Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Super League collapses- reclaim football from billionaire owners!

Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales) leaflet distributed at Chelsea fans’ protest at Stamford Bridge, London, against Super League plans

The plan to set up a new ‘European Super League’ was met with instant frustration, anger, and dismay. The proposals also met with universal disdain and managed to unite normally partisan fans across Europe in opposition to this new league. At the time of writing, the Super League plans are in disarray, as most of the clubs involved have pulled out following the huge opposition. One of its chief architects, Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, has now said that it cannot proceed although he is still “convinced of the beauty” of the project.

Protests developed rapidly. Socialist Party members Lenny Shail, who is a Chelsea fan and was at the Stamford Bridge protest, and Leeds fan, Ian Pattison, said:

“The withdrawal of the six football clubs in England from the Super League – after protests and action by fans, players, and other club staff – will be rightly celebrated. Fans protested in their hundreds at Leeds, and in their thousands at Chelsea.

“Liverpool supporters joined the Leeds protest. And supporters of Arsenal, Aston Villa, Liverpool, Manchester City, and West Ham were welcomed at the Chelsea protest.

“There was reportedly uproar at a Chelsea staff meeting. And Liverpool players simultaneously voiced their opposition.

“Premier League club captains were reportedly planning to meet to oppose the plans. Even the security staff at Chelsea were celebrating the news that all but signaled the death of the Super League.

“But the billionaire owners who attempted to rob our clubs and game are still in charge. They cannot be trusted and must be removed, along with the rest of their big business mates and structures in football.

“Now, democratically elected representatives – of fans, of players and other club staff, their trade unions, the wider workers’ movement, and local communities around football clubs – must come together to begin the process of reorganising football. We should have the opportunity to inspect the finance books of football clubs, especially the richest that wanted to break away.

“Let’s see what they really can afford. Football without the billionaire owners could decide to drastically reduce ticket prices, and allow local communities to benefit from club facilities.

“And for starters, the new coefficient rule in the existing Champions League – allowing in the richest clubs based on past performance – must be scrapped. This was only introduced as a sop to the owners of the Super League clubs.”

Matt Whale, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) writes:

The proposal was to replace the existing European competitions with a new twenty-team competition. Fifteen places would be permanently filled by the founding clubs, including the ‘big six’ in England – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur.

Only 12 founding clubs were initially named. An unclear process, supposedly related to performance, was to decide the remaining five, non-permament, places.

The motivation of the 12 founding clubs was unapologetically money. The biggest two clubs in Spain – Barcelona and Real Madrid – are 1 billion euro and 900 euro million in debt respectively.

Capitalists in charge of the 12 teams see the new league as a way of ensuring higher regular revenue, richer TV deals, and a selection of ‘bigger fixtures’ to market the league worldwide, following the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Rich and poor

Since the ‘breakaway’ Premier League in Britain, and the influence of Sky and its TV money, the gap between the richest and poorest clubs has grown, and continues to grow. Football clubs are increasingly owned by venture capitalists with no loyalty to the club, the fans, or the league they play in.

The likes of the Glazers who own Man United, FSG who own Liverpool FC, and Stan Kroenke who owns Arsenal, all have franchises concerning other sports in the US. They see their football clubs as nothing more than part of their portfolio.

All are billionaires, and all have seen the value of the teams increase since buying the clubs. The Super League is pure greed, and an attempt to further increase profit.

While clubs in the lower leagues have had to furlough players and face bankruptcy, the richest clubs have put into action a plan that is nothing more than a money grab.

The idea that the same 15 teams would play in this Super League every season brought into question the very basic ideal of sporting merit and fair play. At the time of writing, four of the ‘big six’ in England presently sit outside of qualification spots for Europe’s current ‘elite’ competition, the Champions League. This shows that the Super League had little to do with the most deserving, but was about the richest keeping their place.

Football’s governing bodies and TV broadcasters appear to be echoing the views of the fans. But let’s be clear, their issue is the money and control in football moving from themselves to the Super League clubs.

The Premier League itself was set up to ensure that more money would be concentrated in the hands of the elite clubs in England. Europe and world football governing bodies, Uefa and Fifa, respectively, have been embroiled in accusations of corruption.

The 2022 World Cup has been awarded to the dictatorship in Qatar, where many workers constructing new stadiums have died. Add to this the farce around tickets for major European tournaments. These are just a few examples of Fifa and Uefa acting in favour of big business.

No trust on owners

The Champions League itself was set up to protect the TV rights for the major markets. The Super League idea was a natural progression of the influence of money and capitalism on football.  Fans should have no trust in the billionaire owners of clubs, but equally have no trust in the current leaders of the game.

There was mass opposition to the Super League and protests took place at football grounds. The strength of the opposition and the possibility of the protests linking up across the country helped defeat this Super League threat. But this on its own will only temporarily hold back the march of money and capitalism in football and sport.

Football is now not affordable to many workers. Opposition to the Super League needs to be linked to other issues in football, including the price of tickets. Premier League ticket prices should be £10-£20, and free or very cheap for children.

The Super League was an attempt by rich owners to monopolise football and increase profits. Capitalism today is short-term greed, over long-term planning, and people’s need.

The owners are ruthless big business people who got their wealth and influence by exploiting workforces. The likes of the Glazers and FSG see football in the same way an investor in Amazon sees their money, they want maximum profit no matter what the cost.

Fans didn’t want The Super League, players didn’t want it, and apart from the owners involved, everyone sees it will damage football. The protests and campaigns are an opportunity to discuss the alternative ways football should be organised.

Fans should be in charge. No more leeching capitalists, no more finance capital. Only democratic fan-run clubs can ensure that football clubs and the sport, in general, remain the beautiful game.