking.
Over to you.