The universally maligned European Super League appears to be dead, for now, after 9 of the twelve clubs officially dropped out. Fine. Good. It was barefaced greed by some of the already-richest people in football.
But we cannot pretend that football (AKA “Our Beautiful Game”) was a haven for morality and egalitarianism before this. It may be a net positive that collective action brought change, but this was no David vs Goliath battle, more a collection of Goliaths co-opting David in their battle against other Goliaths.
The chorus of pious disapproval and PR band-wagoning was almost as unedifying as the proposed breakaway itself, as many seem to be comfortable with greed in football as long as they are benefiting.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was vociferous in denouncing Juventus’ Andrea Agnelli and Manchester United’s Ed Woodward as “snakes” while expressing his wish to ban all those involved from the Champions League, and thanked FIFA president Gianni Infantino for showing “you care about the values of football” with his support at Tuesday’s UEFA congress.
But what are those values? Both men’s predecessors were banned for a “disloyal payment” and both organisations have debatable tournament plans of their own which would benefit them financially. As Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports before Liverpool faced Leeds on Monday. “If you (talk) about the clubs, it’s about money. What do you think it’s (about) with UEFA? FIFA wants a Club World Cup… that’s about money, nothing else.”
Sky Sports and Everton were each particularly vocal, as if their instrumental roles in the break-away formation of the original “Premiership” in 1992 had never happened. There are differences between then and now but also many similarities, something Jamie Carragher, to his credit, mentioned on Monday night in asking: “Are we hypocrites? Are we wrong?”
West Ham were touting their working-class origins in a statement of opposition, while Newcastle piled up the likes on social media showing their own. This is the same West Ham who abandoned their traditional home at Upton Park for a tax-payer subsidised residency at the Olympic Stadium against fans’ wishes. And the same Newcastle who had to refund the season ticket holders they had continued charging for seven months last year during lockdown.
The examples pile up but Boris Johnson, beset by accusations of cronyism over the awarding of government contracts, terming the Super League a “cartel” which “offend the basic principles of competition” might be the pick of the bunch.
But perhaps the biggest cloud to be pulled from this silver lining, was articulated by Patrick Bamford after the Monday game: “It’s amazing the amount of uproar… when somebody’s pockets are being hurt. It’s a shame it’s not like that with… racism and stuff like that.”
None of this is to let the breakaway owners off the hook, but amid the self-congratulations everyone might benefit from having a look in the mirror. There have been some conveniently short memories recently, and if the status quo returns it will be telling if that continues.