CHAPTER 2: A SOFTER FORM OF BRUTE FORCE (LONG READ)

by .

Now the madness of the Super League has died down, maybe we can have a conversation about where we’re heading.

The Super League proposition was an odd one. It wasn’t good versus evil. It was bad vs evil. It was a film where every character is flawed, and you picked the lesser villain to root for.

Think about who you cheered this week.

Boris Johnson, the man that said he’d lie on the runway at Heathrow rather than expand (then expanded). Famous for the biggest lie put on a bus, ever.

Rupert Murdoch, the person that started the pillaging of football in the 90s, currently allowing his opinion presenters to shed doubt on vaccinations in a country that lost 500k to covid, just to own the libs. Climate denial as his own country burns.

Gary Neville, voice of the people… except when he played for the richest club in England that bought success year after year and had some weird thing going on with referees that the referees now admit to. Oh, he’s also financially doping his Salford FC club despite Scholes saying they wouldn’t. Oh, and there are also accusations that he uses his elite celeb powers to land special treatment with the locals. Oh, the man of the people ALSO works for Rupert Murdoch. Oh, guess which dreamboat has a 50% stake in his club? PETER LIM, the man that I wrote about who owned Valencia, who let a super agent run riot, that led fans to oust Nuno after he got them into the Champions League because they believed he was part of the team that destroyed the soul of their club. I wrote a scathing piece about Nuno when Raul was trying to hire him at Arsenal, read it, then PLEASE tell me if that’s who you’d jump into business with if you cared about the beautiful game.

…voice of the people? Fuck off.

We all fell for it in the moment though; when your world is under threat, you’d rather have the voice with you than against, but never forget, many of them were protecting their own piece of a pretty ugly pie.

Where were these voices when working-class fans were priced out of football?

Where are these people NOW on systemic racism?

Where are these people when fans get fucked around with scheduling for the global audiences?

At the trough.

The closest I’ve ever come to losing my life was on Clerkenwell Road after a night out. I had just bought an amazing kebab. I was jogging across a road that was on a red light and I dropped the kebab bag, horrified, I turned back to save the meat box, I snatched it away like a hero, not realising there was a car powering at me… the Ford Focus brushed the top of my head at 30mph. It was a near miss and a lot to put on the line for a £6.99 after-hours feast. That would have been lights out for me. I have never done something so stupid since.

Football is the kebab in the bag. The fans are my head if I’d been hit. We saved the game, we’re dreaming of the feast ahead, but we haven’t seen the car careening at us.

Did that story work? Maybe not.

Point is… what does this near-miss for UEFA mean?

‘PUNISHMENT’

Puuuuurlease. I just don’t believe there can be a punishment from the biggest clubs after this near miss. UEFA needs to have a good Champions League. Punishing mega clubs would be a weird move. They’ll take execs off their committee roles. Strip them of their board seats. But punishing the clubs is punishing the fans and their big sponsors.

Even the stripping of exec roles… Agnelli leaves the ECA Chairman role and is replaced by the guy the lobbied for the Qatar World Cup? Have you read a single thing about the build for that World Cup? Is that what saving the game was about? Fucking hell people… we’ve just let the fox into the hen house.

Back to it. You can’t have a Champions League without the big names.

I think the most likely outcome, which is rumoured to be happening, is a kick-up in revenue for the CL. $4 billion added to the pot.

It’s also rumoured that there will be a backdoor way for big clubs to get into the tournaments via coefficients.

The rumblings are that we’ll end up seeing the same format that was on show for Super League… but with competition at the heart of it.

Florentino Perez came out and added more weight to the story I wrote the other day. He literally said the big clubs don’t make money. That complaint is hilarious, he’s complaining they don’t make money because they waste it all on agents, transfers, and wages. HILARIOUS but important to compute… if big clubs feel like the game is fucking them, they will continue working to change that.

I think the Super League is dead but the drivers underpinning its appeal are not going away.

The big idea is this: How do you put more money in the pockets of clubs that bring the big money?

There’s talk of relaxing FFP so Manchester City and PSG don’t have to fret about their financial doping.

Will the big voices go to war for those unfair practices? No way. We’re baseball fans watching Sosa and McGwire slug it out for the home run record in 1998. Here for the spectacle, not the details. As long as the football is pretty, we don’t see the grimness of what it’s become.

This failed coup will not end ‘innovations for the good of the game’, it’ll just shift the way they are sold.

Financial security for the few won’t sell. But more quality? Maybe that will. Reducing the number of teams from countries that don’t sell eyeballs will happen and that might not see such a vitriolic reaction because it won’t affect the key nations in the mixer, it’ll affect the smaller ones. Is that fair? No. Will there be hashtag campaigns to protect Bate Borisov? No fucking chance.

Having the biggest brands in football in the biggest tournaments is a premise you could sell, just not at the expense of competition. But what if the new Champions League changed how you gain entry to it? What if they created backdoor entries and more wild cards. What if making the semi-finals of Europa landed you into the Champions League? It’s usually BIG teams that make the final 4, it certainly has been of late. What if they brought in a rule that if you qualified for Champions League domestically and made the semi of Europa, that extra spot was given to 5th place in the league the team was from. Would fans protest that? Doubtful.

‘I don’t make the rules’ shoulder shrugs from most.

Case in point: Did anyone protest Champions League teams getting a parachute reward for dropping into the Europa League for finishing 3rd in the group stages? Is that fair? It’s absolutely not. Rich teams fail, then get another crack in a lesser comp with a HUGE reward and fans don’t bat an eyelid. How can anyone tell me it’s fair that United could take our Champions League place if we get to the final of the Europa League.

‘I don’t make the rules’ shoulder shrug. Right?

The problem with all the innovations on the table NOW? They don’t help Stan. If he wants to get back to the top, he has to do it the hard way or short cut it by spending out of his own pocket, which he won’t do. That’s the desperate choice he faces now, does he have the stomach for proper investment?

If he doesn’t, what do Arsenal fans want in its place? The best owners in football tend to come with nasty baggage. Would you take wealth at Arsenal from someone that chops up journos? Newcastle fans were bang up for it, they protested FOR it. This goes back to the original point, there are no ‘we got our club back’ solutions to this mess. Every choice that would affect our future for the better is likely a moral dagger to the soul of the game and our own personal principles.

The Super League failed because it bypassed the competitive nature of the sport we love. The level of unfairness it presented was too obvious. But don’t kid yourself that football isn’t brutally unfair now. Arsenal lost our perch as the top club in Europe because billionaires whitewashed their reps in our league and purchased success at unprecedented levels. That wasn’t fair. We did things the hard way and we got absolutely nothing out of it. Our stadium was pointless. Our love affair with the idea of FFP faltered because UEFA let it slide.

Unfairness, led by the richest, will find its wicked way again, but next time, it’ll be more subtle.

Fans won the battle of the Super League, but the war goes on, the owners learned a key lesson of modern history: You cannot take over the world through brute force. The people will not tolerate it. However, that does not mean the world cannot be taken over with a softer type of raw power.

That’s the next move, keep your eyes peeled.

Right, see you in the comments and tell me how YOU would make football better.

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339 Responses to “CHAPTER 2: A SOFTER FORM OF BRUTE FORCE (LONG READ)”

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  1. Lacaqualidie

    Pedro – SKY Group is owned by Comcast. Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox sold its 39% stake in Comcast in 2018 and therefore he has nothing to do with SKY.

    The anti-Murdoch bandwagon is a dead one – hop off it.

  2. Emiratesstroller

    RE Stan and Josh Kroenke

    It is clear that the Kroenke family have absolutely no intention in selling the club and short of Government intervention I think that it is most unlikely that they will do so.

    Stan’s track record is not that of a seller, but as an accumulator of business and personal assets.

    Reviewing his track record at Arsenal.

    POSITIVES

    1. He has bought the club primarily with his own money and has not saddled the club with
    huge debts in contrast with some other club owners.

    2. I think that by Football Standards he is an honest businessman.

    NEGATIVES

    1. He does not have a clue about or much interest in football.

    2. He is an “arms length” owner, which some might think is a plus, but not when the club is
    in decline.

    3. He has invested a Billion Pounds in buying the club, but has failed to invest properly in the
    team.

    4. He has employed senior management who have not been fit for purpose.

    5. He has made a decision to support the establishment of ESL without consultation of the
    club’s fanbase. His lack of charisma and empathy with the club’s fans is becoming an issue
    and explains why he is not popular.

    6. Whilst Josh Kroenke claims that they are ambitious for the club to do well the evidence
    points in the other direction. We may have won the FA Cup several times, but we are currently out of the loop in finishing in top 4 let alone winning the League Title. This season
    we could well finish without qualifying for Europe for first time in 25 years.

    SUMMARY

    There is no evidence that our prospects will improve anytime soon under the current regime.

  3. Valentin

    Terraloon,

    You are wrong in thinking that the Premiership did no try very hard to cash in on the PPV.
    Sky and BT had baked in their contracts that they had first choice on the games. So of course they chose the plum games. So the less interesting games were on PPV, and they were severely overpriced.

    UFC, WWE, Boxing do charge £19.99 for exceptional events, lesser events are charged at £9.99. the premiership was demanding £15.99 for weekly events! So even with a ManUtd Vs Liverpool, that would have never worked.
    When you add the fact at the beginning of the Pandemic a lot of people were fearful of losing their job and not being able to put food on the table, then the PPV was really a low priority.

    PPV should only be for events that unique, a final, not regular event. For weekly events you might be as well have a subscription model. But Sky and BT were the subscription model, so they were never going to let a third entrant over compete with them. Long term they had no incentive to make it a success. So they launch a subtle campaign to make it known that they were against it. Fans loved it and call for a boycott. With low taking not worth the reputation pummeling PPV was shelved.

  4. bennydevito

    Emirates

    “4. He has employed senior management who have not been fit for purpose.”

    Does this mean you think Arteta is not “fit for purpose”? Or do you think Stan has gotten it right in the case of Arteta?

  5. shaun

    Arteta uncertain of players mind set after ESL nonsense lol……………..lol don’t expect a win tonight in other words

  6. Terraloon

    I have been thinking about the whole ownership model to introduce this 50%+1 would require major changes to company law and probably would have to be introduced to cover all sporting clubs such as Rugby League and in respect of the big six the possibility of the government somehow or the other getting the current owners to gift just over 50% of their shareholding is just not going to happen

    I suspect any attempt to try to pass legislation to in effect nab their investment would not get through a vote in the current parliament. Even if it were I am not sure the matter would include the Scottish, Welsh ,or N Irish MPs ( as I suspect these matters are devolved and for it to be introduced all would have to pass the legislation) which if you take away their votes then the majority of Conservatives is even greater and maybe not to a man or woman but the suggestion of Government getting involved would probably scare them rotten . Free enterprise and all that!

    If it were me I would suggest that the only feasible operating model would be 76%. – 24% The owners might just go with that on a voluntary basis

    Those %s would stop the majority shareholder being able to pass any special resolution without agreement of the minority and as such there easily could be a requirement in each companies A&M requiring a seat on the board for that minority group

    There would be other hurdles to get over but those can easily be included in clubs A&M which could only be amended by a voting majority of 75% as per current company law.

  7. Terraloon

    Nelson.

    A Luxury tax, or Windfall tax would almost certainly have to be based on profits and and not sure over the last few years many of the clubs have really made much profit.

    The irony would be if you use say the last 5 or 10 years to Chelsea would be giggling at the prospect and Arsenal would be hit big.

  8. Nelson

    Terraloon

    Are you sure? I thought that it is based on the total expenditure, including salary, etc… Initially, there was a large difference in the wealth among the teams. NY Yankee was against it. It took a few iterations to perfect it. Ever since, Yankee had a hard time reaching the world series. Therefore, it works.

  9. Guns of Brixton

    “””I’m told Vinai Venkatesham & Tim Lewis have today spoken to all Arsenal staff on a call following the Super League debacle. Josh Kroenke is expected to do the same in the coming days. I understand the suggestions to staff were that KSE will be investing in the squad this summer””.

    From Twitter. I hope the silver lining in this debacle is that KSE group get serious as a reaction to try and get into fans good graces

  10. S Asoa

    Just munch on this :
    Arsenal board consists of just four people: Stan Kroenke and his son Josh, Tim Lewis the Kroenke-appointed lawyer and Lord Harris of Peckham – the final link to the pre-KSE hierarchy at the club.

    The conciliatory noises about history et al are…..just noises for effect.
    No Club has been emasculated in this manner, ever

  11. Tony 2

    Friday joke time.. when alive Michael Jackson said to an interviewer ya know the best thing about sleeping with 28yr old’s is? The interviewer said what? Michael replied there’s 20 of them 🤣

  12. Tony 2

    Happy St George’s day to you all. Btw that’s the day English people don’t celebrate in case some1 thinks there racist

  13. Nelson

    As for Yves Bissouma transfer fee, the Athletic reveal that Brighton will only entertain offers over £40m. Yves is already EPL ready. It is worth considering.

  14. MGooner

    Too much flip flop.

    I had a chuckle when I saw Arsenal in that Super group thing. A club which cannot even beat relegation fodder invited there.

  15. Terraloon

    Nelson

    As I said in a later post it’s a complex system and I think it’s purely on payroll.

    In effect all clubs total expenditure are added together and the average is the cap. Above that for every dollar spent they pay a wealth tax the proceeds of that are then distributed to the clubs that didn’t spend up to the average

  16. Nelson

    Josh said that they have faced two choices, a super league without Arsenal or a super league with Arsenal. Did he know that the super league would destroy the PL? The British government has the responsibility to protect the PL. Did he for one second think about the feeling of the “legacy” fans who have supported the team for generations? Unless he plans to move Arsenal to LA, the team will have to play in front of the “legacy” fans”. There are so many questions unanswered.

  17. Jaroda

    If we ever did get #KroenkeOut, who would buy him out? If you had a couple of billion in your back pocket (and you weren’t a fan) would you want to buy?
    1) You could buy Arsenal and have nothing left to spend
    2) You could buy a Newcastle /West Ham for £500m and spend £1.5billion on the squad. FFP doesn’t exist (ask Man City).

  18. Guns of Brixton

    Robbie from AFTV destroying Ray Parlour on Talk Sport!

    Why Ray Parlour chose to go after AFTV when the collective target is Kronke at this point is beyond me. His points don’t make sense either.

  19. China1

    Disappointing from Ray. Absolutely love the guy and can forgive him but he should know better. Don’t like this

  20. China1

    I didn’t know it was at George’s day until the Chinese bar tender told me a few mins ago

    Funny that the English don’t celebrate

  21. Kaz

    If you want Kroenke out don’t but merchandise, don’t buy tickets and don’t watch games (unless pirating illegally).

    The whole fanbase has to do this for a few seasons and depreciate the value to the point where he wants to sell.

    That’s it. Protests won’t mean jackshit.

  22. Uwot?

    Could do with Bissouma big time.But £40 million & were going to have to get creative.Plus the mickey mousers are looking at him & they WILl cough up.so unless Edu & special sauce don’t get a shift on.He’s gone.

  23. Nelson

    The more I listen to the comments from the “legacy” fans, the more I realize the difference between sport fans in the States and the fans in England. The two major complaints from the sport fans in England:

    – They want the system to have promotion and demotion. They want the advance to the CL based on sport merit.
    – They don’t want to see games against the same team, like Barca, multiple times in one season.

    In north America, we are used to see seven game series in Major league baseball and NHL. For this season, the NHL is divided into 4 groups with 8 teams in each group. The same match up will take place almost once per week.

    North America is 110% money driven. The purpose of each competition is to reach the playoff. The ticket prize and the TV money will double. Each team is fighting for the money. Usually, playoff games are more exciting.

    I hope this helps the “legacy” fans to understand how ESL could function.

  24. Mr Serge

    Nelson we dont want to “understand ” how the esl could function, its a shit idea by idiots that do not understand out beautiful game and want to fuck it up, piss off and sell the club to somone that understands the traditions and sanctity of our game

  25. Moray

    One thing also, Nelson is that a degree of inequality in resources brings more excitement, peril and opportunity. How exciting must it have been for Leicester fans to see their club win the league against all the odds. It also allows for different styles, parking the bus etc.

  26. Tom

    Also, another superior quality of the PL format over any sport stateside are the alternative tables when your team isn’t performing according to predictions in the regular boring standings.

    Are we still fourth since Christmas btw?

    Can we revamp the new CL qualification rules so that any team can pick only one half of a season to reflect their league standings?

  27. Emiratesstroller

    You can blame Xhaka for failing to stop Raphina crossing the ball, which resulted in the goal
    scored, but let’s be realistic that cross was not remotely dangerous.

    99% of all goalkeepers would have managed to save that ball comfortably particularly since
    there were no other Everton players challenging for the ball.

    Leno is in my view a high risk goalkeeper for the reasons I expressed yesterday. He does not
    inspire confidence in almost everything he does on the pitch.

    Last season our defence was a complete mess “until Leno got injured”. When Martinez came
    into the team Arsenal became difficult to beat and we won the FA Cup against expectation.

    This season Leno has played in almost every game played and his decision making and
    general level of performance does not inspire confidence whether it was the madness when
    when he got sent off against Aston Villa or yesterday’s howler.

    The Goalkeeper position is critical for any team and needs to be sorted out. It is no surprise
    that Arsenal’s defensive record has been very poor since Leno has been recruited.

    It is not so much how many goals we concede which is the problem, but the number of occasions we make critical mistakes in tight games resulting in defeats, draws and loss of
    points, which with more intelligent defending and goalkeeping might have been avoided.

  28. Br0wnie

    Amongst all the doom, you have to feel good for Joe Willock. He scored the late winner again today after scoring the extra time winner last week. The way he’s playing, I’d give him the MF spot here over DC and Mo if the money isn’t available to buy a replacement. Ideally, Newcastle want to keep him and pay a decent sum to help fund other projects