In the end, fans won

Jonathan Logan

Science & Environment Editor

 

On Sunday April 18, the world’s 20 richest soccer clubs unilaterally decided to form their own league. A league completely inaccessible to the rest of the world. A league you could not be relegated from. A competition driven purely by money and television deals that pitted only the highest paid and most talented players against one another. On the surface, this seems harmless and perhaps even normal. The decision was made by the rich owners of some of the most storied and infamous clubs ever: Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Real Madrid and AC Milan, just to name a few.

Commentators took to television and “damned” the owners and their criminal pet project, coined the European Super League. Fans and players of these clubs made it clear that they would never again support their club if they joined the Super League. National soccer associations told players that if they played for any of these Super League clubs (the best in the world) they would be banned from ever representing their countries at the World Cup. This is something nobody could have ever even dreamt of. The rich have come for soccer under the guise of reform to the way our clubs compete.

This is war on soccer. War on the fans. War on the history and war on the blood and tears we pour into our clubs. I say we because I have been to Europe and I have experienced the full force of a city living and breathing their club. I have always had a hard time explaining to fellow Americans that there is a major difference between a franchise and a club. A franchise (like in the NFL) makes money and can be moved willy-nilly from city to city with no regard for the fans. Soccer is different. We have clubs. Clubs are cities. They are the bones of European cities and culture.

In Europe, and even here in the U.S., soccer is based on something known as the pyramid scheme. At its core, this allows lower league teams to rise up and play the titans of world soccer in the top leagues like England’s Premier League, or Spain’s La Liga. This is the lifeblood of soccer. We thrive on the little guy taking down the big guy, David beating Goliath, wee Iceland upsetting the multi-million dollar machine of England in the Euros in 2016.

You create a Super League, you kill everything we hold dear as fans. Imagine the four richest NFL teams or four richest NCAC schools broke off and formed their own little elitist bubble competition. They have the means to buy the best players, BUT, those best players never play against the average players or average teams. We soccer fans stand for an even playing field where average teams and bad teams can topple the best any day of the week. We love to see Leicester City win the Premier League against all odds. We want our sons and daughters and brothers and sisters to be able to play for the small, hometown club and rise to glory. This is impossible when the richest take the talent and monopolize it.

 For the record, each of the owners of these big European Super League clubs would have gotten $4.5 billion in television deals alone just for joining the league. The owners have since backed down and retracted their letters of intent for joining the Super League. However, this is a warning. This was the Cuban missile crisis of soccer. In a pandemic world with no fans, this rich lot wanted to give the middle finger to us all. Make no mistake, this was not some Freudian argument about the responsibility of leaders to their shareholders, this was not communism, this was greed.

In the end, soccer won. Fans won. History won. I am reminded of a Columbus Crew game I attended two years ago when the owners of the Crew were trying to move our Ohio team to Austin, TX. The chant that day was you fight for us, we fight for you, together we save the Crew. We need more of that. We’re clubs, not franchises — and not businesses.

One thought on “In the end, fans won”

  1. Correction: 12 clubs signed letters of intent, not 20. The 12 initial clubs were pressuring an additional 8 clubs to join the ESL that would have brought the total to 20.

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