Football united

The announcement of a Super League is already creating some interesting alignments. Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron have severally intervened against it. The established vested interests, the EFL , FA and Premier League have joined with FIFA , the Champions League and UEFA. There is a solidarity in opposition that had not been achieved in footballing or political circles since Britain’s announcement it intended to vote on leaving the EU.

Even more surprisingly, the populism of the politicians is against the encroachment of a US Bank (JP Morgan) which until recently had been welcomed with open arms by politicians and football clubs. They of course financed the Glaziers successful takeover of Manchester United which really started all this. I did not hear any politicians complaining at the time, instead we welcomed the yankee dollar and the immense wealth it has brought into Britain through overseas following of our football.

Trickle down?

I support a club which 8 years ago was competing for a place in the Premier League, this weekend we delighted in beating Borehamwood 1-0 at home. In 2014 we were playing Leicester , Leeds and Burnley, today clubs like Bournemouth and Brighton are succeeding where we failed. This is the glory and delight of English football. And there are teams like Bury and Bolton and Portsmouth who have fallen faster and deeper. Barrow were relegated from the football league in 1973 and returned last year. They look as if they will survive their first season in League Division 2.

I am hopelessly sentimental about football, as millions of others are. We support our great clubs, most of whom have signed up for this Super League and we do so on the basis of trickle down, the general good of football which goes a lot further than Yeovil  Town is well served by their success and that of the Premier League.

There is talk of the Super League sharing its profits with Britain’s football infrastructure and I can see this happening. I can see a women’s super league too – and I can see that contributing to the evolution of the women’s game in the UK and in Europe. But the unanimous  reaction of all but the founding 12 announced last night suggests that this possibility is extremely unlikely. The general view is that the spoils of this venture will be shared by the bankers and owners, not the supporters and players.

A global game?

The great tournaments of football start with the World Cup and include local tournaments played in South America and Africa from where a substantial number of the players in Europe’s top clubs come.

The European game has already sucked life out of the great South American clubs and is suffocating the development of the game in Africa. Thankfully , African and South American (and a few Asian) players can return to their continents of origin to play in these tournaments but that is about as much local participation as Europe gives back.

For the most part, football is a game with a European power base, where the money is generated from an almost colonial approach to the rest of the world. Much as I would like to think that Perez speaks the truth,  I doubt it.

“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world. Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”


In sport there are winners and losers, but in the kind of franchise based closed competition that the Super League is set to emulate there are no real losers or winners, only a carousel that throws up new star teams who shine for a few years and then return to the pack. Clubs do not fold and traditions are not created, owners move their clubs around the country and rename them to suit their needs. We have seen a little of this in the UK – with the plastic Milton Keynes Dons, but it doesn’t work.

Not all such initiatives work. Packer’s attempt to revolutionize cricket didn’t work as a venture (though it did achieve its aim of moving cricket on). The Premier League has worked and to a degree the Champions League has worked (though they work as a meritocracy where success and failure are determined by sporting performance.

Success based on financial clout is not really sporting success at all. The Super League does not sound like a sporting league but a way to reduce the volatility that sport brings. Manchester United have had recent spells in lower leagues, so have Manchester City. Chelsea , Tottenham and Arsenal have not always been at the top of London’s footballing hierarchy, even Liverpool have played second fiddle to Everton.

How will this go?

What the Super League presents is the most interesting of challenges. It is a head to head between the values of sport and of business. It is a head to head between the owners of clubs and their fans and it represents a very real challenge to politicians charged with acting in the interest of people’s social as well as financial welfare.

The battle over this, which hit us out of the blue on Sunday 18th April, is likely to rage throughout the summer. It will define our national game for years to come and will create division and unite people as nothing since Brexit.

We shall see!

So many questions remain unanswered.

Chiefly, can they actually get their plan over the line given the strong resistance from Uefa and the leagues and associations of the countries concerned?

But beyond that, who will the other three clubs be to make up the 15 founding members? Will Bayern Munich and Paris St-Germain eventually join up? And how will the other five clubs be decided?

These discussions will be fascinating. But right now, the clubs who have signed up to the European Super League have a public relations battle to turn around perceptions – because initial reaction has been overwhelmingly negative.


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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3 Responses to Football united

  1. Tim Simpson says:

    Hello Henry,
    Football United

    What is actually new here? You’ve spelt it out in your own comments…!

    When the Premier League was set up by Sky [Murdoch] many fans screamed then that the particular Clubs were selling out for ‘the thirty pieces of silver’. Where are we now? How many of the ‘working class’ can easily afford a Season ticket for any of the above Teams? As I understand it, it was only Man Utd who kept their tickets cheap.

    Then the Oligarchs arrived. What affiliation do they have with the respective local fans? Not much of a national outcry there. The Government welcomed them along with all the other oligarchs cash I recall. Am I wrong?

    You rightfully mention the Glaziers, I recall the concerns at the amount of debt they reportedly stacked MU with. Presumably it’s just another business venture for them. Perhaps they do a lot for Man Utd fans etc that doesn’t get reported. Is that why the Mancunians I meet all support Man City?

    Time was when spectators would go home on the local bus with their team players. Now spectators would need a Lambourghini. I don’t begrudge players such vehicles following their Personal Agent’s negotiations with their Team Management. It just indicates what their matches are about. Rumour has it that UK players are quietly instructed to be very careful during international matches because of their league match the following week etc.

    How exemplary are the FA/EFA/FIFA in assisting the lower league teams?

    I suggest the proposed Super League is just another evolution of international big business which, after 30 years [like the PL] will just be accepted.

    Equally how much of your own financial sector will change soon when international firms with bulging profits and faced with nominal interest rates, buy up profitable ‘local’ firms?

    Kind regards,
    Tim Simpson

  2. RWT says:

    There are a couple of things that strike me – from a position of some ignorance, I have to admit. First, it’s a mistake to think about football as a sport – it’s in the entertainment and clothing industries. Secondly, clubs have generated huge income from television, but it seems to me that players (and their managers) have been very adept at extracting economic rent by negotiating to increase their salaries and transfer fees as club income rises. If that is correct, then a superleague that tries simply to increase income for the clubs will see the players taking that income for themselves. To address club profitability (which this proposal seems to be about) they need to address the cost side of the business, rather than the income side.

    You say in the article that in sport there are winners and loser. I hope that, in this instance, the loss are not the fans.

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