Fan Power Scuppers European Super League
Wednesday, 21st Apr 2021 11:01
Back in the 1980's fans were starting to get their voices hear through the growing fanzine movement which blossomed into well organised supporters groups, it was good to see that that network still exists and that when a crisis rears its ugly head the fans rise up.
Some tell me that fan groups are now irrelevant in this modern age and that clubs have stopped listening with their rich owners believing they were can get away with anything.
Certainly that seemed to be the case when the so called Big Six clubs in England announced they were part of a European Super League.
This was not a plan hatched up overnight, indeed early shots were fired last year and although it was shouted down then, the 12 European clubs who signed up to the ESL clearly believed they were big enough to carry it through.
Indeed JP Morgan Chase & Co had confirmed they were financing the SL to the tune of around £3.5 billion and the clubs had signed a contract that is said to be over 100 pages long.
Clearly there had been a lot of secret planning going into this and for a long time, they had tested the water last year and thought that they could carry it through.
The plans clearly were looking to exploit not the fans that has supported these clubs for years who were dubbed Legacy supporters, but the multi millions in foreign markets across the world.
For clubs on the Continent perhaps the decision was an easy one, the money isn't there in Italy & Spain as it is in England and the Premier League, Real Madrid approaching £1 billion in debt were desperate and knew they were never going to be able to service that debt from revenues in La Liga. If they were kicked out of their domestic leagues, then they could handle that and it would also perhaps give them more dates in the calendar to add a cup competition, anything to bring in billions of pounds more revenue from the pay per view markets.
But in England things were different, the clubs needed to be playing in the Premier League as well, they wanted their cake and eat it, for them it was less about a European Super League and more about adding even more games to their schedule and in effect doubling their income and more.
The fightback came almost immediately after the plans were announced, but it came not from the clubs outside the Big Six, but the supporters of Liverpool, Manchester United, Spurs, Arsenal and the club whose fans were out in force last night Chelsea.
It is easy to ridicule those clubs supporters as being armchair fans, but the fact remains they have a sizable hardcore of fans who were just as disgusted by the developments as any other football fan.
These supporters had more to lose than the rest, they were effectively being shunted into a siding by their own clubs and knew they had to make a choice, to either walk away and although that is easy to say it is less easy to do, or they had to take it and support a club who were exploiting not only them but millions across the World.
But there was a third option and that was to stand up and fight it, the owners thought these fans would back down and they didn't they stood up and showed the clubs they would not just sit back and let over a century of heritage be airbrushed in a week.
The Liverpool supporters groups who told their club they would be removing their banners from the Kop due to the club’s hierarchy putting “financial greed above the integrity of the game.” knew they were taking a risk that would end their ability to watch their team play again, they could be stripped of their season tickets and for Liverpool with a 20 year waiting list it is not like Saints were you can opt in and out when it suits you.
Banners appeared outside the Kop immediately condemning the plans, similar protests were going on elsewhere.
The other 14 clubs started Monday wondering what the future held and whether they could take on the Big Six, but the actions of the supporters of those clubs as well as Everton strengthened their resolve and soon other fans groups were making statements, festooning their grounds with banners protesting and making it quite clear that this would not be tolerated, this gave the 14 clubs confidence to start flexing muscles and they became united that they were quite happy for the Big Six to be cast adrift.
Even the ex players were turning against their own clubs, you can love or hate Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, but they were willing to stand up against their own clubs and given their close relationships with them, it would have been easier to stay silent, it is hard to see either being welcomed into the Anfield or Old Trafford boardrooms at present.
In turn this panicked the Big Six and they crumbled quickly, some quicker than others and now the European Super League stands in a smouldering ruin, without the 6 English clubs , they don't have a lot left and the saleable value of the TV rights has just plummeted.
For some like Real Madrid this is now a big problem, there debt doesn't look serviceable, likewise Tottenham Hotspur, they have the biggest debt of all, as much as £1.18 billion has been quoted and with little income likely to be generated from events at their new stadium that will only increase they of all the clubs truly needed the ESL and a interim payment to see them through.
Personally though although I am pleased of how events turned out and that this proved to be a ground breaking day in football history, the day that the fans spoke, I just feel that we have perhaps lost an opportunity here, if we had cast adrift the Big Six then we could have revamped our own system, at the top the Premier League would undoubtedly lost revenue, but it would have reset itself and suddenly it would be competitive again, it would have brought the income levels of Premier League clubs nearer that of Championship clubs and made a more level playing field down the pyramid system.
It would have also enabled us to look at how we support the struggling clubs lower down the system and put money back into the game itself rather than the pockets of Americans ,a Russian an oil sheik and a tax exiled Englishman.
Instead we have preserved the Premier League, but to be blunt nothing will have changed, the Big Six will get richer (aside from Spurs perhaps) and the gap will widen in the have's and have not's and therefore the competitiveness of not just the Premier League but football as a whole.
We haven't completely lost the chance that we had yesterday morning to reform, we have scored a big victory in one respect, but for me it is only a compromise we have achieved.
Photo: Action Images
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