They’ve been talking about a European super league since the 1980s and the idea has resurfaced again in the last few weeks. The idea, for those somehow unfamiliar with it, is that the best teams in Europe should play each other every week rather than sully themselves with games against their inferiors back home.
We already have a version of this in the Champions League – something which used to be an exciting knock-out cup for actual champions and is now a dreary league for all sorts of runners-up.
Now instead of salivating at the prospect of Manchester United v Watford on a Sunday we’ll be watching Manchester United v FC Hurdygurdy, newly promoted to the European Super League from the Finnish top flight.
Except we won’t, of course, because there is no desire for there to be any relegation from or promotion to the European league. The top clubs won’t be there on merit, they will be there because Qatari and Malaysian billionaires continually pump in cash, ensuring that any decent international player is sucked into this nexus of money, corporate sponsorship and superstardom, occasionally interrupted by a game of football.
Bring it on, I say. I have had enough of ‘top’ football.
When I was young, any reasonably-sized club could aspire to win the English league. Look at the likes of Derby, Nottingham Forest, Ipswich, Watford, Southampton – all won or came close to winning the league in the 70s and 80s.
There were giants like Liverpool and Manchester United but they weren’t invincible. Manchester United, Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City all graced the old Second Division.
As a Sunderland supporter I knew, or thought I knew, that our day might come. All we needed was a Messiah – a Clough or a Shankly – and we would return to the top of English football.
It’s still possible, of course, but only if a foreign billionaire decides to make Sunderland his plaything in which case the club’s integrity will be shredded and when he decides to move on, or the authorities catch up with him, we’d be cast into bankruptcy. No thanks.
“Leicester” you might be thinking right now, but the point is 40 years ago a decent side like Leicester having an amazing season and winning the league would not have been regarded as the absolute miracle it was now. There is no route map to ‘do a Leicester’ – it was a fluke, not something which we can learn from.
The European super league proposal offers a plausible route to the top.
Let the mega clubs leave. Let their fans enjoy an annual trip to Spain or Germany for a game. Let them watch most of their games on TV, with their plastic rivalries with PSG or Bayern Munich. That will leave the field clear for the rest of us also-rans to have a crack at the Premier League title.
A genuinely competitive league would be fantastic, a truly exciting spectacle. That’s why we’re enjoying League One (well, also because we’re winning). Every week I’m looking to see how Portsmouth and Peterborough are doing; checking on Barnsley; wondering if Accrington and Fleetwood can last the course for a season.
Any team can win any fixture, anything can happen.
I’ve seen some people argue that League One is better than the higher leagues – it’s not really and we won’t be thinking that if we’re stuck in League One for a second, third or fourth season.
But the competitiveness is enjoyable and that’s what Premier League football lacks. So let’s be having that super league at last and leave proper football to the proper fans.