As football fans still reel from the betrayal of the proposal for a new European Super League we should remember that these duplicities in the name of greed and wealth are nothing new in English football.
The announcement last Sunday that 12 clubs from England, Italy, and Spain had agreed to form a new league was met with vehement condemnation from the Prime Minister, football fans, the premier league and even Prince William. The 12 founding teams were quickly dubbed the dirty dozen and denounced by the UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin, as “disgraceful” and “self-serving”.
The truth is Premier League football has been self serving for at least the last decade. The role of investment bankers like JP Morgan, who would provide the money for the ESL, has become ever more apparent in football. This shifts the way in which football works, making risk something to be avoided rather than the very spirit 65 years of European football has been built on.
The beauty of football is in these risks. From time to time incredibly astonishing victories do happen. Simply look at how Brian Clough took the floundering second division team, Nottingham Forest, and turned them into two-time European Champions. As revenue sharing was banned in the 1980s and the EPL formed in 1992 these extraordinary wins could become a thing of the past, notwithstanding Leicester City’s remarkable triumph in the Premier League in 2016.
In 2019, Bury became the first club to be expelled from third tier English football, since Maidstone United in 1992, leaving loyal fans in its wake. In 2020 Macclesfield dissolved after 146 years of service to the community. Simply look at the North-West and it is a ghost town of former landmarks of the community; Bury, Macclesfield, Bolton, Wigan.
Bolton was placed into administration and closely avoided dissolution when it was acquired by new owners in 2019. A similar story with Wigan occurred.
Within just ten miles of some of these clubs is the Premier League titan and one of the founding members of the ESL, Manchester United. Even closer is Droylsden, who resigned from the Northern Premier League in August of 2020, citing the impact of Covid-19. In 2016 United paid out a record breaking £89.3million for Pogba’s return from Juventus. This would more than pay for all the wages of Scunthorpe United.
Wealthy teams in the Premier League failing to recognise the value of grassroots local teams exemplifies the arrogance of the ESL plan. The six teams who abandoned English football owe much of their existence to smaller teams in lower divisions, who enable the stories of underdogs and falls from grace that fans love so dearly.
The Super League is over, but there is no doubt that the battle between what football should be: romance and competition, yet the reality of a game dictated by money rages on. It is not enough for the English teams to resign from the ESL. The entirety of the Premier League needs to re-examine the institution as a whole.
The rushed state of the proposals put forward by the ESL and the avarice exemplified by the teams involved suggests this was never a serious proposition, but as legendary footballer Gary Lineker suggests, merely an over exuberant “power play”. Collectively, it has had the result of making clear that we cannot allow a handful of teams to continue to control the game.
With the collapse of plans for a European Super League, it seems the soul of football will live on. But as quick as the Premier League turned its back on the teams of the North West, the European Super league turned away from the spirit of British football. It is not enough for the 6 English teams in the ESL to withdraw. We must hold them accountable and ensure they remember that football is much more than just a game.