The latest scheme from greedy owners was either a massive chicken run with UEFA or would have actually changed football for a very long time. So let’s look at the actual changes that were proposed and where we would have been in a year or so, not just the ESL but more importantly the Premier League.
Arsenal are playing midweek European games in the ESL, Tuesdays & Wednesdays, usual times, no change there.
We’ve just been beaten at home by Barca 3-1, we lost in Munich 2-0 last week. Next week we play Inter away, where we need a win to keep our hopes of reaching the last 16 knockout round alive. No change there.
We’re playing in a cup competition that we have no chance of winning, but we no longer have to worry about qualifying for it again next season via the Premier League. Woah, massive change.
For the good? Well, a lot of us are fed up of playing Europa League teams who are not really at the top level (ironic, yes). Whilst it was intriguing for a while, the only real appeals were that the young players get more game time and a few thousand fans get a trip abroad to new places. I guess the biggest plus point should be that we are now in our 3rd semi in 4 seasons, so this is obviously a competition we can win. But from a financial point of view, Europa League football is only holding the club back, our participation each year & the hit to our wallet just keeps making it harder for us to get back in the Champions League and to also try to get back to challenging for the Prem title. With Stan in charge, we absolutely must get that CL money coming back in, as please remember, one of the richest men in football has not given a single dollar to this club from his own funds.
In the last few years of our qualification, there was a lot of moaning about the Champions League. Yes, the group stages were fine, some decent teams, some “farmers”, but Euro nights under the lights are great evenings, even at the Emirates. But it’s only when you get past the group stage that it gets lively and you play the big teams.
Unfortunately, our decline and regularly getting drawn against Barca or Bayern, where we would get beaten quite soundly, normally with the usual heroic attempt at fighting back in the 2nd leg, became tedious. Especially when we were promised by Ivan that “we’d be competing with Bayern within a few years” back in 2013.
So why do we think it will be any different in the ESL? You play 10 different teams, 5 at home, 5 away. Now if you look at the original 12 and the 3 added likely to be PSG, Bayern and Dortmund, how many of those teams would we currently give a game? On our day, we can beat a lot of them, if the planets are aligned, but generally speaking you’d say Spurs, Milan, Inter would be as far as my Paddy Power money would go. The extra 5 teams invited each season? Who knows what criteria is picking them, so maybe we’d have some chances there. But reality is, finishing in the top 8 would be tough, so then we get a 9th-16th knockout round, unless we really are complete bobbins and miss out completely! Get through that, and you’re playing one of the top 8 teams. I have a familiar sense of Déjà vu creeping in now.
But we’d have all that extra money I hear you say, which means better players because we can pay higher fees and wages. Well yes, but so can every other team in the ESL.
Our star has diminished greatly over the last few seasons. We still have London to offer, but who do you think the really top players will join? One of the now even richer big Euro clubs, who have a chance of progressing and maybe winning the ESL, or one of the teams who have snuck in the side door and won’t really challenge beyond possibly the last 8? We will be relying on Hale End and buying hungry young players to mount any kind of challenge.
We’d have better players to play in the Premier League (No, we will not be thrown out, the PL may be a lot of things, but stupid is not one of them), I agree, but so will the other 5 ESL members.
Yeah, ok, but it will make qualification for the Champions League so much eas…….Oh.
Yes, now we come to our bread & butter as was, the domestic season. The PL will only really be about winning it for the 6 ESL clubs now, the positions between 2nd and 17th become fairly irrelevant, which may be a good thing for us. Assuming the ESL money gives the big 6 the power to solidify those positions, the battle for Champions League places, where Leicester, West Ham, Wolves and Villa fight it out for the coveted 7th to 10th spots will I’m sure be fascinating for the global football market.
The problem with that is, if you cannot win the title and you don’t need to qualify for Europe, what’s the point in the Premier League? Try to imagine, it’s late March and we’ve just been knocked out of the ESL by Madrid. We’re in 5th place, 12 points behind City who are top, and our next 3 games are Villa and Wolves away, followed by Brighton at home. How much effort are the players, now taking home £200k a week on average, going to put in for these games when there is nothing riding on them? The rest of the league has been compressed, so they are now fighting for European places or to avoid going down, so they will mostly have something to play for all season. Not sure I really want to imagine what kind of displays and results that may lead to, but again, Déjà vu rears its head.
There’s no relegation from the ESL either, so this cycle just repeats itself, season after season. A few years of this and I can really see getting up at 7am on a Sunday, to travel to Burnley for a meaningless PL game to not quite seem as attractive as it used to be. For the big 6, the Premier League is done and dusted, except for those still battling to actually win it. The ESL will probably mean there will never be another Leicester. If those outside the ESL don’t need to beat the top 6 sides to get in the Champions League anymore, what will it mean for those games?
For the ESL teams it will exist to give them what could more or less be a 6 team 38 game tournament, ensuring the players are kept ticking over at the weekends & a public relations commitment to making the PL still seem “the most exciting league in the world”. For the fans it will be 38 games that will never be what it was in the past. The bread & butter of a football club will be side-lined, purely so the mega rich who own the ESL clubs can try to milk the cow for every single drop it can get.
Now, there will be plenty who say that if was a genuine attempt to set up the ESL and not just sabre rattling to get UEFA to change their revamped 2024 CL plans to something more attractive to the big clubs, then there is nothing that fans can do about it (editor: fans have proved those people wrong).
Others will have written about various things that UEFA, the domestic leagues, the governments can attempt to do, so I’m not going to bother with that, as most of them, bar the politicians, have shown themselves to be just as greedy & disregarding of the fans in the past leading to the creation of their own monster, which ironically is just about to try and kill them all. I only care about the fans.. And the politicians show greed to the country.
If you really feel it is a fait accompli and there is nothing that can be done, fair enough, I know there are plenty that warned us all many years ago that this would happen, that Kroenke was only ever in this for one thing and that was never about primarily winning major honours. Many of them will not get involved now, they were abused when they protested in the past, so I really do not blame them. I have been involved in protests that have not achieved their objectives, but I have also been involved in protests that have worked, so there is never a reason to assume that fans have no voice.
If the fans do nothing, that is exactly what we will get. If we try to mobilise & at least voice our concerns, in whatever way possible; online through words & attacking clubs & sponsors etc, or at the grounds with visuals and voices, then at least we will have tried to do something. After all, we are the moral guardians who are supposed to be the ones who care most about the game right?
So, you can sit in the lounge on the Titanic, enjoying a last smoke and a brandy, or you can try to find a way off the ship and on to some debris to try and survive. We may all still end up like Leo, but at least you can say you tried to do something, take some pride in that. You never know, maybe we will all end up like Kate!
Note: This was written prior to last nights announcement that all 6 English reams had pulled out following fan pressure