Now obviously we’re never going to be in a position to be anywhere close to being admitted to any “Super League” but we thought we would weigh in with some thoughts on the situation as it’s going to affect clubs like ours, as well as the wider football pyramid.
The whole point of sport, and of football in particular is to compete to win. Win games and you’re rewarded with promotions, the pinnacle of which is the Premier League. Play badly and lose, and you’ll be relegated. That’s the entire principle of English football. There is nothing realistically stopping a team rising through the Leagues from nowhere and reaching the Premier League. We almost did it ourselves in the early 90’s.
We know it’s hard (if not nigh on impossible) to sustain Premier League football over a long period of time without significant investment. You only have to look at Norwich City, a well run, fairly sustainable team and their struggles to last more than a season or two at the highest level. Even in our League we’ve got Bolton, Oldham and Bradford who’ve all reached the Premier League since it’s formation 1992.
You might argue that Premier League was created to keep clubs like us out of it, to keep the TV money circulating amongst the teams that are big draws, and you’d be right. The Premier League isn’t perfect, but there’s nothing stopping us or any other team reaching it if the stars align. This new Super League? It’s a closed shop, fifteen teams with nothing to lose plus five teams invited in each year. You think they’re going to invite the likes of us even if we were to somehow win the Premier League? No chance, invites will go to rich but hopeless Middle Eastern football clubs, whatever celebrity-backed MLS side rustles up the £10,000,000 entry fee and the latest South American team to be bought by the City Football Group.
There’s always been a big six in this country, and that’s fair enough as these teams have earned their popularity through success (except Spurs maybe), but it’s fluid. Teams like Villa and Everton have historically been successful, teams like Man City haven’t always. Any Super League should be based on merit, not popularity. The prime example is Nottingham Forest, a team with twice as many European Cups as Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City put together. How comes they’re not in the running, but Tottenham, a club that haven’t won anything since colour TV was invented are involved? How comes Arsenal, a team that struggled to finish above Sheffield United last season and are labouring to a mid-table finish this year are considered one of the big six? They’ve not been competitive for a decade. If I was Leicester City I’d be really pissed off to not have an invite.
What will the FA & UEFA do about it? There’s plenty of talk about expunging teams from their domestic leagues, wiping their histories and banning players from playing international football. Sadly, it’s probably only the third option that will carry any real weight. Will City & Spurs be that bothered if their mediocre histories are wiped and they start again on the same level as Real, Juventus and Liverpool? Probably not, but if their players try to tear up their contracts if they look like missing the Euro’s or World Cup that might make the powers that be think twice. However, as always in this game money talks – would a player think about giving up his international career for twice the salary? Sadly I think many would.
Ultimately a Super League is only going to weaken the game at all levels, from Internationals right down to our level, where only a fraction of the money we currently receive will filter through. Sky and foreign broadcasters aren’t going to pay anywhere near the same amount of money to show a Premier League where the biggest games are Everton vs West Ham or Leeds vs Wolves. It’s going to severely damage a number of clubs at this level, especially as many of them are already struggling with the lack of match day revenue due to the Coronavirus. Will we be ok? I’d like to think so, but you just can’t tell. The romance of a great cup tie will be taken away from us – the financial benefits of a trip to Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge just won’t be there any more. The FA Cup is weak enough as it is – maybe it will become more meaningful after this, but maybe it will just die out altogether. It’s heartening to see that United have made their view clear on the situation, and they have our full support in their opposition to any Super League.
It’s the fans we feel sorry for. For every dickhead on Twitter called Auba-ology or YNWAHendersonGOAT2020 that couldn’t pinpoint The Emirates or Anfield on a map there’s also a huge amount of genuine fans of these clubs. Season ticket holders that spend vast fortunes following their team up and down the country and across Europe. Fans that have followed family traditions into following these clubs, not just supporting them because they’re good. Fans that do what you and I do, have the same matchday rituals, host podcasts, produce fanzines, protest against the board and cheer their players on. The same hopes, fears and feelings about their clubs that we do about the U’s. You probably know a few of them, and they’re about to have their clubs stolen from them. No matter who you support, or how dedicated a fan you are, that’s unforgivable.
We’re angry about this and so should you be.