Hooray! The European Super League is dead. The power of ordinary fans has defeated the advance of unfettered capitalism into our national sport, THE GAME WE INVENTED AND GAVE TO THE WORLD. This is a victory for the little man and woman. History has been made, hasn’t it? Well, not quite. Football is still broken.
The whole thing has been presented as if this dear old game we love and cherish has been taken away from us in one fell swoop. Bollocks to that. Football started to taken away from us in 1992 when the Premier League was formed in order to enable the very richest clubs in the land to become even richer. From that date forward, the dreams of football fans turned to dust. Instead of becoming closer to the fans, football in England got further away.
The top flight, the Premier League, exists solely behind a paywall, pricing out vast swaths of the country, particularly the working classes who founded the game in the first place. Ticket prices soared, excluding actual working class fans, turning supporters into customers, home fans into day trippers. The players all became millionaires, in the case of many players new millionaires every few months. The Premier League was football’s Wall Street, those who created it were football’s Gordon Gekkos. They took the people’s game and sold it to hedge funds, dodgy Russian oligarchs, even the head-choppers of Saudi Arabia. And they sold it to television. No one asked us along the way.
Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking the end of the ESL will mean ‘the defeat of greed’, as the Mail described it today. This was merely an ill thought out fuck up by out of touch billionaires. The ESL will return in some form or other. If history is anything to go by, the next version of it will be even worse.
For many the dream died long ago. I keep reading about the ‘fairytale stories’ of little Leicester City winning the Premier League and battling Wigan Athletic achieving a miracle by even reaching the EPL, but wait a minute. Leicester City have billionaire owners, Wigan were bankrolled by the odious multimillionaire businessman Dave Whelan. No one can argue with the footballing achievements but they were not brought about on shoestring budgets. And look around Bristol, where I live. City are bankrolled by a tax dodging billionaire and Rovers by a Chelsea supporting Jordanian former banker, without whom neither club could operate as of now. This is football in England today.
I had to laugh at the sight of Chelsea fans celebrating wildly at the demise of the ESL. There’s a famous old club which has the interests of its supporters at heart. That’s why it’s owned by a Russian oligarch who lives in Israel, spending some £2 billion on players during his time in charge. This is not the football of the working man. The working man doesn’t have sufficient disposal income to be allowed in at Stamford Bridge. Tourists are money. See also every other greedy Premier League club. In getting rid of the greedy ESL, we still have the greedy Premier League.
I suppose we’ve just about saved what’s left of the football pyramid, although the EPL is generally sorted now. The biggest clubs are set for life, the middling clubs are established and the smaller ones yo yo between the top two divisions. Leicester, hardly plucky amateurs, may have done the apparently impossible and maybe some other billionaire owned underdog will upset the applecart one day, but don’t bet on it.
Nobody’s really won. The Premier League will still dwarf the domestic cup competitions it has done so much to devalue, the same six clubs will battle for a Champions League place, the Champions League will still be stuffed with the usual behemoths from the rest of Europe and the rest of us will dream about what might have been.
The ESL was supposed to be founded on greed and it was defeated by pressure from everyone from fans to politicians. If we are serious about taking back control of football, then we must make radical changes; one of which must be to ensure that no one person or company should be allowed to own more than 49% of a club. The Bundesliga, for all its faults (the main one being that apart from Bayern Munich, hardly anyone else ever wins it), has such a rule. They also have far cheaper tickets for fans who can also stand if they want to. We have the worst of all worlds.
I don’t see any victory from the collapse of the ESL. I see it as avoiding another defeat. That’s good news, of course, but the EPL still stands for much of what is bad about English football. And the game remains in the hands of the few, not the many.