To be clear, I was profoundly against the European Super League, says Matthew Syed in The Times. But “I couldn’t help but giggle” at the flagrant hypocrisy on display from its critics. Fat cats such as Uefa’s president Aleksander Ceferin thundered about “greed” and former players wailed on Sky Sports about it being an assault on a “community asset”. Give me a break. When these guys talk about greed, what they mean is “they object to greed that cuts them out of the pie”.
Take the boss of Fifa, Gianni Infantino, who “heads the most corrupt governing body in the history of sport”. He’s already under criminal investigation for his role in a 2015 corruption scandal, and once billed his employer for £8,795 of plush mattresses and a £6,829 exercise machine. Meanwhile, Uefa’s last president, Michel Platini, was banned from football for accepting a £1.3m bung from his former Fifa boss Sepp Blatter.
In truth, many within football have been on the gravy train for years. Domestic leagues have become unbalanced “playthings” of oligarch owners and Arab microstates. But who cares when players have gained vast wealth, agents have become multimillionaires, TV companies have ballooned in equity value and governments have secured tax revenue? That’s why the outrage was so frenzied. It was a howl of “how dare you siphon off money from this great sport! That’s our job!”
Why it matters
It may have been a PR disaster, but the European Super League (ESL) was born from clubs’ fears “that traditional football fans are ageing and not being replenished”, says Daniel Finkelstein in the same paper. The target market for the ESL was young television audiences “in emerging economies in Africa and Asia”, who want to watch Real Madrid versus Manchester United every week – and who are “put off” by Wednesday-night games against Stoke City.
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