For those in love with the beautiful game, the European Super League could be the thing to break a lot of hearts.
When did I fall in love with football? At the Dell, watching my club Southampton under the lights alongside my Dad. I was five years old, a pillar obstructed my view of a muddy patchwork of grass, where I would watch my heroes – if I could see past the crowd of taller men and women in front of me.
This old stadium held so many memories, good and bad, for so many people. Yes, it was falling apart, the toilets were rubbish and there was that pillar, but scenes like this were the very essence of football. It was beautiful.
When did I fall out of love with football? That would be Sunday.
On Sunday evening, 12 clubs – Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan -announced an intent to create a breakaway European Super League, which could start this August, containing no promotion or relegation and guaranteed places for 15 sides with a potential revenue pot of €3.5billion.
Their domestic leagues, as well as european competitions hit back, threatening bans and expulsions that could see these 12 clubs stepping away from hundreds of years of tradition throughout world football, going down the path of franchise organisation such as the NFL and NBA.
Make no mistake, this is a disgrace. But, it is not a surprising one.
Rumours of this ‘league’ sprang up last year with these clubs feeling they hold the power on the game. They are the so-called money-makers – and now they want every slice of the pie.
This couldn’t come at a worse time either. In the midst of the global pandemic, where these 12 clubs have been vocal, telling us all how much work they have done to help their community, they have decided to forego their supporters by being part of something solely founded on greed.
In the statement, which you can read in full here, the quotes talk about “helping football at every level” and “increasing football stability for the whole football pyramid”. There is not one part of this proposal that I see where this is true.
This European Super League is a slap in the face of every loyal supporter of those clubs. They pour their heart and soul into these institutions – to see them reach the highest highs and, yes, for the heartbreak too. Each week, there is hope of a brighter day, a day where their side will finally reach the summit. But now that summit is slipping away.
By becoming kings of their own castle, they are lifting up the drawbridge for those ambitious sides, looking for competition, looking to beat the best. This could be the very end of how we view football.
“This is disgusting”
Of course, opposition to this has been fierce – on Sky Sports, Gary Neville, a one club man with Manchester United was scathing of his former employers, saying: “I’ve supported this club my whole life, but I am ashamed. The fans, who have been coming here [Old Trafford] for 100 years are the ones that matter – we want competition.
“I’m fuming that Manchester United Football Club, who are pioneers, they should be leading from the front… for them to vote for this is disgusting.”
So where do we go from here? In truth, this European Super League proposal will not be agreed by anyone in the higher echelons of world football. Leagues, competitions, clubs and fans have all condemned the proposal. A rare moment of unity across the game.
But, this does feel like a watershed moment in football. A slow collision course between these 12 clubs and, essentially, world football has started.
Will the clubs be banned from there respective leagues? Will players no longer be able to represent their countries because they are banned through their club links? What must they be thinking today as their owners have taken a step into the void without any consultation.
For young people, it could see them step away from the game as teams play in hollow competitions. The reward of good form and playing well taken away by those who should know better.
With this story just a day old, many things will change and shift over the coming weeks. Football faces an incredibly uncertain future, that could see the very game that so many of us love destroyed by those who we are told are there to protect it.
From the future of football with the European Super League, to the future of festivals:
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