Mama mia - here they go again.
Just days after their capitulation at the extraordinary Premier League meeting last week, football’s best Scrooge McDuck double-act were back at it, diving into their pool of gold coins and emerging with another shameful idea.
This time, it’s a European Premier League that Manchester United and Liverpool’s American owners seek. Amongst other leading European clubs, they have been sounded out about becoming founder members of a new $6 billion project, with hundreds of millions in prize money for the eventual winner.
The losers? Regular football fans across the continent.
An idea born across the pond
A quick look at American sport should temper any surprise at the sheer perniciousness of their desire to put profits above all else. There is no relegation or promotion. In the United States, sports clubs – or ‘franchises’ as they’re more aptly known – will quite happily go as far as relocate if business is slow.
In the NFL, the Oakland Raiders moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, before returning fifteen years later. This year, they are re-born in Las Vegas. The Los Angeles Rams became the St. Louis Rams in 1995; in 2015 they returned to LA once again. Fans left stranded in St. Louis shouldn’t worry – it’s just a 27-hour hop down the freeway to see your team again.
Football across Europe is different. For a hundred and fifty years in Britain, it has been a pastime that has forged friendships, connected communities, and created memories that will never fade. This squalid idea brings us ever further from that ideal.
Would a European Super League necessarily mean the end of the Premier League? No. But at the very least the hundreds of millions it would provide to those at the top would only entrench their position, fulfilling their desire to make ‘the world’s most competitive league’ ever more uncompetitive.
Expect demands for restructured TV deals to follow. Expect priorities to change. Follow the money.
Endless pursuit of profit cannot continue
How shallow does one’s obsession with profit have to be to render one blind to what is really important in life? How firmly fixed must the blinkers be to be able to witness the joy and comfort that the sport has given so many for so long, and yet still desire to rip it up for commercial gain?
What disconnect there is between the balance sheets and boardrooms of Boston and Tampa, and the Newcastle fans who, instead of succumbing to pay-per-view, raised more than £16,000 for the local food bank.
John W. Henry and Joel Glazer might make billions from the creation of a European Premier League, but they will never possess the wealth of memories of a fan with a lifetime standing on the Kop or the Stretford End.
Bruce Springsteen once spoke of ‘spending my life judging the distance between the American reality and the American dream.’
English football fans never had an American dream, but they are certainly living through the American reality. What comes next? An American nightmare.