transnational capitalism in boots

Jonathan Liew:

Perhaps once all this has shaken out, once the imminent threat of a breakaway European super league has been resolved one way or the other, football will find the time for a little reflection.

How we reached this point. How the game’s elite clubs managed to engineer a scenario in which a hostile takeover came to feel inevitable, even irresistible. How the world’s most popular sport managed to hand over so much of its power and wealth and influence to people who despise it. 

Because make no mistake: this is an idea that could only have been devised by someone who truly hates football to its bones. Who hates football so much that they want to prune it, gut it, dismember it, from the grassroots game to the World Cup. Who finds the very idea of competitive sport offensive, an unhealthy distraction from the main objective, which in a way has always been capitalism’s main objective.

Several thoughts: 

  1. I agree fervently with Liew.
  2. I don’t think the super league will come to pass, because I don’t think the big clubs want one. I think this is a shakedown to squeeze everyone else in soccer for more money.  
  3. I wish the national associations would call their bluff and just say “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” But I don’t think they will: those big clubs bring in a lot of revenue for everyone else. (But they don’t want any of their money to go anywhere else — thus the shakedown, and thus my plea for letting them go. Giving in to their demands would mean virtually eliminating their value to the rest of soccer.)  
  4. If the super league does come to pass, I won’t watch it. Seeing those clubs play in the late stages of the Champions League is fun; seeing them play every week, not so much. Besides, Arsenal would finish at the bottom of the league every single year, and Stan Kroenke would be just fine with that — in fact, would prefer it. He’d get the cash without having to invest in the quality of his side. (In other words, he’d simply extend his current ownership strategy.)  
  5. The domestic leagues without the big clubs would still be Very Big Businesses, but they wouldn’t be empowering the kind of transnats that Kim Stanley Robinson writes about. 
  6. I could then settle in firmly as a Fulham supporter — and they need the support. Tough day for Scott Parker and the lads today. 

UPDATE 4.19: A big angry Yes to this from James McNicholas: “They stand to benefit more than most from the formation of a Super League. Right now they are not, on merit, a Champions League club. Their team is not good enough, and their executive structure and ownership are ultimately responsible for that underachievement. Admittance to this Super League would be a Get Out Of Jail Free card for a badly-run club, a rope ladder to rescue Arsenal from mediocrity.” 

SECOND UPDATE: I am too sick (reaction to my second vaccination, which: Yay!) to write coherently, I see, so I’ll just tell everyone to read this helpful overview by Rory Smith. It’s obvious that my point number 2 above was wrong wrong wrong. I hope and trust that the domestic leagues will boot out the ESL, or rather €$£, clubs because otherwise it’s all too easy to imagine a situation in which Arsenal, putting all of its entertainment energies into the €$£, cheerfully allows itself to be relegated to the Championship. 

OH HECK ONE MORE: An interesting and insightful essay by David Baddiel, except for one thing: he writes, “Americans have never quite taken to football, because it is a sport that requires a certain tolerance of boredom. As far as sport goes, Americans just want all the top action, all of the time” — a claim to be made only by someone who has never watched a game of American football, in which three-and-a-half hours of TV contains, on average, eleven minutes of action. 

FINAL UPDATE (4.20): What we have here is an instance of a universal rule: Phenomenally rich people will do anything they possibly can to become still more phenomenally rich. Their plans can be thwarted in one of two ways: (1) by collective action that makes it abundantly clear to them that they will not get richer by acting as they plan, or (2) by legislating against them. I fear people have been rendered too passive by social media to make collective action possible, which would mean either we’ll have (2) or the super-rich will get their super-league … but the anger at this move is shockingly strong and widespread. 

April 18, 2021

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