The collapse of the Super League on day two marks one of the most spectacular fails in business history.
Owners and their exec leaders spent the pandemic scheming ways to make the most of a bad situation. As I wrote yesterday, they thought they had every base covered. They believed ‘big club energy’ would make the rest of the football world bend to their will. They hoped they could ride this out with the fans.
It did not happen.
Some thought on the tipping points.
Early morning, The AST said that Boris Johnson was not only horrified, he was actively seeking to stop the Super League from happening. Politically, as the top boy, he has a lot of power. He could have interfered with taxes, messed with player temp visas, and most importantly… toy with the residences of billionaires taking up camp in England. If Boris can sniff out political opportunity with his base, you are in trouble. He is the world’s number 1 when it comes to breaking up European alliances. It’ll take a few days to find out what tipped the scales, but I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the political system turned some screws. I also wonder how the JP Morgan piece played into this. Did someone in the government tell the bank that this was a no-go? That Boris would drag it out and make it deeply unpopular? Watch this space.
Bayern Munich said no, with Germany politely saying fuck off to the proposal. That was followed by the news that PSG wouldn’t play ball. There are rumours they were the inside man on this deal, back-channelling to UEFA where their owner is a big deal. Regardless, how can you have a Super League without those two teams?
The third and most important impact was the wall to wall vitriol spewed in the papers, social media and the sports channels. No one had a good thing to say about the Super League. Everyone hated it. It spoke to greed, it was the antithesis of what makes European sport popular, and it shone a bright light on the characters of those engaging in this act of treachery.
Chelsea bailed first. Then City. Then Spurs, United, and Arsenal. Now there is no Super League.
Ed Woodward was the first big name to resign. He’s out at United. That is huge. He burnt all his capital with the fans and his position was untenable. There are rumours doing the rounds that the Glazers are looking to sell because football doesn’t have a high enough profit ceiling and they want out.
I wrote yesterday what people inside the game were thinking about the possible threats to their ghastly vision. A few gave me pelters suggesting the post was wrong. Not sure how people came to that conclusion. The plan was built to deliver the Super League, the 12 clubs thought they had safety from all the counter-punches. Some of those execs spent yesterday trying to sell those counter-points I wrote about.
Ivan Gazidis on why it works for the little guys.
“The Super League will provide value and support to the whole football pyramid with greater financial resources.”
Florentino Perez on the lack of power to control the big 12.
‘They won’t throw Madrid out of the Champions League, for sure,” Perez said. “Not Madrid or [Manchester] City or anyone. I’m completely sure. Or La Liga either.’
Perez on ‘content’ and the new style of fan.
‘Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to the wishes of the fans.’
Barca on how they could convince the governments the influx of money would improve infrastructure (grassroots support).
‘Those clubs in power will share €3.5billion “solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the covid pandemic’
What ended up unravelling this buttoned-up plan?
You can’t even call this misreading the room, because I don’t believe these execs thought this was ever going to be a popular plan. They just shit their pants. Chelsea fans literally rocked their bus and it all came crumbling down.
It was a dastardly plan, enacted by folks disconnected from fan culture, who messed their pants after TWO DAYS.
I think football fans are shocked at how easy it was to win. Fan FC, gegenpressing masters, tried to win the game inside the first 10 minutes and scored 7 goals. It was over before there was an official hashtag or a banner to fly over the stadium. We were at the mean tweets phase. I thought this would go on for weeks. I thought the billionaires would plough through like they do with every other change they bring to the game.
They bottled it.
Now what for Arsenal?
Vinai is the face of this move though not the decision-maker. Regardless, he’s lost the trust of the fans, players, sponsors and the staff in one hit. How does that affect his ability to lead us this summer? How can he ever talk about our class again after trying to slip this out the door at 11pm on a Sunday night? If he stays, he’s damaged goods, if he goes, we’re starting AGAIN. It never stops for Arsenal. There is always something terrible to deal with that is of our own making. It’s not just him. Tim Lewis, Gooner on the ground, would have been part of this as well. Plenty of people who love football at Arsenal, went along with this regardless. At least the players and staff didn’t know. Auba deleted his twitter account.
The club apologised, the only one to do so, which is at least a start, but the tone was purposefully naive and misleading.
The system needs to be fixed. We must work together to find solutions which protect the future of the game and harness the extraordinary power football has to get us on the edge of our seats.
We know it will take time to restore your faith in what we are trying to achieve here at Arsenal but let us be clear that the decision to be part of the Super League was driven by our desire to protect Arsenal, the club you love, and to support the game you love through greater solidarity and financial stability.
The miscalculation was the big clubs thought their global fans were different to the noisy rabble in London. They believed the new ‘casual’ fan was engaging with football like they would an algorithm suggestion in Netflix. They believed football was just another type of content like video games, TV, or music. They were not prepared for the commoners to see stability as a collective issue. They believed their own greed and desire to be part of the elite insider group would be the same for the fans. They were all wrong, the values local fans have is part of what makes the game appealing, and they want to be part of that… and are. For Arsenal to be talking about stability after they tried to spoil the game for the many, to preserve privilege for the few, makes this statement so off-key. Values our leadership talk about are marketing gimmicks, this debacle is a proof point to that.
The open letter said a few times they were trying to protect the club and its future. A great soundbite if we were Dagenham & Redbridge. We’re Arsenal. We have a billionaire owner married to into of the most successful families that has ever existed on this planet. He is supposed to be our protection. That was the point of a billionaire owner. If we weren’t getting his investment, we were better of being run privately like we were when we were successful.
Vinai said this when he started.
‘Together we will work tirelessly with the extraordinary staff we have at Arsenal to respect and enhance our unique history, heritage and values; with the overall objective to bring success to our millions of fans all around the world and make them proud of their club’
Protecting the future of our club by eliminating competition was the plan to make us proud? Sacking Gunnersaurus? Firing 52 members of staff before signing a 32-year-old on a 3 year deal for £250k a week? This ‘proud’ strategy needs a rethink because it has never been less believable.
As for ‘mistake’.. come on. This was no mistake. This has been on the agenda for longer than Vinai. No one can be shocked Ivan spoke up about it on Tuesday, this was part of the reason he moved to Milan. Imagine what this would have done for his stock options? This was a premeditated attack on European football culture. It required deep thought and planning. It’s something they knew would distress fans and they just did it anyway. The only regret Arsenal has on this is that everyone else lost their nerve and the stress and embarrassment wasn’t worth a penny.
So what becomes of Arsenal? How does this mess affect our standing in the game? How does it affect the dressing room? How does it impact our appeal this summer?
There was a rumour that Chelsea and City pulled out of this because it levelled the playing field. They exit this debacle winners regardless because they didn’t ever need the money. Arsenal? We’re back to £20m summers in a sell to buy cycle. That felt bad before, now, it feels even worse.
If the Super League is dead, why would Stan continue to keep a club that is bottom of that power league? Isn’t it time to hand it over and admit that this little stunt was the last roll of the dice for a guy that has absolutely no vision or ideas for a game that has passed him by? Isn’t it time for him to be the bigger man and end this. Give the club to someone that likes sport. Do something fair for the fans. Last time I checked, there are 150,000 people tweeting #KroenkeOut. Cash-out. A group repping a very rich family told me they wanted to buy out Arsenal for £2 billion 3 years ago. There are buyers out there. Maybe this mess might offer them a way out as they struggle with costs and focus with The Rams complex. I’m dreaming, this is about as likely as JP Morgan leaking ‘Stan is selling’ to Talksport.
Outside the consequences for Arsenal. What are the consequences for the idea? What stops this from happening again? Who intervenes? Government? FIFA? UEFA? How can the fans be secure in the knowledge this near miss will be avoided… forever. Who will protect the sanctity of the game?
This was a coup. It failed. The lessons of history tell you that if harsh consequences are not meted out, the bad guys come back for the prize again and again. Football cannot allow this culture crime to slide. UEFA let this happen by not enforcing rules, by bungling TV deals, by being average. Time for them to get tough. Time for some accountability. Time to secure the game.
Before I go, Johnny mentioned an important point on the podcast and so have plenty of people that tweet me and contribute to the website. If the big 12 can plan a breakaway during work hours in a pandemic, don’t tell me they can’t do something big on racism in the game. We just played Slavia Prague and everyone in Europe was hoping we’d beat them because of their abhorrent behaviour that goes unchecked. If we can use the might of Arsenal to cut a mega deal at the expense of our soul, then we can use it to fix something that is still stinking out our game.
The fans won. What a moment. The biggest farce in business history and a win for the little guys. Unbelievable. Have a great day, I hope you’re smiling.
P.S. Special shoutout to the immense work Tim Payton and the AST Team has done on this. If you want to put your money towards a force for good in football, sign up to this link and add your voice to their growing membership.