So much hypocrisy behind the backlash against European Super League

Fan power has shown its strength in bringing down the proposed ESL before it began. But fans must realize that the same wolves that hunt their sport are already amongst them.
So much hypocrisy behind the backlash against European Super League

A Leeds United player wearing 'Football Is For The Fans' shirts during the warm-up prior to kick-off of their Premier League match against Liverpool at Elland Road, Leeds. Famously Leeds bankrupted the club in a bid for Champions League success. Picture: Clive Brunskill/PA Wire.

THE founding members of the European Super League (ESL) probably expected a reaction to the announcement of their breakaway elite competition, but as is now evident, they never expected the sheer extent of the hate and vitriol their proposals engendered.

The surprisingly quick collapse of the ESL under the onslaught of rebuke and bad publicity is a lesson for all of us, that the all-powerful corporation will fall like a deck of cards when faced by public opinion turning against them.

But most surprising of all was the furious opposition of the governing bodies, commentators, and media outlets, lacking any awareness of the hypocrisy behind their opposition.

Their opposition, while couched in the argument of concern for the fans can be largely discounted, especially when it comes from the likes of Uefa and Fifa.

The stark reality for Uefa was that an ESL with the clubs owning exclusive rights to the TV broadcasts would effectively see their Champions League cash-cow slaughtered before their very eyes. 

Any ethical high ground from Uefa though was squandered long ago through corruption and the blind-eye it turned to racism in the sport and the invasion of the game by oil oligarchs looking to sports-wash their money and reputation.

As for Fifa threatening players from ESL clubs to remove the right to play for their national sides in the World Cup, all one has to ask is, at what cost did Qatar 2022 come in human rights abuses?

Back in England, other Premier League clubs showing their disgust at the ESL breakaway would do well to recall the start of the same league that provides them with their rich stream of finances today.

The Premier League was founded in February 1992 when the clubs in the then First Division broke away from the Football League, founded in 1888, so they could take advantage of lucrative television deals. A deal that is now worth nearly £2 billion a year domestically, ensuring a profile and revenue stream unimaginable to most of these clubs back in the early 90s.

Banners outside of Anfield Stadium, Liverpool protesting against the club's decision to join the European Super League (ESL). Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Banners outside of Anfield Stadium, Liverpool protesting against the club's decision to join the European Super League (ESL). Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Some of the most admired former footballers in a generation came out strongly against the ESL proposal as part of their TV punditry roles. And they rightly point out, the new league would hurt the game and the fans.

However, expressing your disgust while on the platform of Sky Sports or BT Sports, who are directly responsible for the monetisation and greed within the sport and its resulting costs, that you claim to abhor, is myopic in the extreme. Let's not forget that same split by the Premier League from the rest of the Football Leagues is what resulted in them becoming the highest-paid players their sport had ever seen, while the fans picked up the cost in more expensive tickets and TV subscriptions.

These same TV stations, whose outrage was not for the fans but rather the real fear that the ESL clubs would run their own TV rights, in a Netflix-style subscription basis, which would simply remove the traditional sports channels from the money-making equation and existence.

Founder flop

Liverpool were the first 'founder club' to feel the heat of the opposition when they played Leeds United in the Premier League on Monday night. The few Leeds' fans outside the ground, booed and shouted their disgust at the Liverpool team bus, while a plane flew over the Elland Road with a #NoToTheSuperLeague banner trailing behind it. Fair enough, even though the team itself had nothing to do with the ESL arrangements. But to who else could the Leeds and Liverpool supporters express their anger at?

Inside the ground, the Leeds players warmed up wearing t-shirts with "Football is for the fans" and "earn it" written across them.

One might take such criticism on board if it didn't come from a club that bankrupted itself in a greedy attempt to bag further Champions League glory and riches.

Fans protest against Chelsea's involvement in the new European Super League (ESL) outside Stamford Bridge, London prior to their game against Brighton. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire
Fans protest against Chelsea's involvement in the new European Super League (ESL) outside Stamford Bridge, London prior to their game against Brighton. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

The ESL is an experiment that looks to be over before it even left the laboratory and good riddance to its power-grabbing, greedy existence.

But the fans should not be so quick to slap themselves on the back for a job well done when the very situation and greed they railed so effectively against lives on in the game they love. It just that they don't recognise it, as it wears the familiar clothing of Uefa, Fifa, and Sky Sports.

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