If our greedy, pampered clubs want to join a super league, call their bluff
Here is what the Premier League should offer to ward off the threat of a European super league. Nothing. Actually, not quite nothing. Less than nothing. A pay cut, in fact.
Industry experts say the threat of a breakaway is only a means of negotiation for Europe’s elite clubs, seeking a larger share of football’s riches. Well, if it’s negotiation they want, let’s negotiate.
Here’s our position. If you want to be part of a European super league, go. Just don’t think you can be part of our league, too; or the FA Cup; or any other domestic competition.
The Premier League should offer nothing to stop teams leaving for a European Super League
When your league fails, as it will because it is artificial and boring, in essence non-competitive and the fans will hate it, don’t think you can come back to us on the same deal as before.
Junior partners. That is what you will be. Half a vote at the meetings, half the money when we divide the spoils up at the end of the season.
You’ll have to take it, because the alternative will be to go back to your empty, meaningless league, or to tour the world like the Harlem Globetrotters playing exhibition matches for Charlie Stillitano against all the other clubs too greedy to know they were on to a good thing.
It shows the absence of imagination at the top of football’s pyramid that these threats are not put to bed in 24 hours.
One concerted effort from FIFA, UEFA, the national associations and domestic leagues, and this could be over by tomorrow afternoon. The reason it won’t be is that the people at the helm of those organisations are too busy figuring out what’s in it for them to come up with a coherent initiative that makes the problem go away.
Any continental league would fail because it will quickly become artificial and boring to fans
If FIFA said any players participating in a breakaway league would be banned from competing in international football, that would make the stars of the show think again.
If UEFA announced that the club members of a breakaway league would be banned from all European competition for 10 years, starting from the date they reapply to join — as they will when their league fails — the risk would need to be re-evaluated.
And if the collective associations and leagues made plain the punitive measures that would greet the rebels, stripping them of their influence, their most significant revenue streams and their status in the game — surely a club that resigns from the Premier League does not return at the top, but the bottom of the league pyramid — it would serve as a reminder where the power really lies. In the collective, and that includes the fans.
For you, the people, could stop this before any momentum has a chance to build. Not the armchair fans who invest nothing more than subscription fees and the click of a remote control handset, but the ones who fill stadiums with noise and colour and who can be relied upon to stay loyal, even when their team is mid-table or failing.
The 74,525 who made it to Old Trafford for the match against Everton on October 28; the 60,000 who regularly consume the most expensive tickets in Britain at Arsenal, a club that hasn’t won a league title in 14 years.
If the supporters make it plain that they are not buying the European super league, then the European super league cannot fly. And just in case anyone is foolish enough to have their interest piqued by the prospect of a breakaway, here is what will happen: you will lose your club.
You will lose your Saturday afternoons, you will lose your away days, you will lose community and companionship, and all the positives you currently take for granted as part of football’s package.
European Super League matches would take the clubs away from their loyal supporters
This is because the league is in part the work of Stillitano and he already runs a football tournament for Europe’s elite clubs, the International Champions Cup.
Where does it take place? Not near you. Chicago, Klagenfurt, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, East Rutherford, San Diego, Carson, Singapore, Harrison, Nice, Ann Arbor, Miami, Pasadena, Minneapolis, Arlington, Dublin, Faro, Lecce, Landover, Santa Clara and Madrid. These were the venues for the International Champions Cup in 2018. Chelsea got to draw 0-0 at home to Lyon, the only game played on English soil.
And you think any breakaway league is going to be different? Old Trafford might host a derby or a game against a club making up the numbers, but when Manchester United play Real Madrid it will be classed as a global event, and could turn up anywhere across five continents.
This is a made-for-TV league and requires a made-for-TV global audience. It will be sold at a premium, like boxing. It will be hawked to the highest bidding cities, too.
When Milan played United in Carson, just 21,742 turned up, so that is the type of match that will be laid before a home audience, preying on their loyalty to fill the hall. But 101,254 watched Manchester United and Liverpool in Ann Arbor, so what are the chances of that staying removed from East Coast prime time?
When the deal is done it will be too late to protest. By then, your club will be just another American franchise in a league without relegation — for some — and if the crowds aren’t turning up, they can move the matches to somewhere that they will.
Why does Manchester need two clubs anyway? If the Jacksonville Jaguars can come here, why can’t a Premier League club go there? Certainly one whose fans are not buying into our brave new world.
Any season-ticket holder who thinks the European super league will be like our own, but more exotic, hasn’t thought it through. Just as the clubs haven’t if they think fans will not feel betrayed by the loss of some of their most treasured matches in a season.
Real Madrid would be the team to beat after winning the last three Champions League titles
This would be a Liverpool campaign that will not feature a game against Everton, for the first time since 1961-62; an Arsenal schedule that would not include a North London derby against Tottenham, a fixture that has missed one season since 1950-51.
These are huge matches with the anticipation of next season’s game beginning almost at the blowing of the final whistle on this season’s encounter.
What of meetings with rivals from around the country? Manchester United would never play Leeds again. Nobody with any feeling for football’s soul would sanction a change that ends visits to St James’ Park, Elland Road or the home of Leicester’s miracle.
And no relegation for the chosen few. The leaked version of the super league proposal contains the idea that the 11 founding clubs — all the usual suspects from across Europe, plus Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, who should all be ashamed of themselves — would be immune from relegation for the first 20 years.
In other words, it is a licence to be ordinary. United could be as mediocre as they have been this season, with no fear of consequence. The same for AC Milan and Real Madrid.
It is football with a giant safety net, and therefore not real football at all. It is a blueprint drawn up by careerists, executives with no feeling for the sport, or those who play and love it. They think you are suckers, that you will pay for any old cabbage as long as there are star names attached.
Heaven knows why they keep having meetings because this is a simply avaricious plan that could be jotted down on the back of a fag packet. It is football with all the danger and unpredictability taken out, and therefore football that is of no interest at all.
Fittingly, the prime movers here are a cabal of greedy clubs who have already destroyed competition in their own leagues and, for that reason, now seek a way out.
Juventus have turned Serie A into a bore for fans and they would not win a continental league
Their broadcast revenues are drying up because no-one wants to watch a procession, and they think a European league will shake the money tree again.
In reality, they are trapped. Juventus have turned Serie A into a crashing bore, but would not be good enough to win a continental league — they haven’t won a trophy in Europe since 1996.
How long, then, would their fans tolerate also-ran status in a new European league, bearing in mind only first place will count as success, with no Champions League consolation prizes for those coming between second and fourth?
How will fans brought up on trophies react when it transpires there is just one cup to go around between Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG, Juventus, and five Premier League clubs.
Even if they have the end-of-season play-offs found in American sport — just because you win the league, it doesn’t mean you win the trophy — there is still only one prize. These clubs are allied by nothing beyond their pursuit of money. Once pitted against each other with a single prize at stake, they would be weasels in a sack.
The myth then, is that the change is inevitable, or that the pilots of such an empty vessel need appeasing. Call their bluff. Bid them farewell with the reminder of what life is like on the outside.
It’s tough out there. Far tougher than the charlatans of this greedy, pampered elite know. Offer them a taste of it and you won’t hear a peep from them again.
Give Jose his due for rise of Martial
Whenever Manchester United fail to score, or their strikers dry up, the buck stops with Jose Mourinho.
His negative tactics are holding the players back; he is sucking the life out of Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford – look how much better they are in international football. But if the bad games are his fault, it cannot be that he is without influence in the excellent form of Anthony Martial.
It has taken three years, but he is finally living up to his billing — and to the terrace song that talks of him scoring as if it is a regular event.
It has been lately, mind, with five goals in his last four Premier League games, and Mourinho’s stewardship should be acknowledged. He cannot just be there to take blame.
Jose Mourinho deserves credit for the turnaround in the form of striker Anthony Martial
Who’s tuned in for Bale?
Ryan Giggs admitted he has not seen much of Gareth Bale for Real Madrid this season, because he doesn’t have an Eleven Sports subscription. Who does?
Neville not letting facts get in the way of a good story
It was our history teacher, Mr Farrar, who taught the worth of digging out obscure facts and anecdotes to keep examiners engaged during essays.
‘If you tell them something they don’t know,’ he advised, ‘they might even let you off a bit you miss out.’
Did you know Charles II was nicknamed Old Rowley after a particularly well-endowed stallion in the royal stables? Well, you do now.
Anyway, on the subject of massive tools, full credit to Gary Neville for doing his homework, and painstakingly going through the records until he located two occasions when Harry Redknapp had a poorer winning percentage than his at Valencia. Queens Park Rangers and Birmingham.
Redknapp took over Rangers when they were bottom of the league with four points from 12 games, Birmingham were 20th in the Championship, three points off relegation. Neither club was really on the up.
By contrast, Neville arrived when Valencia were ninth in La Liga, five points off the top four, and left them 14th, six points off the bottom three after 28 matches. Had Valencia maintained their points aggregate under Neville throughout the entire season, they would have finished 19th, and been relegated for only the second time in their history.
The spat was over some disparaging remarks from Neville about Tottenham, to which Redknapp took exception.
Neville said Tottenham were spineless in the decades before Mauricio Pochettino arrived, irking Redknapp, who took the club to the Champions League quarter-finals and from bottom to top four. He made a cutting riposte about Neville’s time at Valencia and advised him to do his homework.
With further research, maybe Neville would have concluded that Redknapp’s longevity must have meant he was doing something right. He won Portsmouth’s only trophy since 1950, took West Ham to fifth, won promotion to the second tier with Bournemouth.
He’s not Sir Alex Ferguson, but who is? Either way, if Neville ever finds an owner who will trust him to manage a football club again, he could take a swing at equalling Redknapp’s managerial record. Just the 1,367 matches to go.
United legend Neville said Tottenham have been ‘spineless and soft’ during the past 30 years
Mo the Leo lookalike
A statue has been unveiled in Sharm el-Sheikh. It looks like somebody is a big fan of Mo Salah, or Leo Sayer, or Richard Simmons.
Malfunction by robot Probert
The problem with Lee Probert’s performance at Cardiff on Saturday was not that he booked Leicester’s Demarai Gray for his goal celebration, but that he missed the biggest decision he had all afternoon.
We know the rules about removing shirts by now. Most of us don’t agree, but we understand it to be a black and white call. When Gray scored and revealed the message ‘For Khun Vichai’ on his underclothing, the rules state Probert couldn’t use his discretion — as it should be — and had to book him.
He looked embarrassed about it, but this was his job. If referees have a priority, it is to uphold the rules.
And, of course, in the circumstances, this jarred. But what jarred even more was that Probert had earlier missed a handball on the line by Sol Bamba that, had it been made by Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, would have gone down as one of the saves of the season.
So Probert could fulfil the part of the job that involved behaving like a robot — which anyone can do — but failed in demonstrating the necessary skill to give Leicester their due.
Lee Probert was in the headlines in Cardiff after he booked Demarai Gray for taking his shirt off