The planned European Super League (ESL) – a self-contained format for elite clubs only – is probably on the point of collapse following the revolt by Premier League fans. They forced the owners of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham to pull out of the project – for the time being.
The ESL was the culmination of a process rather than simply the start of something new. Be assured, the clubs owned by major corporations, hedge funds and advised by investment bank J.P. Morgan will be back sooner rather than later.
Put aside all Tory government hypocrisy about the game belonging to the fans. The Tories are more concerned about the social reaction and unrest to what is after all a classic capitalist manoeuvre. Many fans pointed out the contrast between the rich owners and themselves when they staged protests about the grounds of the ‘top six’.
Fans were sidelined long ago, pushed aside by sponsorship deals and, above all, money from TV companies like Sky and BT Sport.This enabled clubs to pay top players astronomical weekly wages the average fan would’t earn in a whole lifetime. Ticket prices soared and many on low incomes were left outside the gates.
Top clubs were listed on the stock exchange and major corporations saw opportunities for expansion – and profits.
As a result, the big US sports corporations moved in to seize control of Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal. Sheik Mansour of the United Arab Emitates bought up a sleepy Manchester City. Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch who amazingly became super-wealthy overnight, acquired Chelsea and former currency trader and billionaire Joe Levy took over at Tottenham.
And the debts of the big clubs grew as new owners borrowed vast sums for new stadia and to corner the transfer market for players and top managers. If Chelsea or Manchester City want a top player, it is impossible to outbid them, for example.
So much for the top clubs being rooted in the community and football “belonging to the fans”. That went out of the window a long time ago and the ESL is simply the logical consequence of football becoming a plaything for big business.
As Football Supporters Europe said of the ESL plan: “It is driven exclusively by greed. The only ones who stand to gain are hedge funds, oligarchs, and a handful of already wealthy clubs, many of which perform poorly in their own domestic leagues despite their in-built advantage.”
Football authorites in the UK, Europe and the global body FIFA have found their voices to express degrees of anger and opposition to the ESL. But these are largely discredited bodies. These organisations have run with the money and some of it even found its way into individual pockets.
Documented allegations of corruption mark the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, while thousands of migrant workers have died building the stadiums in scandalous slave-labour conditions.
Fans everywhere have denounced the ESL. They should ignore the inquiry into the running of football set up by the government because it won’t go anywhere.
Covid-19 has shown in a sharp way that without workers, consumers and fans capitalism can’t function. So the major corporations consolidate, destroy what exists and create new monopolies. That’s what the ESL is all about.
Total control of the clubs and football authorities by supporters, local communities and sports experts is the answer to the ESL. It would be a blueprint for transforming the rest of British society along democratic lines.
Time to Kick out Capitalism.
This post was edited on April 21 to take account of the decision by the six Premier League clubs to withdraw from the ESL project.