First of all let me preface this piece by saying I’m not “in favour” of the proposed European Super League. In principle I’m fully against the idea. However, I’m about to try and make sense of Arsenal’s position in the middle of it all and why it’s possibly the “right” (bear with me) thing to do. I’ve also laid out some stark warning signs for us at the bottom of this piece.
Let’s just cover off one of the important things here – every other Premier League club would have signed-up to this if given the opportunity. Leeds United’s cheap PR trick with their t-shirts trying to embarrass Liverpool Football Club last night was crass, coming as it did from a club which spent 16 years outside the top division, and bankrupted themselves, having tried to crack the Premier League and Europe by spending money they didn’t have – by which I mean they were a prime example of the greed and spending that has put football in this position in the first place. Sky and the other broadcasters can do one too as their opposition is purely based on the potential loss of their own cash-cows knowing Amazon and the clubs would blow them out of the water when the TV rights are franchised.
So what about Arsenal? Why should they be in this? The fact is, in my view, that Arsenal needed to be part of this in order to try and dine at the top table from here on. We are way behind the 8-ball when compared to Chelsea, Man City, Barcelona and Real Madrid (and PSG) because our billionaire owner (or the King of Spain in certain cases) does not bankroll us. Some supporters lament that fact and some take it as a badge of honour that Arsenal try to compete without “buying” success outright. Strategically, Arsenal’s position in the middle of this whole thing has to be a “good” move to secure our position. If it all goes up in smoke we’re not really any worse off, and we’re also well placed to do well out of any compromise that might be reached. On the other hand, if it does go ahead, it’s far more important to be inside this particular tent than looking on enviously.
Is that “fair” on other clubs? Is that “good for football” in general? I’d say it’s not, but football is big business which makes it a cutthroat industry, whether we supporters like it or not, and if Arsenal are to remain relevant (by which I mean not being a West Ham or an Everton, for example) they have to be involved at the very start of things.
Of course the big losers all across the piece will be supporters. It opens up the new league to games being played all round the world for a genuinely global audience. The term “legacy fan” has started to be used. What an insult that is. Where do these “legacy” supporters fit in? The fact is we don’t, because our clubs are literally owned by individuals, most of them geographically (never mind philosophically) distanced from the entity over which they preside. They are not custodians, they are investors – certainly in the case of the Kroenke family. Investors want to make money, not spend it. The “legacy fans” do not necessarily spend a fortune in the online shop, or buy expensive PPV TV subscriptions. The new worldwide fanbases do.
This is a massive crossroads moment for football, where the chance exists to reform or remove UEFA and FIFA (something I consider to be a pretty decent option, incidentally, especially if it means ending the farcical “international level” of the game) but at the cost perhaps of something quite fundamental to the game and the people who follow it.
It’s also a massive crossroads moment for Arsenal and Stan Kroenke. While I think we’re better off in this small and unpopular group at the moment, the problem for us is what does Stan do if it goes pear-shaped? We know he’s not putting his money into Arsenal either way. But will he just sell up for a profit, and who would that be to? Or will he punish those who will have derailed his investment by running Arsenal into the ground, selling off the assets as he goes?
If you think the European Super League is a scary proposition, just imagine Arsenal once it had been asset-stripped by an owner who holds no affiliation to us whatsoever. This is the hand we have found ourselves dealt, so for the moment I’m going to sit and wait and see how this pans out. If I was a betting man I’d say there’ll be a compromise that mostly suits the 12 clubs first and foremost. One thing for certain is that UEFA, the Premier League, Sky, BBC, BT Sport etc, need the clubs more than the owners of the clubs need those organisations.
Note: This blog was written prior to last nights announcement that all 6 English teams had pulled out