Harold Wilson famously said “a week is a long time in politics” whilst Chamberlain said “there is no use looking beyond the next fortnight”.
A week ago you could be forgiven for assuming that the untrustworthy six would be facing a very long and difficult week not only in the court of public opinion but in the Premier League corridors of power. Disturbingly, that has not proved to be the case. It is disturbing because the failure to act, the failure to bring these miscreants to account has a significant impact on the future of the game.
A failure to act further emboldens those just with self interest at heart. A failure to act brings into doubt the integrity of the Premier League, it’s strength of management and indeed brings you to question the motive and purpose of the other fourteen members.
In Everton’s excellent statement on the Monday morning prior to the hastily arranged Premier League meeting the statement concluded as such “to remember the privileged position they hold – not only as custodians of their clubs but also custodians of the game. The responsibility they carry should be taken seriously. We urge them all to consider what they wish their legacy to be.”
Whilst that was quite correctly directed at the owners and directors of the six, those same words apply to the fourteen plus the Premier League board and management. Failure to respond appropriately and swiftly brings into question their legacy, their custodian role.
Let’s make no pretence, the six sought to destroy completely any sporting integrity left in professional football. The plan (such as it was) sought to separate once and for all, the six from the rest by providing such a commercial and income advantage that could never be bridged. It sought to cut off the threat (as the six saw it) of the likes of Leicester City, Everton and West Ham United (based on this season’s results) breaking up this self absorbed cartel.
Had the Super League gone ahead it is impossible to understate the incalculable damage it would have done to the domestic game. In nature, the apex predator maintains the food chain below it, maintaining a balance built over millions of years. The removal of the apex predator destroys everything below it. So it is (albeit over a somewhat shorter time period) in professional football. Despite the absurd imbalance of resources and the desperate need for great reform, the pyramid structure survives. The Super League would have destroyed the Premier League as the apex operator.
Because of the enormous financial advantages the six would have awarded themselves, the Premier League would cease to be a competitive environment. Because the six were guaranteed participation in the Super League how much value would there be in others trying to qualify for significantly damaged UEFA competitions? How much value would there be in other club owners continuing to provide investment in stadia, in new players, in management, in academies to produce tomorrow’s crop of new players? For what purpose? To win the 7th place trophy?
It just wouldn’t happen. Other club owners would reduce their investment plans because there would be nothing worthwhile striving for. Broadcasters would take the same view; rights values would fall. Sponsors and commercial partners would see the Premier League losing its apex position with a corresponding drop in interest and thus value. The Super League would have a devastating impact on the Premier League and then in turn the whole pyramid below it.
Outside the Premier League clubs have barely survived the impact of the pandemic. They are effectively on life support, functioning and still producing a great product on the pitch, but unable to survive with out external resources to assist them. This would be wiped out in a world that accommodated the Super League.
This is what the six were plotting. They had, indeed have, no interest in the long term survival ( let alone advancement) of the wider professional game, of the pyramid that extends all the way to grass roots football.
That is the ultimate act of bad faith. What they were planning would lead to the destruction of professional football in England and many other leagues across Europe. Those six owners would know that, their advisors would know that and so would their bankers. Not one had the courage to recognise the damage their actions would have created and called a stop to this madness driven purely by personal greed.
This is why punishment is required. This is why Klopp is entirely wrong in saying it is time to move on. This is why Ceferin is wrong to call the English clubs that pulled out “great” – “you have to have some greatness to say I was wrong” he is quoted as saying. What utter nonsense. He should be saying you nearly destroyed our game by your deliberate actions and you will be punished for it.
Punishment is required but so is accountability. Make each club explain their actions. Usually any of the six will jump at the chance of publicity. Make them do what Tiger Woods did on his road to redemption. Face the press, face the world, face your own fans and explain why you did what you planned, why you did it in the full knowledge you were destroying our game.
Then having received your punishment (I still believe relegation is appropriate), having your moment in which you must justify your actions, you have to commit to a new world – a world were football is properly governed at every level. A world were it would not be possible to behave in this way. One of true accountability. One were fans were not only listened to but actually held some control in terms of veto (as I have written previously).
Then if you (as the owner of one of these six) don’t like the new environment sell your club. No one is forcing you to stay in football. Sell it to someone who perhaps understands the values of football and understands its importance culturally and societally, particularly in the UK.
In my opinion this is the message that should be going out from every Premier League club and the League itself. Day and night until people understand what the impact would have been. Tell the sporting world of what they proposed to do, the damage they would have brought, the punishment they must accept and the governance changes that make football better in the future.
If football doesn’t do this, if it sweeps the Super League and its plotters under the carpet, football will weaken and the six and their plans will return. If they do, football fans all over will not forgive you – those with the power to make changes (as well as the six) for allowing it to happen. The choice is stark. Doing nothing is not an option.