Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? The extraordinary 48 hours that football fans witnessed earlier this week was really something to behold. The collapse of the European Super League is a victory for football fans, preserving the structure that has allowed the game to flourish into the global enterprise it has become. But it has now brought to the forefront new issues that football fans want answering. Particularly now that the government has launched its long-promised fan led review into football governance.
I’m not really in favour of the government getting involved here, mainly because I think they have far more important issues to worry about and because I just see it as a cynical move by Johnson and the Tories to try and gain some votes. Johnson does not care and has never cared about football. So, why was he so quick to condemn the breakaway league and the clubs involved? Why was he so quick to announce possible legislation if it went any further? I just don’t think that governing a sport should be Downing Street’s job. It’s up to the governing bodies of football to govern themselves properly. But they clearly haven’t been. And that is what led to the whole debacle we saw at the start of this week. For many fans, this whole episode has been the distillation of their worries and concerns about their respective owners. That they simply don’t understand and don’t care to understand about the history of the clubs they own. Worse, that they will do something without ever considering what the fans might think about it and so completely disregard them.
I do think that something needs to change. I think one of the most vital things to tackle is the unsustainable costs that running a football club now entail. The pandemic has thrown a lot of things out of kilter but has thrown this into sharp focus. Clubs have been relying on matchday revenue as one of their main income streams. Which isn’t surprising. That is what they primarily do, play football in front of crowds who pay to watch them. Kind of like when you pay to go to a concert. But that is such a large part of football clubs’ revenue, and they can’t replace it with something else. All this while still paying ridiculous wages, transfer fees, agent fees. That is what needs to be tackled. Not the lack of income, rather the ridiculous cost levels that clubs have been willing to spend. A pandemic could have actually been the perfect time for the footballing community to come together, look at what they were spending away from what they might be earning and work to bring it down. Instead, desperate and greedy individuals decided to go the other way.
Particularly Real Madrid and Barcelona needed this Super League to happen. The English clubs wanted it, by and large, but they didn’t need it. Real and Barca needed a new structure that would massively favour them in terms of increasing income. That was made clear in recent leaked documents about the structure of payments over the lifetime of the competition that made clear Real and Barca would receive over 50 million € more than anyone else. And this reveals the true reason for the two Spanish clubs forcing this issue. They do not want to stop spending ridiculous amounts of money, because they fear they will fall behind the English teams. They seem to have an arrogant belief that football starts and ends with them. Well, it doesn’t. The last thing Real Madrid and Barcelona need right now is more money, because they will simply spend it. When any other business is in trouble, the first thing they tend to do is to cut costs. The people in charge of these clubs will not do that.
There are problems with football, there is no doubt. For some reason, all the people in positions of power in the game seem to believe that increasing the number of games that teams play in a season. Which is ridiculous. All you’ll do with the new Champions League format and the proposed Club World Cup is completely exhaust the players. There is enough football as it is. The financial side of things needs to be sorted out as well, but I’m really not the person to ask about that. Much has been said about potentially changing the ownership model in English football to more resemble the German model, the so-called “50+1” model. This will put fans right at the heart of all major decisions. I just don’t see this happening. These owners have been in total control of the clubs for so long that they just will not be willing to sell that large a stake to placate fans. Will there be government legislation? I don’t think there will be or should be. Football should be able to sort itself out. Unfortunately, for too long, we have had businessmen owning and running the sport. People who simply look at the bottom line and work to it. Football needs people in charge, who have played the game to a high degree and who have the best interests of the game at heart.
The only other thing I would add to this is that I can only hope the energy and drive that we have seen in opposition to this ludricous concept applied to the true evils of our wider society and we work to eradicate racism in football and elsewhere.