The European Super League
Football. A game in which all you need is a ball and - if you’re pushing the boat out - some football nets. It was built by, and meant for, the working-classes. A game anyone can enjoy, from the streets of Newcastle to the villages of Africa. It has brought immeasurable joy to millions of people around the globe for decades. It has allowed social mobility to such a wild degree that players such as Sadio Mane of Liverpool FC can now build hospitals and finance schools to be built in his home village in Senegal. This seemingly gives credence to the fact that - on occasion - a high tide can raise all boats.
That is - until the compassion for ordinary people stops. Which is what has occurred over the last twenty four hours.
The world has been set ablaze by the news that some of the biggest club teams in world football are to formulate their own European Super League. Each founding club who joins will be given $3.5 billion to offset the damage done by the Covid-19 pandemic. To put this into context, every club within the competition could give every individual in the United Kingdom £52 with the money that will be bestowed upon them.
The best teams in the world will all play each other on a regular basis throughout the calendar year, and none of them can be promoted or relegated from this new ‘Super League’. The competition takes a leaf out of the American sports franchise world; there is no competition, only stagnation.
There is no beauty within it. There is no freezing cold Tuesday nights watching your team being hammered by an opposition team that they should rightfully have swept aside easily while trying to keep your hands warm. There will be no teaching our young children about the futility of life through the vehicle of a turgid 90 minutes of football. There will be only glitz. There will only be a sleek facade of what was once a beautiful game. It will be corporatised and sanitized beyond even what it has been over the last few decades.
It will be as if world football is ruled through the lens of an instagram filter; with its oligarchs shedding their old wealth and stepping into the new; laying prostrate, ready to worship in this new cathedral of capitalism that will span around the world.
The condemnation has been strong and has not yet abated since the announcement was made on April 18th. Working-class fans across Europe will be priced out of their respective clubs, unable to fly to see Liverpool play Madrid in Spain. The games will begin to matter less as we see all the best teams lock horns constantly instead of the usual mouthwatering fixtures we are treated to during the closing stages of the Champions League each year.
Like so many other things in our lives, money is King. Unchecked free-market capitalist principles move us all around like pieces on a chessboard. Or - maybe more fittingly - players on a Subbuteo pitch.
Despite the fact that the Covid pandemic has unearthed deeper disparities in wealth between ordinary people and the super rich, within the most popular sport on the planet the Kings have deemed it acceptable to exile themselves and pull the ladders back up with themselves, leaving every other club to flounder in their wake.
The after effects of this seismic change are innumerable. Will managers such as Jurgen Klopp work in tandem with the fans and lambast the owners of Liverpool for turning their back on the club’s historically socialist principles? The news has certainly made the chorus of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ ring hollow this morning. Will the players all use their considerable power as a collective to band together and reject this decision that has seemingly been made without their consent? Will English football ban its biggest clubs from darkening our door ever again? Or will the news that broke yesterday merely be heralded in the future as the beginning of the end for the beautiful game?
One thing is for certain, that fans who have been born and bred worshipping their club will see the game that they have loved for generations, morph beyond recognition into a grotesque, parody of something that - by any stretch - was already too greedy to begin with.
If I had any faith in the institutions that govern football (UEFA, FIFA and the EPL) I would hope that the shock generated from this announcement would mean that teams around Europe follow Germany’s lead and allow the fans - who are the true soul of the respective clubs that they support - an ownership stake within said clubs. So that the true lifeblood of football can have a say in the direction the sport will go in the future.
Sadly, when it comes to football, and the free-market as a whole, faith in the fact that the right thing will be done doesn’t seem to get you very far.
The world waits with bated breath to see what will happen in the days and weeks that follow.