Opinion: Outrage today, negotiation tomorrow

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Daniel Levy
GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images

It’s a bad idea. And of course, greed is behind it. And I wish my club wasn’t part of it. But there my outrage and sense of betrayal stops. These dozen owners are not stupid men. They have done this for a reason—and their financial situation is at its core and should not be dismissed out of hand. And the various other actors need to think seriously about what going nuclear would really mean, and whether there isn’t still some way to find common ground.

In many ways, the Big Six and particularly the two Spanish giants who are in league with them—are both goose and golden egg in this particular fable. Their arms race has both enabled and threatened the financial dominance which puts them out of kilter with most of the football world and has led us to this day. They in essence are crying out “Save us from ourselves” but doing so in a ham-handed and arrogant fashion sure to fail if allowed to happen. But they have also reminded the rest of the football world just what their value truly is—let’s see the remaining 14 try to negotiate a broadcasting rights deal with SKY or BT or someone else, and then see who comes begging for help.

As for Levy and Spurs, sold out to the devil? Really? Have you not been watching for the last decade? What was he supposed to have done? Just sit at an old and outdated ground—knowing he was being outspent by 2 to 1, 3 to 1, or worse by a trio of competitors that he could never hope to match? Know he would have to keep selling the Bales and Modrics and Kanes? Instead, he tried to change the paradigm. It almost worked in the most impossible fashion—90 minutes from the biggest trophy in club sports. But for two years of bad timing involving Leicester, Chelsea and us—and not either Manchester side or Liverpool—it might very well have produced a league title. It didn’t but you can’t blame him for trying. And if it involves more profit, well wake up and smell the coffee—this is how the world works. And then a pandemic hit and while a whole lot of people suffered—and died—and surely the damage done to rich football clubs stands really low in the hierarchy of COVID pain, but the truth is Levy and Co took a huge hit. Bigger than we realise, I suspect, since we got to sit back and watch all the games so how hard was it on us that the ground was empty? He doesn’t want to bet the farm year after year knowing that maybe once every two or three he gets the reward of the UEFA brightest lights—with City, United and Chelsea spending so much more, and with Liverpool now managed so much better than they had been, Champions League cannot be a regular thing if only four teams from England qualify. (HINT to UEFA—given the dominance of the Premier League in worldwide television, would increasing its qualifiers to five or six be that tough to stomach??)  He needs more certainty, so of course he’s going to join this effort. Think of the alternative—the cries of hypocrisy and the mockery of “illegitimate trophies” would be cascading down on our shoulders just days after we would get credit for resistance if Spurs had stayed out of this. And that critique would be accurate.

So now what? Season ticket renewals are upon us. A new manager must be hired. Harry Kane has to decide whether or not to stay or go (and be honest—when you step back from the emotion, wouldn’t you believe that the odds of that answer being the former just increased? For both reasons?), And this mess must be sorted. Today, the 14 remaining clubs will consider their potential actions and the Palace owner has already said expulsion will not be on the agenda. They aren’t stupid. Soon enough some lawyer will inform UEFA that they don’t have the power to remove Arsenal, Chelsea, either Manchester Club or Real Madrid from competitions they joined last year and which are near completion. And then add that they also don’t have the power to ban players from competing for their country in international events. And marketers and others will tell the Dirty Dozen that their dreams of huge paydays may not be realized because of widespread fan outrage and the boring prospect of repeated games amongst only elite teams. (Who we playing tonight mate? Juventus. Ugh—AGAIN???) So it’s a game of chicken. 

The clubs are, whatever our romantic notions tell us, more of the power in this fight than any other actors—even the fans. They both attract and spend most of the money. Money talks.

They will produce a different and more equitable—for them—structure when all the fighting is through. It might take months. It might take a year or more. It might be awkward and unsatisfying for many. But it won’t end football as we know it. Did the advent of the Premier League achieve that end? Did plenty of people beyond 20 clubs benefit from what was a true breakaway move? Will the winners—or losers—of this fight be limited to six horrible cowardly greedy football clubs who happen to have produced the vast majority of the greatest moments in this and nearly every era? (Even if Spurs did almost none of that) Of course not.

Follow the money and calm down. There will be a deal. Life will go on. Sports and football will continue to reflect both the best and worst of our modern society. Keep calm…keep watching, and paying and suffering and exulting—and carry on. 

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1 COMMENT

  1. A very good and very balanced article. Making very valid points. Myself personally I am for the league for no other reason it upsets uefa and fifa which are so rich in greed and corruption.

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