European Super League: We must stand ready to unite behind football again

Jack Kessler
·2-min read
 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

The press release did not scream “intricately-planned, war-gamed to an inch of its life, JP Morgan seed-funded ticket to sporting nirvana”. For starters, the logo at the top of the page looked as if it had been created using Nineties Microsoft WordArt.

But its signatories included some of the most famous brands in the world, owned by billionaires and petrodollar states. Surely they knew what they were doing?

It turns out, they did not. For a remarkable 48 hours, the six English clubs managed to unite rivals from across the political and sporting spectrums. Boris Johnson with Keir Starmer, Alex Ferguson with Arsène Wenger. Had they been alive, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr would surely have put down their pistols and songbooks to condemn the project.

What felt like an unstoppable juggernaut on Sunday evening quickly collapsed under the weight of its own internal contradictions, many of which the Standard raised throughout week. For example, if the investment from JP Morgan was borrowed against future broadcast revenue, who was the broadcaster? If there were to be 15 permanent members, where were the other three? And how would a further five qualify?

Radio and television stations — which for years invited climate deniers to ensure impartiality in debates — could not find a supportive voice. What appeared to be grotesque indifference towards fans was instead evidence the project was coming apart.

In the grand scheme of global finance and given the destruction such a league would have wrought, what is striking is how small the numbers involved were. A so-called €3.5 billion welcome bonus, reportedly split between the clubs which was in fact a loan to be repaid with interest over 23 years.

And so we return to the realities of league and cup football. A new season will begin and the last two days will recede into memory. But it did happen and it was stopped. Politicians were mobilised, supporters united, sponsors ran for the hills. Football was fortunate in its enemy this time. But the clubs will come again, better financed and prepared. Oliver Dowden has warned that governance reform may still be on the way. This is critical — we must make use of this reprieve to rebalance the sport in the interests of supporters and the communities it is meant to serve.

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