It’s the last charge of football’s zombie apocalypse because even the past two decades of income increases were never going to be enough
Just to recap, the European Super League has announced its front three as follows: the man who changed the Real Madrid statutes to be president in perpetuity; the Agnelli son who has presided over the death of Serie A as a viable competition, and one of the Glazers – although given they all inherited it from their father it scarcely matters which.
Florentino Perez, Andrea Agnelli and Joel Glazer now installed as the controlling powers of the worst idea in the history of European football.
The chairman and the two vice-chairs of the nascent European Super League leading the last charge of football’s zombie apocalypse in search of fresh flesh – because even the past two decades of vast broadcast income increases were never going to be enough for them. In that time they have wasted hundreds of millions on transfer fees, wages and compensation to failed managers; they have laid waste to domestic competitions or leveraged borrowing to control their clubs. Yet still they come, glassy-eyed, in search of more.
Between them the venal, the wasteful and the often downright hopeless pursuing a dream of elitism that exists only in the heads and hearts of a group of executives and owners small enough to fit in an Old Trafford hospitality box. It is the super league no one wants bar the desperate custodians of the Spanish clubs who have enjoyed illegal state aid benefits for years. Them and their unlikely allies among the American owners of English Premier League clubs.
The decision after months of plotting is that, in spite of the near-universal opprobrium for the idea, they shall press on. Over the next few days we will be told that this new competition, run for the elite clubs, by the elite clubs, will give football’s pyramid €10 billion in solidarity over the next 23 years.
That is the argument they plan to run to convince sovereign governments and the European Union of its merits.
The basis of Project Big Picture in October was to distribute the revenue of a diminished Premier League to buy off the rest of the English game, while the elite transferred its chief wealth creation model elsewhere.
The authors of that document were giving away the broadcast revenue critical for the likes of Leicester City and Southampton in order to facilitate them earning more at another source. This European project of stupendous greed is the source. One that tolerates no regulator or oversight other than the clubs who seek to dominate the world’s game.
The pressure to agree a public consensus on the Super League and announce its founders has come almost exclusively from Spain, where Perez’s Real and Barcelona are burdened with debts so severe they threaten to take them under.
Perez has long sought to eliminate the financial supremacy of the Premier League, built on the equality Spain’s Liga will not tolerate, and he has found a way in via the soft underbelly of the American ownerships.
The Glazers at Manchester United, Liverpool’s Fenway Sports Group, and the hapless Kroenke family ownership at Arsenal own the three most valuable heritage pieces of English football.
Unlike the US sports franchises under their control, whose value and revenue is protected by the closed-shop nature of US sport leagues, there is no such stability in England.
The Spanish and Italian clubs have finally unlocked the door to the one competitor that they could not rein in: the Premier League, where a democracy of sorts existed and the super-majority of 14 meant that everyone shared the decision-making. It was the destruction of that fragile consensus that Project Big Picture sought and yet, in the aftermath, the 14 clubs fought back.
But the big picture is absolutely clear: ultimately nothing stands in the way of the ambition of those big clubs.
An elite game owned and operated by the elite and never mind what anyone else thinks.
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