European Super League would have been the death of hope in football | Matt Mohan-Hickson

Football is a simple game.

By Matt Mohan-Hickson
Monday, 26th April 2021, 4:58 pm
Banners critical of the European Super League project  hang from the railings of Anfield stadium, home of English Premier League football club Liverpool on April 21, 2021. Photo by Paul Ellis / AFP via Getty Images
Banners critical of the European Super League project hang from the railings of Anfield stadium, home of English Premier League football club Liverpool on April 21, 2021. Photo by Paul Ellis / AFP via Getty Images

It can be quickly picked up by anyone – from kids bringing a ball to the park to watching the elite players duking it out on the world stage.

But beyond the basics of two goals and 22 players, it is mostly about hope.

The promise of better days are always tantalisingly dangling in front of you.

Your club could just be one transfer window away from transforming into title challengers, promotion chasers or European hopefuls.

Games in hand are always translated into three points when you are playing with the abacus of the mind, trying to work out how the table will work out in the end – don’t let things like form get in the way.

A 3-0 deficit at half time can be turned around if ‘we’ get an early goal in the second half.

The sunshine of August brings halcyon days when anything is possible for your team – before reality inevitably catches up with hope.

I was lucky enough to grow up during Middlesbrough’s golden era – when we managed to sign the likes of Juninho and Ravanelli.

When we lifted a trophy and went on a European adventure – pulling off two magnificent, impossible comebacks on our way to the Europa League final.

It was a time when the reality on the pitch managed to exceed your hopes and dreams. We have long since crashed back down to earth, but you never know.

If we could just get back into the Premier League, maybe it could happen again. Just look at West Ham battling for the top four.

Or Leicester going from certain relegation to lifting the title in a year.

Beyond the greed and the arrogance of the nefarious 12, perhaps the most terrifying prospect of the Super League was that it would crush all hope.

How could plucky smaller teams – or even cash flushed middling teams – ever compete with the kind of money the ‘Big Six’ would have had at their disposal season after season?

It is true already that there is a gulf between clubs with just multi-millionaire owners and those with billionaire backers.

But at least there is the illusion of hope – which can sometimes become a reality. In the last decade alone the likes of Burnley, Wolves and Wigan Athletic have qualified for Europe.

The Super League would have crushed all that, which would have been the saddest part of it all.

The Super League has been stopped for now, but it will be back

To call the whole European Super League fiasco a rollercoaster would be underselling it.

In the 48 hours or so that it existed, I went from utter despair and resignation, to cheers as it collapsed in real time.

When the news first broke, I found myself being pretty resigned to the fact that it would happen.

The owners clearly have nothing but contempt for ‘legacy fans’ as they called them – the supporters who fork out small fortunes to fill the stands week after week.

Making announcements in the middle of the night and talking about ‘fans of the future’ proved that. In fact they clearly have nothing but contempt for supporters who fork out small fortunes to pack the stands week after week.

But then came the backlash and amazingly the whole thing actually crumbled.

However this is not the end of the so-called super league. It will re-emerge in some form in the future no doubt, after all, it has been touted in one form or another for three decades now.

Because when push comes to shove, the billionaires who have swooped in and taken our clubs only truly care about protecting their investments and making money.

Is it too late to introduce the 50+1 rule in the UK?

In truth the horse has long since bolted, so closing the barn door is probably next to pointless.

But this past week has made me think a lot about the people owning our football clubs.

In the last year alone we have had the Saudi Arabian state try to purchase a Premier League club – in the form of Newcastle United.

Bury and Macclesfield Town have both been liquidated in recent years – replaced by phoenix clubs in the lowest levels of football.

So what can we do about it? If I was feeling particularly nihilistic I would say: ‘Nothing.’

But if we were to attempt a revolution in English football, perhaps we could look at the 50+1 rule over in Germany.

This means that fans have to own the majority of voting rights at a club, in order for them to be allowed into the Bundesliga.

It is probably impossible to introduce this in the Premier League or Championship – but maybe it could be introduced in the National League and League Two to prevent another Bury situation from happening.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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