It is now more than two months since the announcement establishing the European Soccer
League was made. The essence of the proposal being that the top clubs in Europe would join
together to form a competition, rivalling the current UEFA Champions League. Participation
being by invitation not qualification.The proposal is still rumbling on.
What was heralded two months ago as the saviour of attractive and exciting football
immediately ran into trouble among the football governing bodies and especially the fans.
Support for the deal by the rebels soon ebbed away. UEFA was quick off the mark to take
advantage, imposing a deal that had threats of sanctions and fines. The English Premier
League was also supportive of action against the rebels.
The level of opposition was instrumental in persuading the intended english teams (Manchester
United and City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham) in changing their minds. The english
clubs were, given the level of opposition, apparently happy to go back on their signed
agreements and accept any punishments levied. Government backing also seemed to bolster
the position of the Premier League in their determination to face down the rebels. Backing which
suggested involved refusal of visas. The battle lines seem to be drawn for future conflict,
perhaps not in the immediate future but certainly in the long term.
Should the advertising giants show an interest and throw their weight behind a breakaway
league, then the proposed plan could be resurrected. A spanish court has just ruled that the
UEFA deal was illegal and threats imposed had to be rescinded. in favour of three of the rebels;
Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus. That ruling that the threat of punishments is illegal and
must be withdrawn is important especially if this should go to the european courts. Things could
change at short notice. Given the slightest encouragement those teams could continue with
court action to press their case.
A Different Time
It is easy to see how change is unavoidable, football today is light years away from the sixties
and seventies, then there was no sponsorship, shirt advertising and more importantly no great
cash cow of t.v advertising revenue. For change to happen there has to be recognition from the
english league of the benefits of change and that existing structures won’t alter.
The pyramid structure by which it is perfectly feasible for a club to move up through the leagues
to the very top has to be preserved. There is a danger that it will fall by the wayside,forgotten in
the rush for money. Football clubs have existed for more than one hundred years, the
supporters are fiercely proud of their towns and cities. It would be a tragedy if the teams
associated with those supporters were allowed to die.
So what of the immediate future? Indications are that those pushing forward the new league
agenda are content to bide their time and wait for advertisers and t,v to dangle a few more
carrots, whilst taking the court route. The powers that be believe they have put the brakes on
the plan at least for the time being.