Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The World is Never Enough

THE NEVERENDING THREAT OF A EUROPEAN SUPERLEAGUE

In an effort to stop Vikings pillaging its monasteries and ravishing its coastal towns, ninth century England came up with a solution: Buy them off.

For a while it worked. The rowdy Scandies sailed back across the North Sea with their long ships chokka with gold and the Anglo-Saxons breathed a sigh of relief.

The only problem was, the Vikings still loved loot so they came back for more and the English paid them off, again and again and again, with what became known as Danish money, or Danegeld.

The latest plan for a breakaway Super League, revealed by Football Leaks via Der Spiegel, confirms the concept of Danegeld is alive and kicking in European soccer in 2018.

Super league plans have been in the ether for about twenty years now and by any stretch of the imagination fans do not want to go down that road, but the executives of the continent's top clubs  keep pushing at what is for now a locked door, deaf to any criticism or appeals to morality or a sense of history.

The 2016 email from Bayern Munich legal chief Michael Gerlinger which was leaked worryingly asked another lawyer whether his club would still have to supply players to national teams in the future if they broke away.

Make no mistake, international football faces an existential threat from a small cabal of greedy men, no matter how globally popular the World Cup is.

American soccer bigwig Charlie Stillitano was another conspirator named by the expose.

His company Relevant Media are behind the recent crazy project to bring La Liga games to the USA. But he has been personally hawking the idea of a European breakaway around UEFA's top sides as well.

The plan Der Spiegel highlighted was for 16 teams to go it alone - the entry requirement being merely those with the largest TV audiences and therefore marketability.

The list of the clubs already collaborating to bring this about comes as little surprise: Barcelona and Real Madrid, Arsenal and Manchester United, Juventus and Milan and Bayern were mentioned.

Other clubs mentioned were Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG and Liverpool and all would have guaranteed participation for at least 20 years, completing the transformation of the football pyramid into the eternal hegemony of the NFL.

UEFA headed off the 2016 mutiny with restructured payments from the Champions League to the big clubs and this effectively allows them to play in a super league every season anyway, where the top stars earn astronomical, many might say obscene, salaries.

The fact the top four from each of Europe's Big Four leagues enjoy guaranteed qualification and almost a third of all takings go to clubs who have been high achievers for the previous decade in itself almost constitutes a closed shop.

The idea that a Nottingham Forest, Porto, PSV or Steaua Bucharest could win the continent's premier trophy now is laughable. The big clubs have the future sown up and should be content.

But their dream of leaving UEFA for yet more fathomless riches never goes away.

The Champions League was born not a plan to improve football but of the desire of European football's governing body to stop breakaway plans in their tracks.

As a result, domestic cups and even the once great UEFA Cup have been denuded of their previous appeal while the Cup Winners Cup was drowned in its wake.

The top players in Europe earn tens of millions of pounds every year and even some benchwarmers rake in six-figure weekly pay packets.

These salaries mean players are now astronomically separated from the supporters, yet only a generation ago footballers took the bus to the stadium and nobody seemed to mind.

Despite the ever-increasing torrent of revenues from broadcast rights acquisitions, the world is not enough for the greed-obsessed big clubs.

The executives of Bayern, Juve, Real et al are constantly employing commercial lawyers with non-disclosure clauses, sending encrypted emails and meeting secretly in plush hotels across Europe to plan their grand getaway.

When it learns of their latest plot, UEFA buys them off but cannot keep sating their insatiable hunger forever.

As soon as 2021 we could see the start of football's Brave New World, where the gates to advancement for clubs are firmly and forever locked.

God Bless the boys at Football Leaks for telling the world what the rich and powerful in football are up to while we sleep.

Perhaps if we are all aware what is going on there might just be a chance to save the game before it is too late.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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