The football community just experienced a surreal few days... Sure, the project of the Super League has been in the works for the past year or so, but the official announcement this week shocked the world.
All six English clubs clumsily exited the newly formed European Super League on Tuesday this week, imploding the unconventional project with Spanish and Italian counterparts within 48 hours of the announcement. Chelsea and Manchester City were the first to make their position known and were followed by Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham. The fans made their feelings on the matter unquestionably clear, passionately making their case. What these protests clearly showed was that football belongs to footballers and fans.
This project was handled in such an abysmal way, sparking immediate and impassioned outcries of disgust and dismay. The unfolding events following Monday’s news demonstrates the difference between football and other sports, particularly in comparison to those in the U.S. The differentiating factor being the passion and conviction of the fans. The Super League plans were met with condemnation from other clubs, players, governing bodies, politicians and especially fans.
The upset exploded into the open air in the streets of southwest London where supporters of Chelsea gathered Tuesday evening to protest against their own club and its decision to defect from the UEFA. The shockwaves were felt throughout the UK with Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward resigning due to his leadership role bringing Man U to the table as a founding team of this newly conceived league.
We are not in the business of being political, nor are we taking a stance against capitalism or free enterprise, but football is football. The beautiful game belongs to its cities, players and fans, with a long history built on tradition. It is meant to be pure unadulterated passion.
Football is not, and will never be, the NFL or MLB. Outside of the U.S., football does NOT have traveling teams. It does NOT require you to spend $5,000 a year for your 7 year-old child to play. It’s everyone’s sport and belongs to the people, from major cities to villages and small towns alike. This is the essence of football.
Perhaps U.S. owners won't turn up to games for a very long time. Across the Atlantic, it's not a big issue for them. But the emotional tsunami that first hit social media and then took to the streets of London, and with the mounting pressure around it, this “big idea” will surely not come to fruition. Owners of the six English clubs involved with the European Super League must "...beg for forgiveness", says former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock.
“Given the current circumstances,” the Super League said in a statement, “we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidarity payments for the entire football community.”
The biggest clubs in THE biggest sport in the world presented its European motherland with a proposal for a North American-style league system, and the continent promptly lost its collective mind. Fans, political leaders, former players… all rushing to the barricades to defend their love.
The heartless arrogance exhibited here is not welcome anywhere in football. It will never be accepted. In a time when fans are starved for the thrill of attending a live match or joining their mates at the pub bursting into cheers and tears, play after play, this move was no less than a suckerpunch to a fan base with more passion than observed in any other sport.
In a leaked planning document for the Super League, local supporters had been dismissed as “legacy fans” with pocketbooks aimed at the digital, global fans. Football’s victory Tuesday was a rare triumph for legacy. This was a stirring example of the power of sports fans uniting with one voice. Football needed saving when the Super League’s slick cartel made their advance. And it was saved — by the people.
Eric the King Cantona said it best: "Since one year we have seen games on TV with the best clubs in the world and the best players in the world, and it was so boring, and it's still so boring, because the fans are not there - the fans singing, jumping, supporting their teams. The fans are the most important thing in football. They have to be respected. Did these big clubs ask the fans what they thought about this idea? No, unfortunately, and that's a shame. “
Football lives. Vive le football!
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