The plan violates the spirit and ethos of the sport
If someone had sat down to devise a plan to unite millions of usually-partisan football fans across Europe, they would have been hard-pressed to come up with anything better. My social media feeds are filled with diehard supporters spitting tacks at the proposal for a breakaway European Super League. These include fans of the six English clubs involved in the caper. They have been joined in their fury by pretty much everyone else involved in the game, from its authorities to high-profile former players and pundits. Even presidents and prime ministers have got in on the act.
These individuals and groups see the proposal for what it is: a cynical and unashamed attempt by billionaire owners to generate ever more colossal sums of wealth for their clubs by creating a closed shop at the top of football.
Make no mistake, the plan violates the very spirit and ethos of the sport — of any sport. For all its flaws and inequities, one of the beauties of football remains that there is no ceiling on how far a team might rise or fall. There is always something to strive for, always the potential that a club scratching around in the lower reaches of the game might one day find itself pitting its wits against the highest and mightiest — or indeed the reverse.
Witness, for example, the meteoric rise of Wimbledon from non-league minnows in 1977 to FA Cup holders and top-flight outfit a little over a decade later, or my own team Wolverhampton Wanderers’ slump from Division One illustriousness to Division Four obscurity in successive seasons during that same period. Eat away at that dynamism and unpredictability, and the very essence of the game is threatened.
There are no legitimate football reasons which compel Europe’s elite clubs to create this kind of uncompetitive competition. Teams that are good enough will, under the current structure, always enjoy their fair share of opportunities to compete against the cream of other nations.
Instead, this proposal is driven by naked commercialism and the greed of those looking for a guarantee of regular lucrative pay days, regardless of whether their team’s performances on the pitch merit it, and no matter the impact on the wider game.
Their actions shame the game — the ‘people’s game’, as we like to call it. In response, nothing less than the most exemplary measures will do. Any club participating in the new league should be banned from its own domestic league, and any player taking part forbidden from representing his national side. That is what they deserve for putting money before morality.
Many fans are sick of being fleeced, of witnessing foreign oligarchs and tycoons acquiring their clubs and using them as personal playthings without regard for the wishes of those who have sustained them, often over a lifetime, with support from the terraces. There is speculation that the so-called ‘German model’ — which ensures a club’s fans maintain a controlling stake — will be implemented in British football. It cannot come soon enough.