Why are politicians picking on the football Super League?

19 April 2021

11:51 PM

19 April 2021

11:51 PM

The collective gasp of outrage – led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson – at the decision of a few wealthy clubs around Europe to announce the creation of a European Super League is either naive or hypocritical.

Because the idea that professional football is some kind of social enterprise owned and run by fans and communities might have been true 100 years ago, but in recent decades it has been a rapacious, commercial enterprise motivated mostly by money.

And does anyone think FIFA, UEFA and the Premier League have any kind of serious moral authority, given how they’ve conducted themselves in recent years?

As it happens, I oppose the new European Super League. But largely because I can’t stand the idea of seeing my beloved Arsenal – one of the founder members – humiliated week after week by teams with deeper pockets and better management.

I’d quite enjoy seeing Arsenal win occasionally. My reaction is an emotional one, as a lifelong fan. But as someone who has spent almost 40 years chronicling the onward march of corporate capitalism, it is quite difficult to see why the cartelisation of football should be what jolts our political leaders to man the barricades, when they have shown themselves unwilling in any serious way to challenge the far more economically and socially significant cartels in the digital economy and global finance.

Many would argue that the status quo in English football is only slightly less pernicious than what the richest clubs want to create.

So if the PM were to attempt to block the European Super League, then logically he should decide that sport is special, because of its connection to the robustness of communities and the wellbeing of young people – and he would take a long hard look at the current governance of football and order a reconstruction that would transfer power back to fans and communities.

And if he is not prepared to do that, then he should stand aside and accept that in football – as in any other area of commercial life – it is money and the market that dictates outcomes, not politicians.

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