The elite teams in the English Premier League have been pondering and campaigning for a European Super League for a while now, and with the enticement of increased revenues and new TV rights that could come from it, it’s no wonder why the appeal is there. But I can’t help but feel that if this was to happen, who would be able to afford the trips to go and see Man United play AC Milan in Italy on a weekend or a weekday? Avid supporters of Premier League clubs have already seen their wallets being stretched as far as they can be comfortable with as ticket prices rise and fuel costs increase making it more difficult to make it to those away games half way across the country. Add to that the logistical feasibility of potentially taking time off work to fly around Europe and pay for air travel or sitting on a coach as its rumbles across Europe and back again.
The draw of the Champions League is that it is a one-off event when people can plan that magical trip to see Barcelona take on Arsenal or the die-hard fans of Rangers can make an excuse of why they have to take a weekend away from their families to ‘watch a crucial tie’ in Poland while having a few beers on the side.
Would the clubs in this Elite League be able to fill their stadiums week in week out? I personally don’t think so which would mean there was more and more reliability on advertisers and the stay at home and watch it on Sky Sports fans.
Bringing it back to the Premier League: Since the early 90’s, this wonder league has long been acknowledged as one of, if not the best league in the world so why on earth would you want to give that accolade up? After all, it was this legend of a league that brought in the foreign owners now dominating the clubs finances and control.
“If Carlsberg did football leagues, it would be the Premier League!”
To keep things clear, I do not want to blame foreign owners for everything that is wrong in the Premiership, the high wages, the escalating ticket prices, the unreasonable agent fees and the commercialisation of the beautiful game. But at the same time, it is this ongoing investment and drive that has brought us some of the best footballers in the world, just look at Man City with David Silva or the young rising talent of Hernandez at United….withought foreign investment none of these player signings would perhaps have been possible. Football is a business now, it’s not just a passion and a sporting icon, clubs need to have financial controls in place, they need to move with the times and be responsible not only to the fans, but to the staff they employ and the brand image they portray.
The problem as I see it is that clubs that make it through the promotion roller coaster of the Championship now have one goal and one goal alone, to not go straight back down the following year. Mind you, with the parachute payments in place, a club can make £40-80million out of this process as long as they don’t acquire a massive wage bill or have clauses that can get the players out the door should they go back down. 10-15 years ago, we saw some remarkable achievements, the high-flying Reading, Wolves taking a big 4 scalp every once in a while and the rise back to glory of Manchester City. However, over recent years there has been a dominant ‘big 4’ of the game and predicting a winner at the start of the season was basically taking a punt on one of a very few select teams. The divide between the top half of the table and the bottom has been ever more clear, and club finances have been at the heart of everything. Manchester United and Arsenal have been dominant for so many years that they have not had to splash out in obscene amounts as they have established great youth set ups and a stable team to keep them challenging. Chelsea spent big more than 10 years ago and that propelled them into the top group while Man City is looking like an even more expensive replica of this strategy.
What this has meant is that rather than packed stadiums at Premier League games, we have started to see fans being selective. They want to pick the big games to go and watch or just the ones they think they might win if it is two relegation contenders battling it out. Fans are becoming more vocal with their disappointment and unhappiness with their team, just look at the poor Blackburn manager….as he put it on Sunday after their defeat to Spurs “If the fans want to take out their anger on me, I’ll take that, as long as they leave the team alone”. Talk about taking one for the team. He has no major investment, a team that has not moved forward in years and limited resources to work with.
Throw in a couple of hearings about players leaving the stadium at half time, players sleeping around, twitter battles all over the place or simply a player refusing to warm up and come on to the pitch. All of these things have threatened to topple the English Premierships title as the best league in the world, but there is a glimmer of hope. Norwich City drawing 1-1 with Liverpool, QPR battling through a 1-0 win over Chelsea or the high-flying exploits of Newcastle United. We have also seen players taking time out of football to encourage youths in deprived areas of society and clubs supporting worthy charitable causes, all of these things can pull the Premier League kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Football is not the be all and end all of society, there are so many economic, social and environmental issues out there, but lets at least try to keep football’s label as the beautiful game!