What a couple of days it has been for the world of football…
You know things are serious when front as well as back page headlines are being made and when people who normally have no interest in the subject are asking, “what the actual **** is going on?”
Sport may be deemed an irrelevance to many whilst we all try to focus on coming out of various lockdowns and returning to our normal lives. But you see, for many, sport IS a major part of our normal lives. We live and breathe it, we dream of seeing it again live, watching our heroes, escaping the 9-5 and everything else that goes with it.
For many of my generation or let’s say, anyone over 40, our childhood memories are pre-Premier League and pre-Champions league. Things were simpler then. Players were not multi-trillionaires, the European Cup, as it was, was for the champions of each country played in a simple knockout format. The term less is more was never more apt.
We accepted change in 1992, as we had to, and also because money was becoming an increasing factor in the game’s globalisation. Loyalty became a rare thing, as players searched for the pots of gold available to them and transfers to the big clubs were manufactured by super agents who became as rich as their clients.
In England, entry to the new Champions League was enhanced to three and then four clubs, in effect the usual three being Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool, who were then joined by Chelsea when they were purchased by oligarch Roman Abramovich, and Man City when they were purchased by Sheik Mansour.
And now these five clubs, plus Tottenham Hotspur (well if Arsenal are in it, then we have to be), want to create a new Super Champions League, control it and make damn sure that they ( plus 10 others from Europe such as Real Madrid and Barcelona ) can never be relegated from it. This in itself could make the plans illegal under EU sports and competition law, never mind the many ethical arguments against it.
Thankfully the initial reaction from both inside the game and out (Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already spoken out) has been totally negative to these plans. We should also applaud the German sides Bayern Munich and Dortmund who have said that they are definitely “not in”.
Tellingly, even the fans of these English teams are abhorred not just at the plans themselves (elitism is not in their mantra), but at the timing too. In the midst of a pandemic, with many lower league clubs struggling just to survive this is simply unedifying to say the very least.
There is a feeling that maybe this announcement is a red herring, so that these clubs can gain more influence for their plans of a revamped Champions League within the UEFA family, although the fact that they have en bloc resigned from the ECA (European Club Association ) perhaps suggests differently. The ECA is the body which represents all professional clubs in UEFA and the only one that UEFA recognises.
And so, following this big announcement and hiatus, less than 24 hours later, Tottenham Hotspur, one of the English “Big 6” have sacked manager Jose Mourinho – and just six days before their EFL Cup final against Man City at Wembley Stadium. How, what and why?
Well, there is no doubt that by his past high standards he has underachieved at Spurs and the hierarchy (chairman Daniel Levy) may have felt that he was unsackable should they win the trophy. That said, there are rumours today that Jose was dead against the Super League announcement and this may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. If so, football fans will feel a slight bit of sympathy for The Special One, although given his likely pay off of around £20 million, probably not a great deal.
That Spurs can afford to pay that sort of money and barely bat an eye despite having lost fan revenue for over a year now and despite the fact that they will almost certainly not be participating in next season’s Champions League (which is vital income), really says it all. The club is not in a good place with its own fans, win or lose on Sunday.