The trajectory of European football has, for decades, been leading to the chaos we have seen over the past 72 hours. Elite clubs have asked for more and more and it has been given to them by leagues, football associations and Uefa, European football’s governing body.
But appeasement of football’s richest clubs has not worked and will not work.
The vultures circle and they always want more. We’ve fed them, and fed them, and it hasn’t sated their appetite – it has just built their strength and fed their greed. This time the cabal of billionaire owners have overplayed their hand and their rapacious appetite has backfired in spectacular fashion.
Never before has such a united front been shown – fans from across the continent and from all areas of the game, players, pundits, coaches, journalists, clubs, leagues, FAs, Uefa, the prime minister and the government.
The Football Supporters Association was left wondering if there was anyone who hadn’t spoken out? Then the Royals got involved – both Reading FC and the actual Duke of Cambridge who tweeted his concern.
English club involvement in the Super League disappeared. Although we’ve all seen movies where the monster comes back from the dead, so there’s no let-up from supporters.
At a continental level the FSA will continue to campaign with our friends at Football Supporters Europe (FSE). Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli’s “blood pact” has no place in football and the FSE has always argued that European football needed to share power and wealth, not hoard it among the elite clubs.
FSE has rightly highlighted “the unsustainable nature of modern football – its lack of oversight, widespread inequality, and rampant greed – [that] has been laid bare for all to see”.
When it comes to supporters English football has played a hugely positive role in defeating the Super League and we’ll continue to support FSE in its efforts to challenge Champions League expansion which threatens domestic leagues across the continent.
A few days of white hot anger has killed this version of the Super League but we will not take our foot off the accelerator. A return to the status quo is not acceptable. If they are allowed unscrupulous owners will rebuild their confidence, regroup and reemerge with other hideous plans.
On Wednesday at PMQs the prime minister agreed that fans had to be at the heart of the decision-making process and committed to “a root-and-branch investigation into the governance of football and what we can do to promote the role of fans in that governance”.
There have been a lot of previous reviews into football – going back to David Mellor’s taskforce in the 90s – and the game has been allowed to ignore or dilute findings time and again.
That cannot happen again and the FSA will work cross-party, doing everything in our power, to ensure that does not happen again. It might be that the prime minister’s suggested “legislative bomb” is required, in which case we need FSA members and football fans everywhere to stay angry and keep lobbying their MPs to fix football.
So what changes are required? If the Premier League can’t control its clubs, who can?
An independent regulatory body is needed. The leagues are all, effectively, trade organisations made up of members (aka football clubs) and they cannot self-regulate. That isn’t to say all owners are bad, we know many have the best interests of their club at heart, but overall the system is not working.
Supporters need to be embedded in the heart of the game’s institutions, given real power and influence, and spaces reserved on club boards for elected supporter representatives. The government can seek to remove barriers to partial or full supporter ownership and look at how the 50+1 rule works in Germany. Nothing should be off the table.
Football is probably the biggest expression of community and cultural identity in this country, and it has to be treated with respect. Greedy owners tearing at the fabric of our game’s institutions cause damage that goes beyond football.
Top clubs have often treated their fans with contempt when it comes to ticket prices, kick-off times, support for the women’s game, wealth distribution and funding of grassroots. We want supporter engagement properly embedded into every club’s power structure and ethos.
At lower league and non-league level far too many historic clubs have teetered on the edge or disappeared from existence altogether because of poor to non-existent financial oversight and lack of transparency of ownership. They leave in their wake a trail of broken-hearted fans and struggling local businesses with unpaid invoices and unexpected debts.
The Super League might be dead at the moment but the monster could return. Let’s stay angry and make these changes. Lobby your MP and your club. Join the FSA. Join your local supporters’ group. This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to fix football for the better.