There was a time when I was obsessed with sport and could hold a decent conversation with anyone about most sports.
Football has always been my favourite but I always had interests in Rugby League, Snooker, Darts, Golf, Tennis, Basketball, Ice Hockey and a whole host of others but I am sad to say as I have gotten older my interest in most sports have unfortunately wained. I do still like playing the video games for most sports especially football manager games and basketball sims but watching the actual sports at a professional level is rare nowadays. Pre Pandemic I did still go and watch my local non league football team but have steadfastly refused to give my money to sport at a higher level.
So imagine my mock surprise when I see on a news feed for a well respected outlet that 12 football teams have annouced the formation of the ‘European Super League’ to start as a midweek competition and be a rival to the Champions League. This will be a closed league except for 5 teams each season with the ‘founding 12’ teams never being removed from the competition.
So my first thought on this one was cash grab or alternatively power grab. The teams who see themselves as the ‘elite’ of Europe football trying to manipulate for their own ends.
Then when I thought about it a little bit my memory thought back to the early 90’s and the formation of the Premier League. This was the ‘breakaway’ elites of English football and essentially SKY (part of Rupert Murdochs media empire) bringing football into a ‘brave new world.’ There was admittedly less constanation than with the latest attempt but then again I was not yet a teenager when it happened so there could have been more backlash than I remember. This essentially moved football from free to air T.V. to pay per view and SKY Sports (sound familiar), and ultimately moved revenue away from the run of the mill fan either paying at the turnstiles or through season tickets and towards T.V. revenue. This has lead to the giant companies we see today (as football is an afterthought at this point).
This model was copied throughout European Football and into the European competitions with the European Cup becoming the Champions League, and the UEFA Cup becoming the Europa League each competition offering progressively more money to clubs for being in the competitio and has made it where if a large club fails to qualify for the competition it can put that club into financial hardship (see the previous fall of Leeds United as a case in point).
This has also lead to the ridiculous increases in both transfer fees and player salaries, and to a lesser extent the rise in agents and their unbeliveable fees. All of this shows that power grabs and greed in football is nothing new and who knows had they gone about this in a different way the backlash may not have been so severe?
So how did we get here? First thing to mention is that the mention of an ESL is nothing new and has been floated around for many years. It is also true to say most ‘elite’ football clubs are in eye watering amounts of debt that some are now struggling to service. These clubs then rely on European football competitions (particulary the Champions League) in order to try and make payments on this debt.
We then have to mention the elephant in the room COVID – 19 and the ongoing Pandemic. This has taken the fans away from football grounds and even though they are no longer the major revenue stream it is still a significant loss of revenue for every football club around the world right now (and sports in general for that matter).
It is at this point the ‘elite’ teams of European Football make there move and announce the ESL and there ‘attempt’ to raise interest once again in the game due to a number of poor games.
Now lets start with the obvious this IS money grab plain and simple, greed plays a large part in this no doubt however, it is not the only reason. All owners seem to see only money Dollar, Euro, or Pound signs. Lets have a look though at what are in my opinion other reasons for this move.
Firstly when looking at the English teams involed the ‘big six’ (although checking the Premier League I wouldn’t call all of these clubs the big six, and historically speaking where are Everton in all of this, seriously check the history of English football for proof of this), 3 of them are American owned. Now in the USA a system like the ESL is the way major sport works and so it would be reasonble to assume the owners of these clubs have not adequately reasearched the differences between the two systems and the attachments fans have to their clubs.
Next we have the extreme level of debt some clubs have and the problems servicing this debt. Now I blame the owners of clubs past and present for this issue as the major debt seems to be player transfers and wages. Had more clubs refused to meet these demands then the wages and transfer fees wouldn’t have gotten so high.
We also have the fact some of these ‘elite’ clubs have struggled domestically recently and wished to have the guarantee of European Football money ever year due to the struggle to pay the debts they have.
In the end football as we knew it died when clubs were run almost entirely for profit rather than for the communities that created them in the first place. Had the money in football remained reasonable and the connection between club and fan not been broken it would have deterred these owners from entering football in the first place.
As always my opinions are my own and thanks for reading.