The biggest heist in football history is underway and the more you look at it, the more you speak to people in the game, the more you realise the reason there’s no PR counter-point is the clubs don’t need one.
It’s happening. You’ll have to suck it up. There are very few options available to anyone.
Rich people get away with bad things because money solves most problems. All manner of shady owners get a pass from fans if there’s an investment on the pitch. This Super League is the future clubs have been looking at since the David Dein era. The big owners hope you’ll forget when you see the riches it reaps on your team every season.
I spent most of my day speaking to people in the game. Most are thinking about this very differently to you or I. They see this as an inevitable next step in a game that hasn’t been for the people for 30 years. The thread of conversations generally had three points.
- Clubs don’t make much money out of the game.
- The pandemic fucked their average business models and they want control back.
- UEFA has massively under-valued the value of the ‘content’ the big clubs produce, this is the consequence of their negligence
The big owners don’t make any money from it. Everything is hoovered up in wages and average business models. You are doing well if you turn a profit. Those profits are pitiful by big biz standards.
The pandemic exacerbated this issue. No fans. No say over TV rights. No control over schedules. No ability to move fixtures. No control over survival. It was a nightmare that hit everyone hard.
The big push is that they feel their content is massively undervalued. Their numbers show that their ‘brands’ drive the most eyeballs and value. They are business people who care about nothing else bar profit and growth, and to their minds, the piece of pie they are getting isn’t big enough.
UEFA haven’t helped themselves. Look at the money they’ve left on the table.
Champions League winner gets £74m (if they win all their games)
Just the signing on fee for the Super League is £310m.
Minimum prize money each season is £130m up to £213m.
Clubs have to win 6 Champions League medals to make the cash delivered in year one of Super League.
Gary Neville, fan appointed slayer of this idea, to people in football, is a laughing stock. The guy that played for the richest club in England, lecturing them whilst he financially dopes a League 2 club, doesn’t fly with them.
The notion of competition to a lot of people I spoke to is also in question. How have things worked over the last decade in Italy, Greece, France, Germany and Spain? In the European Cup right now, 97% of the tournaments have been won by founding members. Is the competition good content before the quarter-finals?
It’s all quite elitist and grim to listen to if you are a romantic like most people who read blogs and listen to podcasts are.
However, as Matt on our latest pod points out (below). How did you feel after we became the best club in Europe at Highbury, only to have our hopes and dreams dashed by Russian blood money? We weren’t left behind based on merit, it was because billionaire backers swept the board in the Premier League and financially doped.
UEFA was supposed to rescue Arsenal and they didn’t. FFP was not the great hope Ivan G promised. Now they’ve been fucked because they let this get out of control.
There is also a belief that this deal is going to work out better for everyone. A stronger Premier League, because we have even better players, will make the Premier League even more appealing. That’ll raise the revenue of other teams in our collective bargain. It’ll also create a load more tax, that British clubs pay, to support a better grassroots system.
This also won’t be the last big shift. There will be a better second-tier competition, that will likely take the elitist approach of making sure there aren’t filler games with bland teams. It’ll focus on quality, because clubs can’t afford to be left behind.
That’s the thinking anyway.
What makes all the above worse is all roads point to this being pushed through without much resistance. Below are some questions I had answered by various people on the potential roadblocks being discussed.
WE’LL BAN PLAYERS FROM INTERNATIONALS
Firstly, we just lost our captain to malaria, I’m not sure clubs care too much for the schedule that ruins their talent. Secondly, UEFA and FIFA simply can’t do it. International duty is an honour, but it doesn’t put food on the table. There is no situation where the 500 best players in the world are not invited to the international tournaments, why? Because there’s no product unless the best players are there.
Imagine the options.
$500k p/w at Arsenal. No World Cup.
$100k p/w at Crystal Palace. Average Europe if you are lucky. World Cup.
PREMIER LEAGUE WILL EJECT BIG 6
A lovely thought, but Sky are not going to have that. It takes more than 14 votes to make a decision at Premier League level. Also, the other clubs don’t want it. The absolute last thing Steve Parish needs is the gravy train of the big 6 exiting the league. No one is paying to watch a top of the table clash between Leicester and Crystal Palace.
There’s also an alternative if they did do a madness. The Premier League is a separate entity from the Championship. The Big 6 could join forces with them and maybe the SPL. They would absolutely jump at the chance.
PLAYERS WILL PROTEST
Highly doubtful. Players will know this new deal means more money if you make it to the top. They will also soon learn that better players in the Premier League mean a bigger TV deal which means more money for them. Remember when it was an actual conversation whether players would go to shit clubs with no history for money? If you don’t, it was a real conversation.
Super League means a bigger retirement fund for everyone. Players aren’t going to vote for something that lowers their earnings potential.
REBEL TEAMS WILL BE BANNED FROM EUROPE THIS FRIDAY
How can you cancel the Champions League? How can you make the Europa League spectacle Roma vs Villareal?
Moves like that wouldn’t fly with TV or sponsors. They would also push clubs right into the Super League. UEFA and FIFA need to negotiate, they’d be foolish to go nuclear on this season.
This sounded like a good idea to me yesterday morning. It’s a populist move, it could be politically advantageous for someone like Boris who courts the working-class vote. However, it’d be quite the move for democratic nations to tell private business what they can do. It’d also be problematic to demand less money come into the country via payroll tax. Every nation is reeling, they need to pay loans back, footballer revenue is a big, big contributor.
This Super League move is an attack on his empire. You’ve seen the seething pundits he’s rolling out. Every newspaper in his portfolio will rally against this. He is the darkest of media moguls. I read a piece about his relationship with Zuck. He basically told him to course-correct on media payments or he’d go after him. His relentless attacks wear the powerful down, his channels make you nightly news, his sycophants get airtime on his shows parroting corrosive talking points over and over. If he gets his teeth into this, he could use the basic premise of populism to create a divide between fans and their clubs. How much stomach do CEOs have for his crew rummaging in the metaphorical bins of the past? Vinai didn’t have the stomach for a fan Q&A Sunday.
This is a legitimate form of action that could be interesting. Fans could protest. They could activate social media. They could clog switchboards. They could be a real pain in the arse.
Problem? CEO Daniel Levey isn’t driving this move. CEO Vinai isn’t the decision-maker. It’s Stan, who is sitting in a £100m ranch in Colorado. You know what he’s thinking? £12 billion over 23 seasons, minimum.
There are rumours some British clubs are losing their nerve, so let’s see… but my point stands, owners of these mega clubs make the decisions. They aren’t in the stands or on twitter. They reside in palaces, ranches, and mansions where the rabble cannot bother them. Bottling it after 2 days would be a surprise.
The biggest weapon against all of this is time. CEOs and owners know this. If they can’t get this agreed for next season, the weight of the fans, the media, and government might be too much. Someone has to find a big wrench and slow the momentum. If you can give the fighters of this battle the weapon of time, it might be stopped.
They’re trying to go warp speed on this because once it’s done, fans in the stadium can’t do much about it. It’ll be as effective as Green & Gold or the Wenger Out protests. But clog it up, target a weak owner, and who knows?
THE GERMANY EFFECT
PSG are not committing yet, but let’s be real, no team needs this like them. However, Germany has been quiet. They are fan-owned. This is not a fan-owned vibe. Germany is not a country that readily indulges the big man taking away from the little man. A strong statement of rejection from Bayern and Dortmund would add real pressure to the other clubs.
So to conclude. This is a desperate time for those of us that believe in football the way it’s currently shaped. The meritocratic nature of the game that we love has become a squashed business model impediment. We’re now on the path to something far more stable and controlled. I don’t like it. It’s a miserable end to a journey we all knew we were on for years.
Football looks like a WWE drama from the 90s, but less fun. We’re looked at as a category of content, not a community institution. We cater to the globe, not the faithful. We now represent the worst of privilege and entrenched power.
Rooting for UEFA or FIFA is like choosing a root canal or an eye infection. Hoping a media mogul that has divided the world comes to our rescue is literally doing a deal with the devil. Praying fan action will do anything after watching it fail over and over again feels naive.
This is not the game I fell in love with, but it’s the game I love. What do you do?
Let’s see where the drama takes us.
P.S. We dropped a spicy podcast about the touchiest subject we’ve ever covered on The Arsenal Opinion. Johnny, Matt and myself were joined by Venture Capitalist, Daniel Cardenas (long-suffering Gooner).