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Opinion

No to Super League? Let's use the momentum to re-shape football

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Expert
25th April, 2021
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The most heartening thing about the end of one of the craziest weeks in the history of modern football was the reminder that fans actually matter and can effect positive change.

Whatever reputation Florentino Perez once had as Real Madrid’s president, it now lies in ruins on the back of one of the most catastrophically misjudged coup attempts in recent memory.

Perez was the ringleader of the 12 breakaway clubs attempting to form a European Super League, and along with Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, it’s hard to see how either of those two come away from this grubby affair with their dignity intact.

Some of Perez’s comments in the wake of the fiasco are mind-boggling. His claim that a Super League is necessary because young people no longer have the attention spans to watch domestic football should provoke some honest discussion around his mental acuity.

THOMAS: A European Super League is elitist, arrogant and criminal

It’s the sort of comment you’d expect a child to make – not the 74-year-old leader of one of Europe’s greatest clubs.

But when guys like him start talking nonsense, it’s because it sounds better than reality.

Like the fact that under Perez, Real Madrid have now racked up debts of more than 900 million euros.

Not content with being one of the world’s most wasteful spenders in the transfer market, in 2017 Perez rubber-stamped a 525-million euro renovation of the club’s Santiago Bernabeu home that doesn’t add a single seat to the stadium’s capacity.

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The club claims it will make the stadium a year-round tourist attraction, but what they fail to mention is that they desperately need those tourists to plug the holes in their finances left by years of overspending on transfer fees and player wages.

By the time the renovations are finished – in a post-COVID world, no less – Real Madrid are just as likely to be bankrupt as they are the continental kings of Europe.

And it’s not like they’re the only one of these 12 clubs to have betrayed their own heritage.

It was more than 50 years ago that Barcelona first called themselves “more than a club,” but the words mean nothing now.

“You’ll never walk alone?” That’s probably because Liverpool’s owners are busy walking arm-in-arm with 11 other owners desperate to destroy the sanctity of European football.

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How did it come to this? Let’s blame TV money for starters.

For the past 20 years, the broadcast fees handed down to UEFA Champions League participants has damaged domestic leagues almost beyond repair.

It’s the number one reason clubs like Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain win their own competitions year after year.

But it’s also created a transfer-based arms race between clubs which sees the likes of Real Madrid try to outspend their domestic rivals Barcelona on headline-grabbing signings.

No longer content to produce their own players, for years the 12 Super League ‘founders’ have used transfers as a means of drumming up publicity.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

That has in turn attracted some of the worst elements of the business world to try and use football clubs – with their global fan-bases – as a form of venture capitalism.

Foreign-owned clubs like Inter Milan, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal have lost touch with their homegrown fan-bases.

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Having squeezed the locals dry, the dream switched to selling millions of jerseys – and lucrative TV rights – in the far-flung reaches of Asia, Africa and even Australia years ago.

It was no surprise that when Liverpool owner John Henry was asked to comment on the Super League last week, he was at a Boston Red Sox game.

And we should be under no illusion the idea of a European Super League is dead and buried.

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However, the best thing about last week’s three-day meltdown was the reaction of fans. For the first time in a long time, the money-grubbing opportunists who’ve tried to steal football from the people were put back in their place.

That’s a lesson fans across the globe would do well to heed. Because as sure as day follows night, these thieves will be back.