Every football fan, player, manager and pundit breathed a sigh of relief last night when they witnessed the proposed European Super League (ESL) crumble before it had even begun. By 11pm, all “big six” clubs (Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea) had announced they were pulling out of a project that only 48 hours before they had agreed to sign up to.
This would not have happened without the vocal ferocious backlash to this proposal from everyone in the game. However, now is not the time for the footballing community to pat itself on the back for this victory over the sport’s business elite.
It needs to continue on and push for decisive long-overdue actions, that will change how football clubs are run in this country, and prevent something like this from ever happening again.
On hearing last night’s news, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told the press this morning: “it is admirable to admit a mistake and these clubs made a big mistake.
“But they are back in the fold now and I know they have a lot to offer not just to our competitions but to the whole of the European game.”
This sort of statement is scary. Rather than being outraged at the greed and disrespect shown to the beautiful game, it seems UEFA were simply jealous that these twelve clubs had found a way of making more money without them.
In the footballing authority’s eyes, these clubs can continue as they were. They’ve apologised, they’ve backed out and their copy-and-paste, meaningless statements are there for the world to see. Ceferin might as well have said “let’s go back to normal and forget the whole thing ever happened”.
But that normal is where the problem lies in English football. That normal is where supporters are continuously exploited and undervalued by foreign owners who do not hold their best interests at heart.
In the last twenty years, Premier League season tickets for the big six have increased on average by 1000%. A 2018/2019 season ticket at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium would have set you back at most £1,768, while you would struggle to find a matchday ticket for less than £50, pricing out many fans from regularly attending games of the club that they love.
Most of these teams could subsidise matchday ticket prices for the cost of a decent Championship striker each season, but few have ever considered the idea a viable option.Embed from Getty Images
Instead, these clubs have been focused on obtaining more money for their own pockets and more control over how they get it. Before the ESL proposal, in 2018, the boardroom executives of the breakaway clubs forced the then Premier League Executive Chairmen Richard Scudamore and the other 14 top-flight clubs into ending the equal distribution of international television revenue.
As it stands, one third of future broadcasting rights (which at the time were approximately worth £3.5 billion) will be distributed according to each club’s finishing league position, in theory increasing the total amount given to the big six.
With this unregulated growth in power and gluttony for money, it was only a matter of time before they tried something as scandalous as the ESL. Without decisive action in the present moment, English football will simply be kicking this problem down the road to deal with later and we will be back here all over again.
Actions such as the adoption of Germany’s 50+1 ownership rule, which would hand more decision-making powers to club supporters rather than private investors, would make a huge difference. But as the last few days have proven, there is only one place that change like this can come from. And that is from the voices and actions of the supporters. Of which this game is nothing without.