Glazers, Abramovich, Levy, Kroenke, Henry, Werner are the names that have been rightly denounced for the death of the British football pyramid following the announcement of a European super league. The £300-million-a-year per team, with a no relegation quasi-NFL-franchised-style-league scheme, will make the richest clubs richer. It’s left a bitter taste, but did we really not see this coming?
Out of touch, football oligarch’s imbued by untold footballing riches are rightfully feeling the wrath of the wider footballing community. We shouldn’t think this is anything new. The ‘dark forces’ that Gary Neville described on Sky Sports have been gnawing away at our game for 30 years.
Football owners are not solely to blame, but they are the secret ingredient to a story sowed with the creation of the Premier League in 1992. Backed by Richard Murdoch, and Sky.
Lucrative TV rights, reduced number of teams, better facilities, higher quality. Sound familiar? That was Sky and David Dean’s value proposition to a football league that had reached its nadir in the 80s with Hillsborough, Heysel and hooliganism decimating the image of the game. Fast forward to 2021, our top league has transformed from an insular English institution to a truly global product. 1.2 billion viewers, 900 million households, 65% of them in Asia and Oceanica.
The Premier League success is the perfect example of capitalism at its best, and worst. A classic case of winners and losers, and like all great products throughout history, they get replaced. The European Super League is like the iPhone was for the Nokia3210.
It’s not just about money.
Milan, Juventus, and the rest of Serie A can count themselves lucky to have secured a £730 million TV rights deal by DAZN as they look to outmuscle competition from Sky and establish themselves as a top tier broadcaster before going IPO.
DAZN’s investment means the league will be 18% richer than the previous season, but still, a way short of the 1.15billion-per-season-deal Italian bosses wanted. Compare this to the £4.6 billion Sky and BT paid for streaming rights of the premier league for 3 seasons starting in 2016/17 and the gap in riches becomes alarming.
Not the mention the TV rights or lack of for other classic leagues across Europe.
Roma, Lazio, Inter, Porto, Benfica, Sparta Prague, Ajax, Rotterdam, PSV, Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Olympiakos, Panathinaikos… the list could go on. These are the old boys, the pantheons of European football who have been left on the scrap heaps of Murdoch, Kevin Mayer, Comast, DAZN, et al who didn’t see enough commercial viability to warrant investment. Could we see them fight back?
The European super league founding fathers have led the way in the creation, their influence and power too great to be unnerved or bothered by nay-sayers. Is this just phase one of a two-tiered super league system filled with the old elite? It’s easy to imagine. The sleeping giants of Europe will inevitably lobby against their ostracization and won’t stand for decreasing TV deals.
A two-tiered super league with relegation and promotion – filled only with the biggest clubs in Europe. All benefitting from the same TV deals, facilities and riches. Like a Champion’s League on steroids. It could happen.
The European footballing pyramid is steeped in tradition, but with the influence of Sky and other broadcasters, we are seeing the game we grew up loving fall ever more into an Americanized soulless plaything for faceless oligarchs.
Be careful who you listen to.
Gary Neville’s impassioned rant on Sky TV was compelling, however, his sentiment must be questioned. His self-reflection of someone who has gained enormous riches from football both as a player and pundit gave his opinion validity, but what is his motive behind such a damming condemnation of a breakaway league?
Neville is emotive, passionate and raw; but comes across as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Gary and his class of 92 teammates backing of Salford FC shows’ the power money can have. Neville, criticized by Accrington Stanley owner, Andy Holt, for doubling Adam Rooney’s wages in 2017. A time when Salford found themselves in the fifth tier of English football – and Rooney making the switch from the Scottish premier league.
Salford has purchased their promotions, like the European Super League founders will leverage their power to purchase their financial sustainability.
Greed is greed – there are levels to it, but Neville is no different. All football club owners have goals and will do whatever it takes to reach them. Is Neville more worried about the plug being pulled in the current trickle-down economics system to grassroots football? Or is he stung by the reduced allure of reaching the big league – and the bottomless pits of riches now that there is a very real prospect of TV rights shifting to a European Super League?
Norwich City received £87 million for getting relegated in 2019/20.
It could be a callous observation of Neville, but as he fast-tracks Salford FC through the lower leagues like a baby Roman Abramovich, and whilst he still sits on a lucrative Sky pundit deal – I feel he is too intricately linked to everything that is wrong about football in 2021 to be the spokesperson of the hard-done-to football fan/ owner
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