Well, that’ll teach them. Plot in private and very deliberately break the rules that govern the exclusive members’ club to which you belong; destroy the fundamental principles which underpin the entire game out of pure greed and naked self-interest; metaphorically turn around, pull your trousers down, and defecate on the rest of the football pyramid and their fans. The consequences? Say you’re sorry, make a goodwill contribution of £3.5 million per club, and let’s forget it ever happened.
So much for the united front of popular and political outrage that accompanied the announcement of the European Super League and the news that the six most avaricious, morally bankrupt, and hated clubs in the country had decided to sign up. So much for the Premier League allowing the other fourteen clubs to meet and discuss the consequences for the six clubs that wilfully betrayed them. That was all so April 2021. Keep up.
Apparently, they’re very sorry. Very sorry that they misjudged the popular reaction and that their scheme was thwarted. Extremely sorry that they won’t be pocketing the £290 million they’d each been promised simply for turning up. Unreservedly sorry that they’re going to have to carry on playing those other bothersome clubs with their legacy fans that sometimes have the temerity to beat them.
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Now I know that corrupt opportunism is just an accepted part of the political and business classes these days. I know that self-regulation and self-investigation have been institutionalised by the most senior office-holder in the whole country. Turns out there’s no racism in Britain, no ministers breaking the ministerial code, no anti-Islamic bias in the Tory party, and absolutely no problem with fast-tracked PPE contracts lining the pockets of friends and cronies. It’s been quite the year for marking your own homework.
Still, you’d think the Premier League might have at least pretended to reach a decision on punishment for the six clubs without actually getting them involved and making sure they were OK with it. Mind you, we should have known. That original outrage was strangely absent when Manchester City and Chelsea played in the Champions League final, barely a month after effectively choosing to turn their back on the same competition. Goldfish have fondly reminisced about their last turn around their bowl for longer than it took for the media to whitewash history and celebrate the all-English – well, Russian and UAE, but you know what I mean – final in Porto.
Last year, the combined revenue of those six clubs was more than £3 billion. Set in that context, that £3.5 million “goodwill contribution” – not even a fine, no – is as immoral as the initial proposal that triggered it. Let’s put it in a way that we’ll all understand. That sum of money wouldn’t even buy you three-quarters of Emil Krafth. Or an Henri Saivet for that matter.
There’s another side to the Premier League’s verdict. The clubs involved have apparently agreed to support rule changes that will lead to a 30-point penalty and a £25 million fine for any clubs that follow the same path in the future. Forgive my naivety for a moment, but if that’s what the Premier League thinks is an appropriate punishment for those actions, then why not impose it now?
Those arguing against the obvious and appropriate punishments – bans from English and European Cup competitions, points deductions, relegations – have invoked the fans of those clubs. Apparently, it’s not fair to punish them. A shame that same sentiment wasn’t applied to fans of other clubs whose fans have been punished for rules transgressions. In the last two years alone, that list comprises Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton, Wigan, Bury, Macclesfield, all of them relegated and one of them put out of business altogether. None of those clubs sought to damage other clubs or the integrity of the game. In fact, on a far smaller scale, all those clubs simply tried to do is what the six breakaway clubs have consistently normalised: spending beyond their means.
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— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) June 3, 2021
And hang on a minute. If it’s not fair for those fans to be punished for the decisions of their clubs and their owners, then how on earth can it be fair for them to benefit from the other decisions that those administrators and owners make. If they’ve been able to surf the glory bought by their owners and their immoral hollowing out of the game of football, then why on earth should they not suffer its consequences? I suppose logical and moral consistency is too much to hope for.
And, of course, that’s not how things work. Where there is money and vested interests, those interests will always be protected. The Premier League is not corrupt because it somehow has a specific agenda against our particular club. Its corruption is more widespread and endemic than that. It is the corruption of self-interest that infuses big business. Given an opportunity to take a stand against it, the Premier League and FA have shown that they will never be able to regulate themselves. If you were hoping for change, don’t ever expect it to come from the top.
Matthew Philpotts @mjp19731