The Blind Hammer Column
Blind Hammer considers proposals for a European Super League
The perennial “spectra” of a European Super League has raised it noisome head again. This story is trotted out from time to time as the European Super Rich clubs attempt to exhort even more money from TV Companies at the expense of smaller clubs.
This story is based on an arrogance self-justification that only these tiny elite have teams that people want to watch. The often quoted slight is that “nobody wants to watch Stoke”. Despite the fact that Stoke have slipped into the Championship the idea that nobody wants to watch them is news to the many thousands of loyal season ticket holders at the bet365 Stadium. Certainly the atmosphere generated by passionate supporters at Stoke far exceeds that routinely produced at the so called glamour clubs.
Arsenal’s emirates Stadium is famously nicknamed the “Library”. Manchester City players have expressed concern about the lack of atmosphere at the Etihad whilst the BBC reported that Manchester United planned to distribute song sheets" to try and wake up their somnolent crowd. The idea that the super-rich clubs routinely produce exciting football clashes is a complete fallacy. The endemic lack of atmosphere and excitement is precisely fueled by inequality and predictable match outcomes for many games.
There is a section of our support which whine relentlessly about our so called “Soulless Athletics Bowl”. Despite this, some of the “neutral” sighted guides who take me to the London Stadium cannot understand this negativity. They report that the London Stadium has far better atmosphere than they experience on their visits to the emirates and Stamford Bridge. When we play well, the Stadium rocks.
Not just the rest of the Premiership, but in fact the Championship also has crowds and atmosphere exceeding some of the so called “Elite” European teams.
The tragic Helicopter crash at the king power stadium returned Leicester’s dramatic title winning season to the limelight. Their success was described as a once in a life time defiance of 5000 to 1 odds.
Yet before the distortion provided by unequal foreign investment and the ossification of the “top 4” by Champions League riches, Leicester’s success would never have attracted such astronomical odds. Derby won the First Division after a similar triumph in Division 2. Teams like Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest were not only able to win the Title but go on to conquer Europe. Few supporters of those clubs, after their European triumphs, could have imagined that we could have created a league structure where only a tiny minority could ever realistically win.
This frozen dominance of the “Gang of Five” is achieved by the tremendous disparity in revenues they have managed to perpetuate. If we read their intentions now they want to force an even greater disparity in resources, allowing them to hoover up even more of the cream of the world’s football and managerial talent. All the rest will be structually forced to act as “also rans”. . Turnover figures do not lie, in general over time, those clubs with most revenues will win most. This pattern persists across all of Europe.
This creates a weary predictability for the outcomes of most matches involving these elite clubs. Manchester City, with the resources of not just a billionaire, but an entire oil rich country should, theoretically, hardly ever lose. They has assumed an almost ridiculous superiority. Manchester United looks on enviously, whilst Liverpool Arsenal and Chelsea circle around for the trophy scraps left by any failure by City.
Some competitive interest is provided by Tottenham, whose recent attempts to break into this elite has created terror amongst Manchester United supporters that they may fall from this elite.
Curiously Tottenham are not invited to the top table. Money talks and their turnover does not currently approach even that of teams like Liverpool, let alone Chelsea United and City.
The depressing result is that fans of these so called “elite” clubs turn up to largely silent stadiums for most matches outside of the “top of the table” clashes". This silence is fueled by a quiet expectation of success and lack of competitiveness. One of my guides described his visit to Arsenal’s 5-1 victory over Everton as one of the quietest games he had ever attended. Nobody is surprised when City put 6 goals past Southampton. This inequality led predictability reduces drama, decreases the chance of shock results and generally stifles tension and excitement.
Despite my pleasure in attending West Ham’s demolition of Manchester United I refuse to be intimidated by any threats to leave by these arrogant “Super Rich” clubs. Last weekend’s success against lowly Burnley gave the lie to the claim that "nobody wants to watch these games.
If the Super Rich want to saunter off into a privileged "Super League”, with no threat of relegation then just let us wave them goodbye.
In reality a “Mega Elite” almost certainly led by Manchester city and PSG will emerge even in this elite tier. Both city and PSG have benefited from massive resources artificially injected by their Billionaire owners. UEFA FFP rules are demonstrably ineffectual and fail to prevent owners proceeding with relative impunity. Even former giants of Global Football , Real Madrid and Barcelona, are reportedly struggling to compete financially against these new European Goliaths .
Most of the rest will again become also runs. Without the threat of relegation such a league would quickly lose it critical tension and competitiveness. Only a few top games would really count. It would eventually become exhibition fare , a footballing equivalent of the \Harlem Globetrotters.
England is not Scotland where only Rangers and Celtic attract mass audiences. There are plenty of clubs remaining with massive support to engender competitive interest beyond the narrow geographical confines of North West england and London. . A PL denuded of the so called top five might just be more interesting with clubs like Leeds united, Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest, Norwhich and Aston Villa joining the fray.The result might just be that clubs like West Ham will again have a realistic chance of Title success. The available resources, whilst reduced will almost certainly be shared more equally without the distortion of foreign investment and ridiculous wages.