The ESL implodes!
A stunning evening of off-the-field drama may have opened the path to change in the shape of European football.
The bitter dispute over a European Super League, which started at the weekend, tonight dissolved into several hours of chaos. It all started when Chelsea, one of the six Premier League clubs set to join the ESL, got cold feet, partly induced by an enormous protest by their own fans outside Stamford Bridge ahead of the game against Brighton & Hove Albion. The widescale backlash over the previous 48 hours from fans across Europe clearly terrified the Chelsea board. The club publicly admitted to having made a mistake, and began looking for ways to get out of the contract it had signed up to on Sunday.
That first moment of definitive weakness from ‘the cartel’ seemed to start a domino effect. Within an hour, Manchester City, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona were all understood to have gotten the willies as well, and started moves to withdraw too.
Woodward departs from Manchester United
Things were going crazy, with ESL12 clubs falling over themselves to placate their fanbases, and to distance themselves from their own attempted power grab. Within another twenty minutes, Ed Woodward, Manchester United’s much-despised Executive, stood down over the club’s role in the affair. This was after an apparently furious confrontation with some of the United players at a meeting in Carrington. Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw let Woodward know that he no longer had the confidence of the players or coaches at the club after he kept the ESL negotiations a secret from them until after the deal was already signed. The likelihood that United must withdraw any time soon immediately trebled. Just minutes later came potentially the biggest development of all. The Juventus President, Gianni Agnelli, was announced to have resigned, although the club later issued a statement denying it. The club’s main fansite still has an article up confirming the resignation at the time of writing. Clarification will have to follow, but the confusion rather sums up the wider chaos.
Since this morning, the entire outlook of European football has changed. The ESL has gone from looking a near-certainty at the opening of business to being dead-in-the-water; it cannot possibly launch without the likes of Barcelona or Manchester United.
United’s share price sums it up
The effect of the evening’s havoc can be summed up by analysing Manchester United’s share price over the previous 24 hours or so.
Compare this; –
With this; –
Liverpool poised for internal power struggle
Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, have remained quiet about these developments so far, but the unhappiness of players and coaching staff at Anfield was already becoming abundantly clear during the previous evening’s match at Leeds United. Any lingering doubts were dispelled by a tweet from captain Jordan Henderson, who is also hosting a conference of all Premier League captains on Wednesday to debate the ESL project, and plan a unified response to the high-handedness of the ESL clubs.
The biggest football clubs across Europe are perhaps guilty of showing their true, distinctly yellow, colours. They often act like bullies, but fan and player solidarity against them has caused them to blink very quickly. With a demonstration of such enormous combined effectiveness, a real opportunity to change the game and take it away from the money men could be opening up.
The fans defeat the money-men in just TWO DAYS
Indeed, some money men are already rumoured to be gearing up to run away! Over to Stan Collymore; –
This has all happened in just a couple of days. On Sunday morning, had you suggested this chaos was only two days away, you would have been mocked as an alarmist. At that point, we did not even know that the Super League contract was about to be signed.
All it has taken is the exposure of the monied interests’ untrustworthiness and their lack of courage. After the coup on Sunday, it seems impossible just to go back to how things were last week. There is no good faith between the game and its owners now. And the fans, always the soul of football, have now seen how easily they can defeat the owners.
Not since the early-1990s has the future of the game looked so fluid, nor the status quo looked so unstable. Instability can be a terrible problem, but a degree of it is always needed when change is required. The plutocratic domination of the game over the last twenty years in particular has meant that change is sorely needed. Now is the chance for football fans to rediscover and redeploy their authority.
Now if only the wider public would take a similar stance against Conservative Government…
UPDATE: Around 11pm, in another domino pattern, all four Premier League clubs still in the ESL announced in rapid succession that they were withdrawing. The European Super League died once and for all in another dizzying burst of out-of-control events.
The fanbase of English football will probably allow themselves a couple of days to savour their triumph. But after that, there will almost certainly be a co-ordinated reckoning with the owners of the country’s biggest football clubs. In particular, the days of the Glazers at Manchester United, and of Fenway Sports Group at Liverpool, must surely be numbered.
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