The dirty dozen: An inquest into the European football elite

By Rayyan Ghulam Ahmed

On Monday the 19th of April at around 4 am Indian standard time a collective declaration was released by twelve of the top European football clubs that sent shockwaves within the footballing community of not just Europe but the entire footballing world. These 12 clubs via their Twitter accounts published a proposal for the creation for the all-exclusive European Super League, a prospective year-round footballing competition where the crème de la crème of Europe vis-à-vis, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid (Spain), Juventus, Ac Milan, Inter Milan(Italy), Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham (England), would compete against each other to achieve ultimate European supremacy. On paper, this idea sounded exciting, intriguing, and entertaining from the perspective of the “casual fan” as it pitted Europe’s heavyweights against one another on a regular basis but football is something more than just a shallow money-grabbing venture.

Greedy, cash-hungry American-based owners of premier league clubs

The idea of this Super League was being implemented mainly by the greedy, cash-hungry American-based owners of  3 of the 6 involved premier league clubs i.e. Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal. This competition was being created to boost all these 12 teams’ revenue multifold, through a $3.5 billion cash injection from American financier JP Morgan, as their owners believed they deserved a much bigger piece of the pie due to their respective teams’ long-lasting dominance on the pitch. This league was seen as the replacement/rival of the currently existing UEFA Champions League which is deemed to be the premier footballing competition in Europe as UEFA, the governing body of European football, was not financially rewarding these teams fairly as was believed by the owners of these clubs.

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However, the biggest opposition to this competition was that it completely spat in the face of any kind of sporting meritocracy as these 12 clubs or “founder clubs” would be guaranteed a place in this tournament every year irrespective of their performance in their respective national leagues which was the underlying criteria to get into the Champions League. This decision led to a massive outcry among fans and ex-footballers alike as it banished clubs with lower financial stature from entering this competition because believe it or not the original twelve are some of the richest clubs in the world. Teams like Arsenal and Tottenham who are placed 9th and 7th respectively in the English Premier League in the ongoing season and are far away from qualifying for the Champions League, are being provided a lifeline to maximize revenue via this super league while teams like Leicester City who’ve had a swashbuckling 8 months in the premier league which sees them sit comfortably in third place aren’t being rewarded in a similar manner. This competition effectively killed the competitive nature of the sport and was practically going to take money away from the smaller teams in the footballing pyramid of their respective countries.

Football is nothing without the fans

All said and done, football is nothing without the fans, and think what you may but the fans raised their voice and how did they raise their voice! Starting with the game between Leeds United and Liverpool on the evening of the 19Th where hundreds of fans gathered to protest against Liverpool’s involvement in the Super League to the much larger and pre-planned protest that was organized by the fans of Chelsea FC based in London which occurred before they faced Brighton on the 20th. This protest was attended by thousands of fans of not just Chelsea but other teams too and there was widespread chanting against the orchestrators of what has been dubbed as an attack on football mainly lead by Florentino Perez, the megalomaniacal president of  Real Madrid and various other executives who are in positions of immense power. These protests outside Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s home ground, prompted club legend goalkeeper and one of the chief executives of the clubs’ official hierarchy, Petr Cech to leave the team bus, as it was being prevented from entering the stadium due to the sheer volume of protesters, and come and confront the highly emotional mob of fans to resolve the situation. Within thirty minutes of this occurrence, news started breaking through multiple platforms on Twitter, especially via BBC Sport that Chelsea was preparing documentation to leave the Super League, and soon enough Manchester City followed suit. Within hours of this news, all 6 English Clubs involved in this competition released statements formally withdrawing from this tournament and “the Dirty Dozen” consequently was reduced to the “Dirty Half Dozen”.

In a few days’ time Ac Milan, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan also withdrew from this competition formally and plans for it to go ahead had been “temporarily abandoned”. As of today only Real Madrid , Barcelona and Juventus have not officially announce their withdrawals from the Super League. Tuesday the 20th of April is being termed as a momentous day in modern football history by multiple media outlets as its considered the day that the fans made their voice heard among the billionaire boys club and it further reiterated the fact that football is nothing without the fans.

Rayyan Ghulam Ahmed (Email id: rayyan1006ahmed@gmail.com)

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