After all the widespread outrage from within football at the attempts by the so called ‘Big 6’ clubs to form a European Super League (ESL), the remaining 14 Premier League clubs seem to have gone very quiet on the question of sanctions against the offending 6 clubs. Not so the fans whose protests brought about the postponement of the Manchester United v Liverpool match on Sunday. They demonstrated that they will not forgive and forget, nor will they accept the shallow apologies on offer from club owners. We have now witnessed protests by fans of all 6 clubs. And rightly so as the owners of these clubs must not be allowed to bring down the football pyramid for which they care little.
In terms of sanctions, those who are calling for points deductions are wide of the mark in my view. That hurts managers, players and fans who had nothing to do with this underhand and machiavellian plot which was solely owner driven. Don’t forget when the news broke those owners threw their managers and players under the proverbial bus. They knew the media would be looking for comments, but they hid whilst one by one the managers and players of the clubs involved gave interviews to make clear they knew nothing of the proposals and exclusively spoke out against them and none more so than Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. If I was one of the 14 Premier League clubs not involved in this plot, I would be furious at the total lack of respect shown towards their fellow owners.
Of course, don’t for a minute believe that the 6 clubs involved have changed their minds. After the ‘Big Picture’ debacle of a few months ago, they moved from that to accelerate the ESL proposal and believe me that has not gone away as the voices from Spain and Italy confirm. All 6 will still believe that the other 14 clubs should agree to them receiving a greater share of the overseas revenues in particular. The leaders of the attempted coup, Liverpool and Manchester United, have long argued against there being an equal share amongst the 20 clubs of the overseas rights revenues. They argue that countries pay big sums to see the top clubs only. What they forget is the overseas revenues are at the level they are because of the product the Premier League is now and not how they would like it to be. It takes 2 teams to make a match and they would do well to remember that.
I would like to see heavy financial penalties imposed on the 6 clubs and I would like to see the income from these fines directed to the community trusts up and down the country that have done such a fantastic job in running food banks for the most vulnerable in society as well as providing hot meals for those most in needed including children. These trusts have taken a massive financial hit from the Covid emergency and that would be a fair and equitable use of the monies. Don’t forget also, that with Norwich City and Watford being promoted back to the Premier League at the first attempt, The Premier League will save millions in parachute payments next season.
The ESL proposal is a manifestation of the worst type of greed and with no thought for the wider well-being of the football pyramid. Hopefully the actions of the 6 will provoke the Government into legislating to being in safeguards to protect our national sport. This must include the appointment of an Independent Regulator with teeth.
One of the issues that should be placed in the new Regulator’s in tray is the overhaul of a system that allows foreign and largely absentee owners to buy clubs through a debt model and take out large dividends whilst that level of debt remains untouched or increases. For them a club is a brand or a franchise and they don’t feel passion for a club in the way its fans do as their actions have demonstrated.
All 92 professional clubs are at the heart of their communities and are an integral part of the social fabric of this country. Fans deserve protection for their clubs and the new Regulator must provide that. When you run a football club one of the things you come to understand quickly (if you didn’t already know it) is that ordinary working people build their weekend around watching their favourite team and talk about it endlessly in between. The Government owes them action and that has to be sooner rather than later.
Peter Varney – Chairmann Integral Sports Management.
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