Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|April 19, 2021|7 Minutes|In Editor's Desk

Editor’s Desk

Money won – football nil

Fans call it greed; they curse the dirty dozen.

You would suppose a publication like ours – dedicated to the art of making money would be in favour of it. A new plan to “rethink” and “refashion” – as they say in the boardrooms these days – towards a new way of making money in an old industry. Surely, an entrepreneurs dream?’

A plan to increase revenue rapidly by increasing return on assets overnight. This is the plan backed by up to $6 billion and low interest loans guaranteed by one of the biggest names in world finance – JP Morgan.

A dream surely? No. For anyone who cares about football, this is a nightmare.

I am talking about the money bags plan for a European super league that promises to finally sever the golden thread straining between the privileged, mega rich, clubs and the rest of the game.

A dozen clubs, six from England – including Manchester United. Manchester City and Spurs – have signed up to join three from Spain including Barcelona, Real Madrid from Spain and three from Italy including Juventus. The 12 clubs will not lose their status, however weak or strong they become, which smacks of an unassailable rich club full of impunity and free of competition. The shrewd Germans are keeping a safe distance.

It will be the biggest upheaval since the paltry maximum wage for players was abolished in England, in 1961, allowing clubs to use their cheque books to buy the best talent.

It means even more money for the rich, bloated, clubs and even less for the majority of clubs many of whom struggle to pay the electricity bill.
This European super league means the big clubs will be freed from the chore of having to play smaller top flight clubs in what are, in effect, glorified practise matches. It will mean the big clubs will swallow even more television money at the expense of the rest of the game.

The league will put an end to the romantic dream that you can start out with a handful of guys kicking around in the park and end up playing Real Madrid. It will also mean that even more money slushing through the coffers of clubs that already dominate the wealth of the game.

Fans and politicians alike are protesting the proposal, saying it will destroy the game, threatening boycotts and bans.

But I think the damage has been done. The so-called grassroots game has pretty much been decimated by a quarter of a century of television money grabbing by fewer than two score of big clubs who dominate. The money is simply being sucked upwards to the top leagues in the northern hemisphere.

From Paris to Bury to Accra the small clubs get the short end of the stick. At best, they are wallowing in debt at worst their finances are as fragile as a striker recovering from a broken leg. These clubs are more important than a flashy, trashy, Premier League commercial will tell you . Often the greatest players fail to make the grade at big clubs and mature at tiny clubs few have ever heard of. This was the case for England and Arsenal ace Ian Wright and Spurs international Chris Waddle who worked at a pie factory while he was trying to make the grade with non-league Tow Law Town.

I once saw teenage future England international Alan Smith, score a hattrick in 10 minutes, on a wet and cold night, for Alvechurch – who? Exactly. Would he have made it as an international if he didn’t have a small club in which to sharpen his shooting boots? Probably not. Sadly, these clubs are likely to become fewer and poorer.

Already, the world gap between the rich and poor clubs is yawning. When South African Patrice Motsepe took over as the head of the continent’s football body CAF one of how he issues he faced was how to get the money for African football to compete on the world stage. European nations get two- million dollars to prepare for a qualifier; African nations struggle to raise a couple of million for an entire tournament.

This sucking of money upwards into a European super league can only overshadow African football and leave the game in the continent ever more bereft.

Let me nail my colours to the mast. I am a romantic. I grew up in the era of hard-working footballers; where you would see them score with a diving header on a Saturday and take the bus to work on a Monday. I have enjoyed scintillating, passionate, football from Khartoum to Maputo and Harare.

I think the European super league will happen. After all, money talks and moral outrage usually walks. I am sure many Africans will queue up in bars and shebeens to watch the league  on television.

I think it will kill the very soul of the game we all love. Sad to say, outside the privileged few, it was on life support anyway.