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On This Day (12 July 1988) - Sunderland chairman opposes new ‘Super League’

On this day 33 years ago, Bob Murray spoke out at the proposals to create a new ‘Super League’ in the English game.

Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

On this day in 1988, Sunderland chairman Bob Murray spoke of his opposition to the formation of a new ‘Super League’ within the English football league structure.

In the week prior to Bob Murray’s statement, the Super League controversy had kicked off as a collection of the top clubs threatened to sign up to a £32 million deal with ITV that would see those clubs collect 100% of the generated cash.

In response, the Sunderland chairman warned that if the twelve First Division clubs in question were successful it could mean the end of smaller clubs in the pyramid, with the likes Darlington and Hartlepool possibly going out of existence.

There was a rival bid made by BBC and British Satellite broadcasting of around £39 million which was planned to divided across all 92 clubs in all four divisions. Murray thought the recent bids would see a delay in the actual formation of the breakaway league but feared a monopoly was already appearing at the top of the game.

A blind man can see there is a Super League now. It already exists at the top of the First Division. It is just a question of how the leading clubs keep nurturing it along. The latest chapter in the saga of the development of the Super League is not in the best interests of football.

We have a very clear position on this. It is not in the best interests of Sunderland supporters. It is not in the best interests of the club. It is not in the best interests of the North-East or the game in general to be party to a so-called Super League.

How can they turn round to the Middlesbrough board, manager and supporters after rescuing the club from receivership and getting promotion twice in two season and tell them that they can’t compete in the First Division?

How could we as a club turn round to the likes of Hartlepool and Darlington and tell them we are going to drive them out of business? The extinction of smaller clubs is the inevitable consequence of the richest clubs splitting away from the League. Even if Sunderland were top of the First Division we would still feel this way. We believe that all clubs need to put something into the game.

Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Sunderland v Blackburn Rovers - The Stadium of Light Photo by Mike Egerton - PA Images via Getty Images

I think clubs like Newcastle United should think again for the benefit of their own fans, for the North-East and for football’s benefit as a whole. These 12 clubs want to put themselves beyond the league pyramid’s structure. There would be no promotion or relegation. I couldn’t tell our supporters that they would never again see a North-East derby.

The first consists of the top five elites then a bunch in the middle and then another bunch purely concerned with First Division survival. Without any disrespect to clubs such as Millwall, Charlton, Norwich, Wimbledon and Coventry, their desire from the first game is to hold on to their Division One status.

A small number of clubs, because of their money, are able to dominate Division One and that is not good for the game. I also don’t see how the competition can possibly be improved by matching this top five with just seven of eight other clubs. They are obviously looking for other big clubs to jump in, but Sunderland have made their position absolutely clear.

There are four big-name clubs in the Second Division - Leeds, Manchester City, Chelsea and ourselves - who in terms of tradition, support and honours are worthy of consideration for any Super League. But we wouldn’t want to get promotion to any league without earning it. It would be wrong.

In his attack on the proposals for the future of the English game, the Sunderland chairman also didn’t rule out any plan to form a European Super League at some point in the future, although he predicted none would breakaway fully from the English game.

Soccer - FA Barclaycard Premiership - Manchester United v Sunderland
Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards played a huge part in the early discussions of the Premier League that his club would go on to win on so many occasions
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards warned that the rebel clubs were determined to push ahead with the proposed £32 million deal which threatened to fracture the Football League.

The 10 clubs involved have spoken amongst themselves again over the weekend and we will tell the ITV officials that their offer is acceptable when we meet them again on Wednesday. We are fully aware what the consequences will be. What the League are offering is too little, too late. We don’t feel we can be blocked by the FA on this. We have gone into all of the possibilities and problems,

The League’s mediator, PFA secretary Gordon Taylor, was preparing a compromise deal to the rebel clubs in an attempt to bring everyone back to the table, where it was reported a proposal would include that the top 20 clubs in the country would receive 90% of all TV revenue deals.

The Premier League might not have kicked off until August 1992, but it was many years in the making.


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