Early this week, the football world woke up to the news that 12 European clubs had endorsed intent to be part of a breakaway Europe Super League, ESL.
From Spain came Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. England provided Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham. Italy had AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. These 12 had dotted the partnership lines while Germany’s Bayern Munich and Borusia Dortmund were being expected to follow suit.
Like a volcano, the stakeholders of the world’s most popular sport erupted in deafening unison. The worldwide reactions that greeted this bombshell could be likened to nothing in recent times.
With the speed almost all clubs hastily withdrew from such earlier intents, it became very clear that those clubs never envisaged such total condemnation from the global football fraternity.
The outcry against this very unpopular move was even beyond deafening. Among many reasons, loss of competitiveness was the strongest, followed by danger of muscling ‘smaller’ clubs to extinction. All over the world, the cries were almost uniform. Both FIFA and UEFA, the two world’s biggest organisers of the modern game, rolled out a retinue of punishments, including banning players that ever took part in the ESL from their competitions, which includes the World Cup.
And it sank in as quickly as the ESL announcement was made, such that within 48 hours, as many as 10 out of the 12 teams had pulled out. As of time of writing, only Barcelona and Real Madrid seem to be hanging on. But the idea is dead, at least temporarily.
However, looking deeply at it, is the ESL that evil?
Look at football that FIFA, UEFA, CAF, etc organise and think of how static it’s been since 1863, when the first official game was played in Mortlake, London.
Besides the players and coaches that come up with individual creativities, shouldn’t this game we continue calling beautiful been long a boring waste of one’s 90 minutes of repeating scenes since three centuries past?
Questions should be asked.
What is the offside rule still doing in football? This rule has generated the biggest controversies in football, yet instead of scrapping it entirely to enjoy free less-controversial games, the game’s lawmakers keep complicating it even more in name of modifications. Fans yearn to see more goals but organisers of the game restrict such with these don’ts. Today, it is the Video Assistant Referee, VAR that has been in place. An introduction that is as faulty and corrupt as the organisers that introduced it. Just a second in football matters and is enough to alter actual moment of kicking the ball. Same humans freeze the screens at vital moments, same humans give verdicts. Such clumsy back-and-forth replays have introduced dull moments in the game that have robbed football of the shines of goal celebrations. Assuming they are perfect but they’re not. A supposedly perfect VAR is as imperfect as the referees that raise the flags because both flag and machines are operated by humans.
What is the away goal rule still doing in football? In a game that preaches peace and love, why should one team be reminded that it is playing at away turf? Why shouldn’t any football stadium be a home stadium? Home of football to any visiting team. Why creating that divide with such awkward rule?
Why restrict football to just three changes in any official match? Why shouldn’t all the 11 players be available for change at any moment of the game? Most benches today are adorned by players that could together cost over half a billion dollars. Why restrict the club that paid so much from showcasing all their acquisitions for the entertainment of paying fans?
Why is football fixated with just 11 players since creation? What of expanding the pitches and playing with 15 players? Let the game enjoy drastic changes and bring out the creativity in these players and coaches.
Why not increase the size of goalposts? We need to see more goals, grab it!
Then we ask further, why should the World Cup remain an event of every four years? Hardly do players last more than 10 years at top level. Isn’t it better to give them more chances by playing the World Cup every two years?
The human mind is such a fixated machine that it does everything to resist changes.
And that brings us to the bandwagon condemnation of the ESL. Why did the idea of this League germinate in the first place? Simple – MONEY!
Football clubs take all the risks, buy all the players, pay wages of the players even while on international duties, take care of injuries including those sustained while representing their countries, build and repair stadia, cater for their fans, scout for sponsorship and everything. In the end, they may end up trophy less, get relegated or even go bankrupt.
But the organisers like UEFA smile to the bank for just monitoring from safe comfort.
Today, fans don’t go to the stadium again. Big clubs with big stadia lose huge revenues, their financial statements show both gross and net losses all over the place. Yet in a place like the English Premiership League, EPL, television and sponsorship rights are shared almost equally amongst the 20 teams. That’s hugely unfair.
Apart from competition, what else do these clubs offer in generating sponsorship money? In Nigeria my country, millions of fans subscribe for pay-per-view platforms to watch Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and lately Manchester City… hardly for any other club. Even if West Ham makes top four, I’m not sure a single Nigerian will subscribe just to watch the London-based club next season.
Very glaringly, the big 12 didn’t do appreciable homework. They left solid media promo out of their calculations before going public with signing MOU. The other side easily won with same media while the ever vulnerable fans yielded to continued manipulation. The fat cats in FIFA, and particularly UEFA lured the fans to believe ESL was the next evil after Adolf Hitler. Beware, the majority is seldom right. These big clubs are battling to save their businesses and the beautiful game. There’s nothing wrong with the people spending the money calling the shots.
It’s the big clubs that generate the fans that pay all the money. FIFA, UEFA, et al should protect these big clubs with enough financial latitude to avoid their going bankrupt.
Otherwise, the jettisoning of ESL will only be temporary. It will come again in stronger version…and it won’t be long in doing so. The guarantee of £400 million to each club per season from sponsorship alone is too tempting. UEFA has to do something in monetary revenues to douse that temptation or have the tide ticking toward the other side soon.