By now, most will have read or at least be aware of the revelations published by Spiegel online on Friday afternoon. The article, which is heavily informed by the work of Football Leaks, reveals that eleven of world’’s biggest clubs are in the process of formalising a breakaway Super League which would alter the shape of European football for good.
This is not a new idea. The notional threat of a continental breakaway has existed for decades, but never before has it loomed quite this large. And, never before has the basis for its establishment seemed to be instructed by such naked greed.
There are many things to feel: depression, fear, and certainly anger. Mainly, those responses will be confined to supporters of clubs not included, those who are being dropped like deadweight. Those fans have been deemed an irrelevance: not enough of them watch games on television and collectively they don’t spend exorbitantly enough on merchandise to deserve a stake in the future. The message to them is clear and ugly: go away, we can’t make enough money out of you.
But even those whose clubs do seek promotion into this land of milk and honey risk disenfranchisement. Tentative plans outline a fixture list which would take place across weekends and weekdays and, naturally, involve thousands of miles of cross-border travel. For some, that will be an adventure and a permanent road trip which never ends. For others though, life and finance will get in the way and even those who habitually travel with the team will be forced to stay away.
So what are the clubs saying about those people? Is it that, after all these years and many, many thousands of pounds spent on tickets and travel, their support just doesn’t matter enough? It does seems so. Those unwilling to spend many hundreds of pounds every month travelling to Spain, Italy and Germany will simply be airbrushed away and replaced by those who can.
It’s a disgusting betrayal. Football too often forgets that it owes its status entirely to those who funded its rise to this point. In that context, this stage – at which a proper detachment occurs and the clubs drop the pretence of behaving in the interests of anyone but themselves – is truly abhorrent.
It begs a really uncomfortable question too: if you are a fan of one of these teams and you do regularly attend matches up and down the country, what is your motivation to keep doing that now? The plans for the breakaway are still vague and Spiegel loosely projects a timeline of three years until implementation, but even the loosest estimate creates the sense of a definitive endpoint – the perception, if you like, that clubs will use their traditional fanbases until a certain moment arrives and then exclude them once their purpose has been served.
Everybody loves their team and almost every supporter is blindly loyal, but that’s a reality which is very difficult to ignore. These clubs are saying that they don’t value the domestic leagues in which they currently play and also that they find UEFA’s existing structures to be prohibitive, but – in the abstract – they’re also suggesting that the fans, the communities and the catchment areas which they traditionally represent are completely irrelevant.
Today’s revelations just confirm what has been suspected for a long time: for all these years, fans have been paying for a party which they won’t be invited to.
And how can you forgive that? How, if your side is among this number, can you ever look them in the same way again?