European Super League and Arsenal: No jeopardy, no relegation, no promotion - but billionaire owners don't care about wiping out our game

Arsenal supporters: Read Tim Cooper's outstanding evisceration of the European Super League

European Super League and Arsenal: No jeopardy, no relegation, no promotion - but billionaire owners don't care about wiping out our game

Read the brilliant Tim Cooper in this current issue of the Gooner Fanzine and online now


Buy Carl Bourke's t-shirt and print of Arsenal's iconic 1971 celebrations in association with the Gooner


Jeopardy.
 
That's the reason sport is so compelling for those of us who love it.
 
Take it away and what are we left with? 
 
Nothing.
 
Correction: nothing but a European Super League.
 
It's a lesson the vulture capitalists, oligarchs, petro-princes and wankers trying to bankroll the worst idea to infect football since VAR would do well to learn.
 
Because their proposal makes VAR look like the common cold compared to the ESL - a lethal pandemic that would wipe out football as we know and love it all over the globe.
 
The reason is simple. And it's not because we don't want to watch the world's best players in action against each other.
 
We already can, through two European competitions involving 64 of the best clubs in Europe - soon to be expanded to 72 by UEFA. Which is, of course, at the heart of this spoiler effort. And maybe, as we all hope, it will end in a compromise. Or, as we all really hope, in extinction.
 
Because it has no jeopardy. 
No relegation.
No promotion.
 
Just an endless Groundhog Day of the same players, the same teams, playing each other for bragging rights.
 
It's no accident that three of the men behind this - Buck, Glazer and, most predictably and regrettably of all, Kroenke - are American.
 
They come from a country without relegation and promotion, where the teams in the league remain the same - unless, like Beckham's Miami FC, you buy uourself into it. Because it's all about money.
 
Without relegation and promotion, without play-offs and cup competitions where David can beat Goliath (even when Goliath is funded by a Gulf state with billions of petrodollars) on a bumpy pitch on a wet Wednesday in Wigan or Woking or wherever, there's no jeopardy. No reason to watch the game we love.
 
The four divisions of English football - and the ones below it - all thrive on the relegation system. In fact they depend on it. It's half their appeal.
 
Without relegation and promotion - the yin and yang of the football pendulum - there would be no point in playing.
 
And none at all in watching.
 
Anyway, we already have a European Super League. Two of them, in fact. What is the Champions League, if it is not that?
 
It hasn't been limited to champions for decades; you can finish fifth and get in.
 
Then there's the not-so-super Europa League where any Tom, Dick and Maribor gets a spot.
 
And for all the complaints about playing on a Thursday night (and sorry to break it to the pundits, but playing on a Thursday and Sunday is NO DIFFERENT from playing on a Wednesday and Saturday, whatever dunces like Danny Murphy like to tell us), it's given a purpose to the second half of the season for clubs who are in no danger of relegation but have no realistic chance of winning the league or qualifying for the Champions League. Like us.
 
So that's the first thing: we don't need a new European Super League because we've already got two.
 
And we certainly don't need another one that doesn't include the Germans, or the French, because we want to watch PSG and Bayern and Dortmund, because when we watch the best teams play each other we want to see the best players in action - players like Mbappe and Neymar, Haaland and Sancho, Lewandowski and our home-grown Gnabry.
 
And we definitely don't want a European league that you can't get into without a special VIP invitation, even though that's the only way we're going to get into one for the foreseeable future.
 
And not one that, like the Hotel California, you can never leave. Because - hello Florentino Perez, howdy Glazer,  Buck and Kroenke - we're already fighting to get into one (or used to) every year.
 
If this development has taught us one thing - and it's taught us several; most importantly to value what we've got - it's that the Champions League is something worth aspiring to, even if it is arranged to make sure the bigger (ie richer) clubs get through the group stage, and even though UEFA is hellbent on maximising profits (because that's all it's there for) by casting its net ever wider, and ever further, seemingly taking its definition of Europe from the Eurovision Song Contest 
(hello Hapoel Be'er Sheva).
 
And even though that most poisoned of chalices, the Europa group stage, is notable chiefly for being an opportunity to google a series of unpronounceable towns with four consecutive consonants (most of them Z) on the far-flung borders of eastern Europe or Scandinavia (or Israel) -  hello Crvena Zvezda and Zorya Luhansk - to find out the location of your opponents.
 
At least the result matters. At least there's a purpose to that 7,000-mile round-trip in midweek to Kazakhstan.
 
Fans won't want to watch games where it doesn't matter whether your team wins, loses or draws.
 
Not even - and I'm hesitant here - in our own stadium. Every game will be like a friendly, or like an end-of-season game between two teams who are only competing to decide whether they finish 11th or 12th (and we all know what that's like now).
 
But the billionaires won't care.
 
Because we are not their target audience. Europe isn't their target audience - it's just the big fish to lure the millions of under-30s in Asia who have grown up playing FIFA and want to see their all-star team in action on their laptop or phone.
 
It worked in India for the IPL (and in those early days it nearly didn't) and they have surely done the numbers to tell them it will work again. Because men like that, with money like that, don't invest it without being certain they will recoup it - and make a fat profit on top.
 
That's the irony: the European clubs are the product, the players are the staff and the fans are, at best, the window dressing.
 
But if the pandemic has taught us one thing, it's that televised football can survive without fans. Madrid have played all their games at their training ground and with no crowds the difference from the Bernabeu has been negligible.
 
Will we turn up to watch our newly-rich team play Juventus and Barcelona for the fourth time that season, certain that the result is irrelevant, or will we pay what is certain to be an extortionate subscription to whatever new channel the ESL vultures create to show its games exclusively?
 
Either way, the future is looking bleak.

 


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