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super league Power grab by big clubs fails to recognise the importance of supporters to the game

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Leeds United players sporting ‘Football Is For The Fans’ shirts during the warm-up to their match against Liverpool (Clive Brunskill/PA)

Leeds United players sporting ‘Football Is For The Fans’ shirts during the warm-up to their match against Liverpool (Clive Brunskill/PA)

Leeds United players sporting ‘Football Is For The Fans’ shirts during the warm-up to their match against Liverpool (Clive Brunskill/PA)

ONCE again, football fans have been reminded that their voice no longer counts.

This used to the sport of the working man, the heartbeat of a community, the prize at the end of a working week. Yet the top six clubs in England have confirmed they don’t need their fans anymore by signing up for this highly-controversial Super League.

I have to be honest and admit that when news broke about this Super League being set up, with Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs all signing up, I struggled to comprehend what it was all about.

Did this mean these clubs would no longer be playing in the Premier League? What happens to the domestic cup competitions that have been such a big part of the fabric of the sport in England for a century and more?

Even after the fine details of the plan have been explained and we can see it’s an attempt to set up an alternative to the Champions League, I don’t see anyone supporting it.

As Gary Neville and Roy Keane said, this is a power grab by the big clubs, fuelled by greed and the prospect of more money, without giving any thought to what really matters in our game.

The timing of the announcement is strange. After the last year, we have all been reminded that football without fans is pretty miserable.

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A member of the public poses for a photo in front of a sign posted by football fans opposing the European Super League outside Old Trafford. Photo: PA Wire

A member of the public poses for a photo in front of a sign posted by football fans opposing the European Super League outside Old Trafford. Photo: PA Wire

A member of the public poses for a photo in front of a sign posted by football fans opposing the European Super League outside Old Trafford. Photo: PA Wire

Now, just as we are daring to believe we are coming out of this mess, this Super League news breaks and the supporters who have been locked out of the game during the pandemic are wondering whether they will ever be let back in.

The trouble is that clubs have got used to life without supporters and they have realised for some time that the money coming through the turnstiles is now only a small part of their revenue stream.

Executive boxes on matchdays bring in plenty of cash, but the big money in football now is in TV rights and I reckon the top clubs know they have all the power at a time when the new Premier League TV deal is about to be negotiated.

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The Premier League and the 14 clubs not included in this breakaway competition might threaten to throw Liverpool, United and the rest out of the league if they follow through with this Super League plan, but this probably won’t happen.

Can you imagine the Premier League going to Sky Sports this summer and negotiating a new TV deal without the ‘Big Six’ and trying to claim the competition is still worth the same as it was before?

Let’s be honest, the big interest in the Premier League is when the top sides play each other and the Burnleys and Brightons of this world are just making up the numbers.

Yet it doesn’t mean the big hitters should be throwing away decades of history and going off to do their own thing, but I just can’t see the Premier League voting to get rid of them.

The ‘Big Six’ could hand a load of money to the rest of the Premier League and the lower league clubs and claim they are saving English football as it struggles to cope with the Covid crisis.

That’s the more likely scenario out of all of this, with UEFA likely to be the big losers as their cash-cow of the Champions League looks set to be finished off.

I love the Champions League nights and the idea that Liverpool could add to their haul of six titles in that competition will all be over if this new league gets the green light.

Yet maybe this was inevitable, with overseas owners changing the DNA of so many clubs in England and edging themselves towards the tipping point.

If this happens (and that must be a big ‘if’ at this moment given the negative reaction), you can see a scenario where Liverpool play Real Madrid in Saudi Arabia on a Tuesday night.

Then Chelsea play Inter Milan in Beijing the next night and Manchester United play Barcelona in Florida on the Thursday.

No one wants to see that if it means the Premier League disappears as we know it and football changes forever for so many clubs.

If something is not broken, why try to fix it? It’s a question I would ask today and my big concern is where the fans fit into it all.

Football is nothing without supporters and everyone involved in our great game should never forget that.

Hopefully common sense prevails here because what we are seeing right now cannot be good for our game.

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