So on Tuesday, a couple of us went to watch the Arsenal U23s (feat. Debuchy and Jenkinson) play Leyton Orient in a pre-season friendly. It was brilliant.
A crowd of just over 2,000. Some kids and families. And no tourists. No Chinese. No Arabs. No Americans. Just Arsenal and Orient fans. And it reminded us of how football should be. A local club for local fans.
Our minds then wandered to the future of football. The elastic between local fans and local clubs is already snapped. It will never come back. But how much worse will it get?
Straight away the discussion went to a European Super League. This is the next logical step.
40 of the continents premier ‘brands’. The classical big clubs, the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, AC Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan, Ajax, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich. Plus the nouveau riche sides, the likes of Chelsea, PSG, Manchester City. Those who have bought themselves to a seat on the top table.
You would then have some smaller clubs and those big clubs from less dominant nations, the likes of Porto, Benfica, Sporting Lisbon, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla, Valencia, Feyenoord, PSV, Marseille, Glasgow Rangers.
They would want to ensure that the majority of Europe is represented, so the likes of Salzburg, BATE Borisov, Anderlecht, CSKA Sofia, Dinamo Zagreb, Sparta Prague, FC Copenhagen, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Linfield, Rosenborg, Legia Warsaw, Wisła Kraków, Steaua București, Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Red Star Belgrade, Partizan Belgrade, Malmö FF, Basel, Galatasaray, Fenerbache and Dynamo Kyiv would all have a chance.
They then might look at some franchises. Having a Sheffield team, or a side from Nottingham, or from Rome, etc.
There would be no relegation / promotion and it would work in a similar way to the majority of American sports.
The 40 teams would be split into two conferences (or divisions of equal standing). They would play a full league campaign, alongside a European Cup knock out competition. At the end of the season, the top 4 in each league would enter a play off system to decide the Champions of Europe.
Like in America, the only way new teams could join is if an owner wishes to move his franchise to a new city, or one of the franchises go’s bust, and other sides (or cities) can bid to buy the franchise.
Underneath, but separate, to the European Super League would be the usual domestic leagues as they are now. There would be a break in the pyramid. Domestic champions would not flow into the European Super League. The top domestic league would be that clubs glass ceiling.
The plan by UEFA would be to monopolise all the money in just a few teams. But they would probably be wrong. Whilst the likes of Sky and other media outlets might support a European Super League in its early days, they will soon realise that a lot of people in England (and elsewhere on the continent) do not really care for European football. The dwindling Champions League figures highlights this.
I honestly think a European Super League would be bankrupt within 10 years as it just would not generate to TV audience to justify advertisers and sponsors to plunge in the billions they currently are. There would be more interest in the domestic leagues. But that is a side point.
So if Arsenal were entered into the European Super League, would you stick with them?
This would be the straw that breaks the camels back for me. I go home and away. I already do not do Champions League home games; although I do the odd Champions League away game.
I have no interest in watching Arsenal play every week against some European side, then to have a week off football as they play an away game in a fair flung corner of Europe which is just too expensive to go to.
So if an Arsenal of Islington (I joked maybe we should move to Woolwich and call ourselves Woolwich Arsenal) started up, near the bottom of the footballing pyramid, I would probably start to follow them. Home and away, up and down the country, to crap towns.
Tickets would be cheap, there would be few tourists fans, the side would be full of local lads who play for the shirt, not the wage packet.
My bet would be an Arsenal of Islington could get 10,000 on the regular. Maybe even more. This would give the club the natural finances to fly through the leagues and, within 10 years, be back at the top of the footballing pyramid in England.
I know a lot of people that would rather follow an Arsenal of Islington, rather than a Arsenal FC in a European Super League. A lot of the currently dissatisfied fans who no longer go would also come back out in support of an Arsenal of Islington.
So the question needs to be asked. If a European Super League saw Arsenal ‘promoted’ to just a franchise, would you sacrifice watching the best players in the world, to support a local club for local fans, starting out again.
Would you support an Arsenal of Islington?