The end of football as we know it
From the age of being able to stand and kick a ball, I have done so. Football has been my passion or some may say even my obsession, my whole life. The announcement this past weekend of plans to create a ‘Super league’ is heartbreaking for me and will be for many impassioned fans across the UK and all of Europe. The mask has finally slipped all the way, these club owners are not interested in the fans, they are interested in making money.
As a fan of Wolverhampton Wanderers the journey, I have gone on only highlights how emotional the beautiful game can be. Since starting to support them in 2010, I have seen my club be relegated in back to back seasons from the Premier League to League One. I have then watched us get the record points tally in the third tier and then have a wonderful promotion season in the championship at the fourth time of asking a few years later. I have had the heartbreak of seeing them throw away a 2–0 FA Cup semi-final lead with ten minutes to go and the pride of seeing my team cut it with the elite on the European stage.
It is the bad times that often make you appreciate the good times, and this is certainly true when it comes to football. The jeopardy involved in competitive sport is one of the main things that entice people to drama it creates. This vacuous corporate enterprise aims to remove this to keep the pockets of the richest clubs safe. The achievements of teams such as Wolves and Leicester and West Ham this season are exactly why these clubs want to break away. They have a chronic fear of their hegemony on this game being broken. The best and most succinct summary I have seen of reasoning for all this is ‘It allows big clubs to succeed off the pitch even when they fail on it’.
Alongside the greed that has motivated this decision, it is clear the contempt the owners have for their fans also. The very people who make the success of the game possible. The pandemic that has ensued over the last year has left football stadiums empty and the game has been much worse off for it. Football is great escapism from working life and always has been. George Orwell wrote of this almost ninety years ago in his book The Road to Wigan Pier. The founding members of the football league, of which I am proud to say my club was one, were all from working-class areas set up by working men. These owners want to take the game away from these fans and turn their clubs into tourist attractions.
The global nature of the Premier League cannot be underestimated. Whilst on holiday in Indonesia I was able to have a conversation about players at my club with a lifeguard at a waterpark nearly 8000 miles away from where the club is based. However, the reason this product is so successful in part is the jeopardy, the upsets and the unpredictable nature many of these games have. All this would be lost in a ‘Super league’ creating a closed shop where the rich continue to gorge, whilst the smaller clubs can never find a way in.
Thankfully it seems many of the clubs in the UK have now seen sense and are no longer joining the league. However, the mask has slipped. The fans have known for a long time they are not the priority of their owners, but this move just showed the real contempt they felt for them. The little trust they had in their owners has now evaporated. As fans we can take solace in the fact the protests, the uproar, the pressure has worked and this should be channelled into lots of the other problems football is facing such as racism. Whether such protests will materialise is a different conversation entirely.
The victory for the fans will, however, be short-lived. The proposed changes to the Champions League are a watered-down version of this league and the thrilling version we currently see is set to end in 2024. The greedy owners of these clubs are still around and for the most part, do not care what other people think of them and will no doubt have their next plot lined up for how they can make themselves richer off the back of the game. It is a small victory for now, but I fear it will not be for long.