Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Mohamed Salah takes home £19-or-so a minute as his basic wage playing for Liverpool.
I don’t mean to target Salah – this could apply to anyone at the biggest clubs in the world – but his £200,000-per-week salary is an example of precisely what is wrong with football, but also what we have come to accept as part of the farce of watching the top teams and the most elite athletes.
However, credit where credit is due – Salah has won the Premier League and Champions League at Liverpool and he has therefore deserved to be relatively well paid in his sector. It would be what you would expect in any job – the better you do, the more money you deserve to earn.
There have always been accusations that the big teams have tried to ‘buy the title’. I don’t have as much of an issue with this – Manchester City have assembled a brilliant team and look likely to win the title this season. But the Premier League still remains eminently competitive.
The top spot has been held by at least six teams this season – Leicester, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Everton. I say at least, because this only includes teams who were top at the end of the Gameweek, according to the Premier League (for example, Southampton held top spot briefly in November, but the Gameweek was not over). Leicester and West Ham are disrupting the top four and are in with the chance of qualifying for the Champions League. Leicester have only qualified once – in 2016-17 – and West Ham have never played Champions League football.
Let us also not forget that, with the advent of the Europa Conference League, teams as low as 7th could qualify for Europe. Arsenal, Everton, Spurs, Leeds, Aston Villa – all in with a chance of European football in 2021-22.
So why is it that the ‘Big 6’ – who, let’s be honest, haven’t been ‘big’ for a long time – were even considering joining the ‘Super League’?
The Super League was intended to be a midweek competition in place of the UEFA Champions League – a competition which Arsenal and Tottenham haven’t qualified for for several years, and Manchester City have never won – which these big teams would not have to qualify for. The English clubs involved are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham.
How you can put a club into an elite tournament automatically when they are languishing in 9th place and were in a relegation battle earlier in the season is ridiculous. Arsenal do not deserve to be in this elite group – but the point of this group is not about being ‘deserving’, anymore.
I love a good cup run and when a minnow is able to come up against a giant, that is fantastic – look at a club like Marine this season bringing Spurs to a tiny pitch on a high street in Crosby.
— Marine Football Club (@MarineAFC) January 10, 2021
Eliminating competitiveness means you don’t get surprises like this was. You don’t get Leicester winning the league, or Tottenham into a Champions League final (when that was very, very unexpected). You don’t get Burnley – yes, Burnley – playing in Europe because they are just not allowed to qualify.
Moreover, let us not forget the value of the competitiveness of European competition to smaller nations. Teams from across Europe play in the qualifying phase of the Champions League with the slim but ambitious hope of getting the chance to play against the big guns. As early as July, teams are already competing for the next Champions League title, from Kosovo to San Marino, Gibraltar to Slovakia. Whilst they are not expecting to win the competition, the opportunity to play against big names in Europe is one which spurs these often-part-timers on.
I should caveat that by saying this is not being marketed as an alternative to the Champions League or the Europa League – UEFA won’t scrap their competitions for this unregulated demonstration of greed.
Clubs which have prided themselves on being a community have demonstrated a total disregard for the fans. Despite the threats of potential disqualification from competitions – including international ones for the players who participate – the mega-rich owners of the ‘world’s best teams’ (disputable when you look at some of the league tables) are seeking another way to make more money whilst outpricing fans. Owners have an unimaginable disillusionment with their fanbases. Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City – clubs which were born from working-class roots – have outpriced the very people who made them what they are.
‘Football is a working-class game and for more than a century fans have built it, enjoyed watching it, been the heartbeat of every community. Now they are trying to rip the heart out of it for financial benefit’
Bolton boss Ian Evatt put it right by reminding us all that football is a ‘working-class’ game. When Sky Sports offered £15-per-game packages to watch games when the pandemic hit, it was a big sign that the sport has lost that rooting in offering the average fan a source of entertainment.
If the European Super League was anything other than a greedy ploy by moneygrabbing owners, they would at the very least make it competitive. I don’t disagree with reforming the Champions League and Europa League – I think it is fantastic to allow more fixtures between teams who are, on merit, the best in the continent. But if it is at the expense of fair competition, then I will continue to support my team down in League 1 anyday over a shameful ego-trip like the ESL might well have been.