Very quickly yesterday when it was leaked that 12 European clubs, including the five biggest clubs in England, as well as Tottenham, would form a European Super League, the anger and dissatisfaction ebbed away from the clubs involved and instead focused on the likes of Sky Sports, UEFA, and Gary Neville.
Are Sky Sports hypocritical for taking such a strong stance on the bastardisation of football? Can Gary Neville talk about unfair structures while raising Salford from the ground with oodles more money than any other team at their level? Are UEFA's new Champions League proposals really any better than the Super League option?
Very strong words about greed and venality in football from @GNev2, but like Micah's they are rather undermined by the fact they are being delivered from behind a Sky Sports paywall.
— Barry Glendenning (@bglendenning) April 18, 2021
They are all fair questions, and they've been asked ad nauseum in the last day. But, in truth, who cares? Unless you are a fan of one of the clubs involved seeking a way to justify sticking by your team through their attempt to end football as a genuine competition, none of it is relevant today.
In the Twitter world we live in, there's no point in anyone coming out with a straight forward opinion. It needs to be smarter than everyone else's. So while the foot soldiers are angry about the Super League, the commentators out there need to find a better angle. Here, it's that everyone in the game is at fault, and anyone speaking out about the evils of the Super League has some cheek. In the end though, who will be the "pure" people left to have their genuine criticisms heard?
The truth is, this is the argument the ESL teams want us to be having. Nobody wants what they are proposing. They can release half arsed statements about the good of the game all they like, but nobody is buying it, and nobody is expected to. A money grab will always look like what it is, but the market will forgive it if it's successful. Unfortunately, this is how owners of these clubs will look at it.
The gall of a figure like Perez talking about wanting to "help football at every level" amid the most bare-faced act of greed in the game's history.
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) April 18, 2021
What can stop it is a genuine groundswell of opposition. Clubs will have a massive decision to make if the domestic leagues follow through on their promise to expel them. They might go through with it, but it's a level above what they have proposed so far. And if UEFA remain steadfast in their plan to ban any players taking part in the league from international football, it could be a deal breaker entirely. Will Harry Kane give up his England career for this? Will Raheem Sterling or Mason Mount? Will Virgil van Dijk quit Holland, or Hazard leave Belgium? It's hard to imagine there wouldn't be a significant opposition among the player base. The worry, of course, is whether the leagues and UEFA will stay the course. FIFA's statement, released eventually last night, was wishy-washy at best. That's a concern, and thoroughly unsurprising.
But if the pressure is there from fans and consumers, there are enough drawbacks. One way is to stay focussed on the wrongs here. Football cannot and should not exist for a group of elite clubs who don't need to compete for their place at the top of the game. Football has already deregulated enough that these clubs have a massive financial advantage. Now they don't even feel the need to turn that advantage into winning football games to succeed. This is the end of football as a sport, and the final capitulation to big business.
It's that big. The talk about it all being inevitable due to what has come before is absolutely true and fair. But it is not the conversation for today. This is the final straw, and should be fought against tooth and nail. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. But success in this fight allows the conversations about elitism, financial doping, and oligarch ownership to be had again, down the line. Keep declaring it a fait accompli, and a pox on both their houses, and it's gone forever.