Fans rise against greedy owners to keep football alive!
Sunday night news began to filter in that the top 6 clubs in England i.e Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Tottenham had decided to join a Super League along with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter and AC Milan, and Juventus. Games were still being played in the Premier League and managers like Ole were asked about it post game and they knew nothing more than the media and the fans. There was global outrage, especially from Europe’s major leagues, fans, pundits, and the remaining clubs in the respective leagues. Over this post we will go through the major points over the last 3 days, what exactly was the European Super League? Why some clubs were adamant to take part in it? and What is the future of football?
The European Super League seems to have been the brainchild of Florentino Perez (Real Madrid president), Andrea Agnelli (Juventus Chairman), Joel Glazer (United Owner), John W Henry (Liverpool Owner), and Stan Kroenke (Arsenal Owner). These 5 then managed to convince or pressure the other 7 clubs to join this alternative to the Champions League. The tournament would have 15 permanent teams that would play regardless of where they finished in their domestic leagues. 5 more would then be added on invite or qualification. 20 teams would play in two leagues of 10 midweek and then proceed to a play off style American format until a winner was decided. It according to the owners would bring interest back into football, and would focus on 16-24 year olds who are attracted by shorter games. No one really knows where they got this information from. The competition would be bankrolled by J.P. Morgan for around $4 Billion. Each team would get around 400 million dollars on entry into the competition. According to Perez that money would then filter down amongst the masses.
Perez’s interview came on Monday night, but the 24 hours that had preceded the interview had seen worldwide condemnation. Gary Neville, and Jaime Carragher had gone in on the tournament and the owners fo their clubs for forgetting the values of the sport. Ceferin the UEFA Chief had branded Woodward, Agnelli, and Perez snakes and backstabbers. UEFA were looking into banning players who took part in the ESL from all international tournaments, and the teams from the Champions League. There was a 60 billion dollars law suit being thrown around. PSG and Bayern Munich had refused to join the Super League and were lauded as beacons of hope. The English FA along with the 14 remaining owners of the Premier League teams were looking into sanctions and banning the clubs from taking part in the league. Boris Johnson, and the Duke of Cambridge had also intervened and put pressure on the renegade clubs to return and leave the league. Fans in their million’s had made their voices heard on social media and protests were being planned during the Premier League games.
Perez then gave his interview at midnight in Europe to escape any instant criticism. If the ESL owners were hoping that Perez’s interview would provide some charm offensive then that did not happen. What became clear after Perez’s comments was that the 5 main clubs and mostly all the teams except Chelsea and Manchester City were involved in this because it was basically an economic care package for the owners. All the teams have been hit since Covid began and some like Real Madrid and Barcelona have been so poorly managed over recent seasons that they are suffering from massive debt. The 400 or so million would have been great for these teams to get a player or two and pay some part of that debt off. The interview just painted a very greedy image and it perhaps tarnished more than reassure. What some people could not comprehend was why teams like Arsenal, and Tottenham were involved. If European history was a barometer than these teams had nothing to bring along with City but City have at least been winning leagues. People asked about Ajax, Benfica, Rangers, Celtic, Villa, Leicester, Porto etc numerous other teams in Europe that had done well in Europe and would equally do well with the money given. It was very clearly a power grab by these sadistic owners to ensure that they could earn millions without any need to compete. The tournament would basically become the main competition for these teams with massive squads and the domestic leagues would become new versions of the Carabao Cup. These teams would earn more and the disparity between the 6 and the rest of football would become larger than ever. It was the worst idea ever.
Then came Tuesday and in the early hours UEFA passed through it’s reforms to the Champions League that would come into action from 2024. Those are also quite weird and nonsensical but we will keep that for another post. Condemnation continued with meetings taking place to decide legal action against the Premier League clubs by the rest of the Premier League 14. News began to treacle out that 1-2 English clubs in particular were feeling let down by the likes of United and Liverpool and were misguided. Many thought these clubs were Chelsea and Manchester City because they really didn’t need the money and were rumoured to have been pressured into joining because they didn’t want to be left behind. So cries of “Do the right thing Roman” began to filter through by Chelsea fans and with a Chelsea game to take place on Tuesday evening a protest was scheduled to begin in front of Stamford Bridge from 5:30 pm onwards.
As 5:30 struck Chelsea supporters and fans of other clubs were seen gathering outside Stamford Bridge. At it’s peak the protest must have seen around 1000 people chanting against Perez, the Super League, along with chants about club legends like Lampard etc. The anger was very much focused on the board and not on the players or Tuchel. Petr Cech was then seen talking to protestors an hour before the game, imploring them to let the players through when they arrive and give Chelsea time to sort the situation out. Around 10-15 minutes later news broke that “Chelsea were preparing documents to exit the Super League”. The fans went into celebrations and the environment changed into one of happiness. People were lauding Chelsea fans for pressuring the club into taking the decision. Soon after Manchester City were rumoured to be joining Chelsea in exiting the competition. Atletico, followed as well. Eventually one by one clubs began to exit the competition. News then came out that Ed Woodward was resigning from Manchester United although that was later clarified it would take place at the end of 2021. Still no doubt a result of the Super League fiasco. City became the first team to officially leave the competition as Chelsea were playing the game and did not begin the procedure until after. By Wednesday morning all but Barcelona, Juventus, and Real Madrid had left the competition.
It’s quite ironic that Chelsea and Manchester City two clubs that are blamed in England for ruining football were the ones to save football in the country. The pressure has not let up since Wednesday as most of the top 6 clubs are still under pressure from the rest of the Premier League and fans to make changes in the hierarchy. Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United are being pressured by their fans to be sold to new owners while Chelsea are being pressured to replace Bruce Buck who handled the whole situation from the Chelsea point of view. City’s Sorriano is also under pressure while Levy is also under scrutiny. Elsewhere many execs from the top clubs like Maldini at Milan have come out and said they knew very little if anything about the Super League and this had all been done by people at the top of the clubs. Ceferin welcomed back the Premier League clubs with open arms but there could still be sanctions in the near future. The fallout from this failed attempt at a coup is still yet to be seen, while it is up to fans to keep putting pressure on their American owned clubs.
Perez like a villain from a movie has said that the Super League has just been put on pause and they will return with a new plan. The fact is that change is going to happen in football. There are talks that the Premier League are looking to reform the league and make it into a British Super League with Celtic and Rangers joining. UEFA will also now be under pressure to reform their new approach because there are some glaring holes in their Swiss model of the league that is planned for 2024. This is a big battle won in what could be a long war. Football will have to change, the Champions League changed, the Premier League changed and they will change in the years to come. Tuesday night was a victory for fans though. The fact that these clubs undermined them and thought they would be ok with it was a joke. It showed that regardless of animosity between clubs when it came to a big threat to the sport we all rallied together and fought back. For now it’s the players of these top 6 clubs who will have to get their heads right and refocus after what would have been 3 turbulent days for them.
A big victory for football and the fans and the institutions but change will come and we will have to work together to find a way which it is appealing to both the clubs and the fans. Let’s not pretend that UEFA and FIFA epitomise morality in Football. They are as corrupt as anyone else, those fights have to continue on. I think the season will end and in the summer is when we could see some action in terms of sanctions etc on the owners. I reiterate though banning or deducting points etc would punish the fans, the players and the managers who had nothing to do with this. It would have an adverse affect on people who have worked hard this season to reach their positions. Tuesday was a good day though and showed that fans can get together to fight for what is right.