Fascinating headline in The Sun today, proclaiming England’s five wealthiest clubs are “in talks to leave Champions League”, completely missing the irony that Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have been planning to do without Champions League football all season.
Directors of those clubs, Arsenal and Manchester City, met in London to discuss the possibility of binning the Champions League in favour of a competition where Europe’s wealthiest were invited to participate, without the need to qualify. The meeting was attended by US sports entrepreneur, Stephen Ross.
There are a few points worth making:
The clubs leaked this story to The Sun. The intention is not to plot a breakaway, but to be seen to be plotting.
Breakaways have been threatened in football since the 1970s US ‘soccer’ league wanted to acquire top European players without paying transfer fees. They have never happened. Only change based on approval has ever been possible.
European law would stop such a breakaway in its tracks. The European Union allows football to operate various cartels under terms known as the Specificity of Sport. The game is already testing the boundaries of these provisions (which may be worth testing in court), but any move to like this would have no chance of succeeding.
Change of some sort is inevitable, there is just too much money to be made for it not to happen. The risk is that the wealthy clubs put enough money on the table (or in brown envelopes) to get their own way.
Clubs in Europe will not allow their competitiveness in relation to clubs in England diminish.
Clubs in England will not perpetually allow their premium games against Barcelona et al to generate less revenue than games against Norwich City.
Top clubs in England have already tired of sharing around £1billion a year with smaller clubs who contribute little to the pot.
I know people are alarmed by this but as one of the already disenfranchised, we have little to lose. The status quo is squeezing the life out of our game. We need change. Most of all someone to put the money on the table required to create a meritocratic European weekend league – like Gazprom did with Russia and Ukraine.