Last year I experienced an event I’d dreamt about for thirty years.
My football team, Liverpool F.C., won the English Premier League. I’m 31, the last time Liverpool were champions of England I was four and a bit months old. This moment is one I’ve wanted to happen for as long as I can remember.
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, Liverpool’s biggest rivals, Manchester United, were the dominant force in English football. It was painful watching them win season after season. To have to go into school and see your friends, some of whom were United fans, rub your nose in it.
Sure, there were some bright points. Such as when we won three trophies in 2001, the amazing comeback in the Champions League final in 2005, and victory in the same competition in 2019.
But none of it compared to the moment just ten months ago, when we finally became champions of England after thirty long years. It meant more because Liverpool was the dominant team in England throughout the 70s and 80s. We were the biggest and most successful club, and then the tap ran dry.
To get back on top, to get back on our perch, was something I’d longed to see for years. At some points, I never thought it would happen. I’m glad it did. The outpouring of emotion was huge. A weight off my shoulders had been lifted.
Even with Covid restrictions, people celebrated outside the club’s stadium. Delighted we’d got back to where we belong. A new chapter in an illustrious history.
On April 18, 2021, all of this history was shoved aside when Liverpool joined eleven other clubs in announcing their intention to join a European Super League.
The reason? Money.
Reports suggest those twelve clubs will earn $3.5 billion between them for taking part in this new competition. While this may sound like music to the ears of the owners, to the fans, it’s an abomination.
We weren’t consulted. The announcement came out of the blue and it spits in the face of everything football means to us.
The ‘competition’ is designed to consist of twenty teams. Of those twenty, fifteen will be ‘founding members,’ meaning they can’t be relegated. Unlike the system in place across Europe today, clubs are relegated if they finish at the bottom of their respective league tables.
To qualify for the top European competition, the Champions League, clubs need to finish in the upper reaches of their respective leagues. This new competition will create a closed shop. Akin to an American style sports league but without the draft system or the salary cap to make it fair.
This move disregards over one hundred years of history. A lot of the clubs in England and Europe were founded by working men. They were clubs for the people by the people. To this day, they are organisations local communities can rally around. A source of civic pride.
These clubs are institutions. But they have become something else over time. Grotesque cash cows for their foreign owners. The Glazer family have taken almost £1 billion out of Manchester United since they bought it back in 2005. A deal worth £800 million, was secured following a leveraged buyout loading the club with £540 million worth of debt when they had been debt-free before.
These owners aren’t interested in the concerns of the fans. They’re not even overly bothered about the club’s performances on the pitch as long as they continue to be cash cows. Money is the altar on which this class of owners worship and in the pursuit of money, they’ve sold the soul of these clubs.
If this ‘Super League’ goes ahead, it will tear apart the fabric of football in Europe. Age-old rivalries will fall by the wayside. Histories and tales passed down through the generations will mean nothing. The gigantic concrete bowls built to houses these clubs will become soulless vessels for a product rather than a sport.
Make no mistake, this is what it’s all about. Creating a product rather than improving the game of football. Were these owners interested in improving the game, they'd invest in their communities and provide less financially powerful clubs with much-needed investment. Help that’s needed when many clubs are looking at going bust thanks to the pandemic.
Instead, they want to grab more of the pie and shut out those who dream of scaling the heights to become champions of their land, and maybe Europe.
Should such a league go ahead, the fairytale story of Leicester City winning the Premier League at odds of 5,000 to 1 back in 2016, will be a thing of the past. A stale procession of matches between the same clubs will follow with little to no excitement.
What’s the point in watching when a majority of the clubs can’t be relegated? Where’s the novelty, the excitement, the unpredictability? All the aspects of football which make it the most popular sport on the planet.
Football is the people’s game, the beautiful game. Right now, it’s anything but. Sold to the highest bidder, it’s a sad indictment of our times when money talks and little else seems to matter.
A wise man once said football is nothing without the fans. He was right. If the lessons of sport during the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that without fans, the soul is gone.
The fans are the lifeblood of every sport. Without us watching, these events are nothing more than meaningless gatherings. The meaning is derived from the fans. From the popularity of the sport. If no one cares, the money stops.
For the past few years, Liverpool’s marketing slogan has been, ‘This Means More.’ It’s supposed to highlight how Liverpool is more than a club. An institution in tune with the concerns of the people it represents.
The slogan may hold true for the fans, but it rings hollow now. A cheap slogan backed up by the greed of owners out of touch with the supporters they represent. Custodians of clubs they don’t understand, or even want to understand.
Instead, the slogan epitomises, above all else, what matters the most in football today. Money means more.
Everything else is a secondary concern. Even the fans who support their clubs through thick and thin. All pawns to be thrown under the bus at the first sign of greater riches.
If this ‘Super League’ goes ahead, it will be the death of football as we know it.
We can’t allow it to happen. It must fail. It will fail.