The launch and immediate crash landing of the ‘European Super League’ (ESL) has shaken the footballing world.
The ESL pitched fans against their own clubs, ex-players against their former employers and set into motion a cry of outrage which should have been predicted by anyone who had even the faintest knowledge about what constitues ‘the beautiful game.’
When Florentino Perez helped announce the European Super League on Sunday 18 April, he had probably not set himself the goal of uniting fans from every club around the globe – superseding tribal rivalries. However, by Monday evening he had evidently done so. The wave of condemnation of the proposed Super League came from all corners: Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher (for once) agreed on something and described the breakaway league as “a criminal act against fans” and “creating more greed.” These sentiments were echoed by fans, ex-players and, before long, the players themselves.
So why did the ESL flop? Well, for one it had virtually no support. Polls run on social media and by independent organisation YouGOV showed that 79% of fans opposed the league on all grounds, whilst 68% strongly opposed the new breakaway league.
This was hardly unexpected, as critics pointed out; a league in which teams ‘buy their way in’, subsequently laying without fear of relegation, goes against the fundamental ethos of the game. Football is unpredictable (just ask anyone who bets on it) and the beauty of the game is that any team can beat any other team on their day. The super league would have prevented teams such as Leicester and West Ham from potentially achieving a well-earned European place for next season, despite those teams performing better than some of those who signed up for the league- Spurs and Arsenal for example.
Football in the past thirty years has seen an increase in funding that has in turn completely revolutionised the game. Billionaires own the big clubs and, due to their monetary value, a neutral would assume that they are the people who hold autonomy in decision -making at their respective clubs.
However, fan responses to the ESL announcement have proved that billionaire owners in Britain are not immune from scrutiny. Liverpool fans burned their (very expensive) team’s kit outside Elland Road in a recent fixture against Leeds, thousands of Arsenal fans marched on the Emirates and the upheaval in Manchester caused prominent figure Ed Woodward to resign. Signs were made, flames of anger were kindled and, in the environment of the pandemic, those flames had all the fuel needed to cause even those at the top of the clubs to feel the heat.
And feel the heat they did. Within seventy-two hours, all of the English clubs who had signed up for the Super League withdrew, issuing grovelling apologies to their fans. If the owners thought this would quell any criticism then, once again, they drastically miscalculated.
Social media is replete with #GlazersOUT #FSGOUT and other such trends, aimed solely at removing the owners from the ‘big clubs.’
The ESL gamble from the billionaire owners was the result of greed. This could be the domino to topple foreign influence in British football. One thing is for certain: The European Super League has flopped – and that is down to football fans, plain and simple.