For decades we have heard footballing pundits moan about the politicization of football, it’s worth posting this paragraph of an excellent BBC article on the European Super League.
The government’s promise this week to legislate, effectively in order to grant football an exemption from competition law, along with the support of the opposition parties – was deemed crucial in defeating the ESL plotters. Well-placed sources within the Premier League believe this was a crucial miscalculation by the ringleaders of the plot, who assumed politicians would not want to get too involved.
The “over our dead body” approach , adopted by Boris Johnson within hours of the announcement, would normally be considered an intemperate and inappropriate intervention, but in this case it was just the trick needed.
Government by knee jerk reaction , as pioneered by Donald Trump, needs a strong counterbalance and (other than Dominic Cummings), Johnson doesn’t appear right now to have anyone gainsaying him. Which is perhaps what the plotters missed .
I’m sensing that strong sense of assertiveness in other parts of Government, even in the sleepy corridors of the DWP , where tolerance of the status quo seems to be wearing thin.
But back to football
Driving home last night from a day out in the country , lamenting Yeovil Town’s 1-5 humiliation at Solihull Moors, I turned on 606 to hear calls for points deductions , fines and competition bans for the sly 6 English clubs who are still in a binding agreement to go it alone and participate in the Super League.
The damage to these clubs finances has yet to be tested but I suspect that the lawyers are this weekend drafting some very expensive claims on behalf of JP Morgan and other backers of the ESL.
Then there is the Crouch review of the structure of football in this country that looks like having some pretty powerful political clout. This looks set to undermine the current hegemony of the oligarchs behind ESL and grant golden shares to fans to provide some kind of stakeholder balance within clubs.
Finally, there is the recognition by everyone that football matters rather more than money. If the real point of the SPL was to enable Real Madrid to by Bepe from Paris St Germain -or other such ludicrous examples, then why do clubs like Yeovil and Solihull exist?
Clearly the answer to that question is that they provide a part of the pyramid (and there are a lot of layers lower than the National League in which we currently sit.
And one of the great consolations of supporting lower league teams is to see players of the quality of Dan Byrne at Brighton, Luke Ayling at Leeds and most wonderfully Ryan Mason at Tottenham, prospering at a much higher level. Keiffer Moore came from a non league side, to play in Green and White and he is now playing for Wales upfront with Gareth Bale. These things are sent to cheer us when we lose 5-1 to Solihull!
Why is British football so strong?
I think the answer is that it enjoys political backing – and I mean “political” in the true sense of making decisions in large groups (rather than small boardrooms).
Though the emphasis of the EPS has been on English clubs, British football treats what happens in Wales, Scotland and even Northern Ireland as important. I get excited watching for the results of St Johnston and Partick Thistle because I have friends who support them and most of us have a fascination with the fortunes of the home nation clubs in European and World competitions. This granularity is why football is political – it brings groups together in a political way.
So the next time I hear a football pundit on MOTD decry politics in sport, I will shout at the television the obvious truth , that if football was not political, we would have a European Super League
A footnote on social media
It’s good to see the four day social media boycott being scheduled from April 30th. If football can clean up posts as it kicks racism out of stadiums, I’m happy for the boycott to be extended.
It is footnote but an important one, football can be used to set standards. We have moved a long way from the squalor of the seventies and eighties when football was at its ugliest.