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?
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.