Sport

Football's problems run much deeper than just the despised European Super League

Apparently, a breakaway European Super League was the ‘enough’ that was, indeed, ‘enough’.

That’s genuinely good to know, because I’ve been scratching my head about it, in public, for years now.

It was, without caveat, a vile and disgusting landgrab from football’s stinking-rich elite, which managed to unite managers, players, supporters, pundits, media outlets, governing bodies and government in a way that nothing ever has before. For that alone, it deserves the most sarcastic of slow handclaps.

Football feels good about itself right now. It stood up to an astonishing coup from the fat-cat bullies and sent them homeward to think again.

Everyone seems so very pleased with themselves, yet this was a blatantly predictable next step rather than a bolt from the blue.

I want nothing more than to join in the backslapping. To put the blinkers back on, crack open a beer and smash out gratifying soundbites like ‘without fans football is nothing’, yet instead I’m the guy at the party you want to avoid right now.

Stopping the ESL in its tracks was a wonderful thing but if you squint far enough into the distance you might just be able to make out the horse that bolted from the stable a long time ago.

Football doesn’t need a victory lap and an apology from John W Henry. It needed to stand up to the denigration of the FA Cup, which used to be the holiest of domestic sporting competitions, before it succumbed to pointless foreign tournaments and B Teams. Truly unique, it stood for a celebration of a football pyramid that connected communities throughout an entire country, from biggest city to smallest town. ‘When other helpers fail and comforts flee. Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.’

Football needed to stand up most recently when clubs like Bury disappeared from the football map, or when fans of Leeds United, Blackpool, Portsmouth and dozens of others were drowning in tears. Some never made it, while grandparents passed away during boycotts, never to see the golden sky at the end of their storm. Kids sold their own toys just to donate money to help save their team because of reckless, multi-millionaire owners who walked away scot free.

The ‘big six’ stand up for the values of football when it directly affects them, but what about walking out, boycotting, finding a collective rage for the other 86?

Football needs to stand up to a system that sees the majority of the money that ‘trickles down’ from the Premier League stay with the three relegated clubs in parachute payments. A marker to make up for the millions often splurged in the top flight, rather than a life-saving distribution to the smaller communities that have been left a long way behind.

Football needs to stand up to a Uefa Champions League that continues to expand and bloat to protect the very same clubs that agreed to this despicable breakaway league. Watch this space, by the way.

Football needed to stand up when Fifa officials were frogmarched out of Swiss hotels, blankets over their heads. When World Cups were awarded to a nation that immediately destroyed their computers and another that has since been accused of effectively using slave labour to build infrastructure and stadiums, with thousands of workers dying.

Then you have ticket prices, kick-off times, pay-per-view pandemic football, financial doping and corporate quietening of stadiums.

The list is so very, very long. That’s alright though. We stopped the European Super League, so it’s all ‘Glory. Glory Man United’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. For decades, the community of football has been suffering a painful slow death, yet all too often we have just grumbled, only to then turn our faces away and simply wipe the metaphoric blood off our cheeks.

The fact that it took the most disgusting of propositions to bring about such togetherness is, in some ways, the saddest thing of all.

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