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19th Apr 2021

Super League: Ensuring failure isn’t an option for the cowardly cabal

Wayne Farry

When competitive sport proved too competitive, the elite decided to take their ball home

Change happens slowly at first, then all at once. And so, on Sunday evening, it came to pass that European football as we know it was instantly and irreparably changed by the decision of 12 clubs, and a slightly larger number of obnoxiously wealthy people.

Featuring a logo that looks like the end product of months, if not years, of consultation with brand specialists who do not understand football, the Super League, as it is imaginatively called, will see a new competition in the sport, featuring 12 sides currently and – they expect – a further three teams to join. The new format will begin “as soon as practicable”.

‘Competition’, however, is a very strong word to use for what this truly is. Because the Super League is born out of a hatred of competition, of meritocracy, equality and everything we say we love about the game of football.

New owners extoll the virtues of ‘the beautiful game’ when they take over at established and historically successful institutions. They bleat on about history, about tradition, about community and about values.

But to them, these ‘values’ are not close to their hearts. It is not about history, about community ties, and about the fact that for many, their local football club is one of the biggest constants in their lives.

To them, these things are only worthwhile because they are commodities.

The love and commitment of supporters is not something for them to treasure and treat with the respect it deserves, but instead is something to leverage, yet another reason to push the game further and further away from its roots.

The Glazers, Kroenkes, John W. Henry, Agnelli and co. will have spoken to JP Morgan and used spreadsheet after spreadsheet to financially justify this decision. Because that’s what fans are to these owners. Numbers on a spreadsheet.

Each fan of each of the clubs involved has a reason to be angry.

For supporters of Liverpool, a club intertwined with its community, and one which has for so long leaned into its history with socialist movements, this is an almost unimaginable betrayal of those ideals.

Since taking over at the club, Fenway Sports Group have hammed up the fact that they ‘get it’, that despite being a group of billionaires and millionaires, they are on the same wavelength as club legends like Bill Shankly.

All the while, they were in the background pushing as strongly for the Super League as anyone else.

This Means More .

For fans of clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, this news will also be infuriating, if a little less surprising. Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour did not get into the Premier League football to be shackled by such trivial ideas like local football clubs and the traditional football pyramid. It was to make money and extend their influence. This helps achieve that goal.

It will be with the owners of Manchester United and Arsenal, however, where the most vociferous anger should be aimed, because a brief look at both clubs’ history since being taken over by the Glazers and Stan Kroenke respectively showcase just how perverse and cowardly this act truly is.

These are two of the most decorated clubs in English football history. Two clubs who dominated the 1990s and much of the 2000s and treated us to some of the greatest match-ups the Premier League has ever seen.

Their owners have entered English football and sought to remain on their respective perches while simultaneously taking money out for themselves. Money has been spent by both, of course, but it has been badly spent, limiting both sides’ ability to compete properly against those they consider their rivals.

So what do they do? Invest more in the club’s infrastructure? Invest in a real sporting director and in players who will improve their sides immediately? No, because that’s a fool’s game.

Instead, they have looked at their reality – that competition is simply too competitive for their business models – and decided to create a new, controlled environment within which they can artificially create success.

And that is what this will be, artificial. In years to come, if the Super League is as popular as those behind it clearly believe it will be, this may end up being forgotten, but it remains the only undeniable truth about this entire endeavour.

This is a bastardisation of competitive sport, a hologram of why people watch this game, played out in a vacuum where football is nothing more than vapid entertainment rather than something to genuinely care about.

It is a plaything of the rich who despise competition, because all that matters is domination. Competition is too random, too risky to exist unfettered. In a world where growth is everything, they have decided to monopolise football for their own ends.

To anyone who disapproves? The message is clear: Go fuck yourself.