Football belongs to me

So the fiasco of that European Super league is over, for now. It was a hideous concept dreamt up by the billionaire owners of a dozen or so of the top teams in Europe or those faced with the biggest debts. Let’s face it these guys, be they Middle Eastern potentates, Asian oligarchs or American tycoons, made an investment in football – the world’s greatest sport – not because they had a love for the game but because at some point they wanted to make a serious return. And the American bunch convinced their counterparts to adopt the franchise example of American football; a closed group of teams protected from the threat of automatic relegation and promotion, able to soak their fans and maximise/share the incredible broadcast revenues whilst imposing a salary cap on the talent. Let’s face it, if you could afford to be in the club it must have looked liked a recipe for unbridled success with the share prices soaring  along with the profits. 5 years of this model and the debts would be paid off and the asset put up for sale to the next batch of uber-entrepreneurs for huge profits. Bastards.

And the people I hold most resentment towards are the little shits who run my club Manchester United. Not those little Latin pricks Perez or Agnelli who  claim to be the movers and shakers behind the Super League. The reality is they are just the ringleader pimps calling the slightly less powerful clubs to heel.  No Man U is the ultimate home of the exploitative robber pirates from overseas. The Glazers who somehow acquired the world’s most successful club, foisted it with leveraged loans so that 10 years after their arrival the club is still mired in more than £400m of debt despite them repatriating £100m’s in dividends each year over to Leprechaun City in Glazerville, Florida ever since they got involved. And to present a face to the local fan base they appointed another pygmy, in stature and personality, Ed Woodward, so as not to overshadow them in any way, as the VC. But he had one talent – he came from an investment banker background and he had a great talent for attracting worldwide noodle sponsors and the like, so that the club earned lots of revenue. But he was hopeless at spending that money on attracting the best new managers and footballing talent. Despite being the richest club in the land he couldn’t land a target to save his life. And from being the most successful club they became the club which signed Fellaini, Di Maria, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin and Sanchez.

However the smarty Glazers got him to secure a huge backing promise from his former employees JP Morgan to underwrite the whole Super League finances. And that’s what got all the other teams hooked in because they were guaranteed revenues way beyond they could expect from the regular European season. And there was no relegation from it! And no-one could break into the club without the agreement of the rest. A near perfect monopoly.

What I fail to grasp about capitalists is this; if you are already worth say £20B what exactly is the value to you from making another £1.5B from selling say Arsenal on at a profit? You already have more money than you can spend. What is the driver? More cash? Ego? Status? I just don’t get that crushing mentality.  For fucks sake there is always somebody richer. Why would you want to be reviled? What they are doing is destroying the pyramid dream of football – that whole drama of a team like Blackburn or Leicester against all the odds winning the Premiership and qualifying for the Champions League. And unfashionable teams like Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest actually winning the damn thing. And more than once! For players, fans and staff that is the dream.

The game doesn’t belong to these largely foreign plutocrats. I’m sorry. They may think it does (and listening to Perez today saying he is rescuing football makes my skin crawl). But they simply don’t. And it was wonderful to see such a fan-based and player reaction against the proposed SL. Fan demonstrations must have looked like an uprising to these gilded lilies and their sphincters were probably as loose as a burst inner tube. It might all turn again in the future, who knows, but I hope not. My wish is for these overseas owners to be kicked out or to have their controlling interests replaced by UK fans involvement shareholding, whether it’s the German 50%+1 model or a super share where fans have the significant casting vote.

700 words in I just wanted to back up my headline and the last sentiment by explaining why I think football belongs to people like me rather than Joel Glazer, Stan Kroenke or John W Henry. I have no stake in the game other than my love and commitment to it. And I think I’m invested in ways that Roman Abramovitch will never understand:

  • I started playing from the age of 5 in my garden, in the playground, and for my primary school team;
  • I played school yard football at virtually ever playtime at my Grammar school and was selected for every game in every year for my school team including representative appearances for Lancs schoolboys and trials for my local Div 1 team team Blackpool FC;
  • watched the greatest game of my life – Brazil v Italy 1970 WC final whilst on a camping holiday chasing girls with my great mate JMc whilst pretty loaded. And I was in awe that football could be played like that:
  • represented my University at 2nd then 1st XIs at every match including national Uni representative matches and high profile charity matches including playing against the retired John Charles, the hardest and greatest footballer I’ve ever played against;
  • played at Southern Amateur League level after moving to London; joining a local side at Vets level and rising through 6 levels in one season to play for the first team
  • played for BT representative teams and 5 a side stuff for 7 years
  • played for a BT side – league winning – in N London:
  • played for a weekly mates 5 a side team for 10 years before leaving for Italy at the age of 55
  • started watching my grandsons playing and following them at every level of amateur football for the last 12 years
  • became interested in watching and following local sides like Brackley Town with my grandsons
  • watched my home time Blackpool FC from the age of 12 through to 18 and sang to the glorious playing skills of Alan Ball, Jimmy Armfield, Alan Suddick, Tony Green, Tommy Hutchison, Micky Walsh and Emlyn Hughes;
  • attended numerous matches at Millwall FC as guest of a mate and enjoyed and became intimidated at times by the throwback atmosphere
  • hosted many top level football viewing opportunities as a major client entertainment programme including World Cups, Euro Championships, FA Cups etc
  • witnessed the workings of a Premiership club at close hand following the major sponsorship of Middlesbrough FC
  • recruited by several clubs to be their sponsorship consultant
  • watched televised football as a fan since my first two memorable live televised matches the early 60’s FA Cup finals Spurs v Burnley and Man U v Leicester and enjoy watching it to this day.;
  • I just love jossing with my mates, sons-in-law, grandsons about matches, results, transfer rumours etc.

So there are my credentials – about the same as millions of fans with a few special bits. Loved watching it live, loved watching on the tv, played till I couldn’t do it any more. Would still fancy taking on my grandsons now for about 15 mins. It doesn’t make me special, just in love with this beautiful game.  And the dream for me is that my fab grandsons get to play as centre backs at Man United when they win the the Champions League trophy before going on to win the World Cup with England. I know I know pipe-dreams. But that’s the nature of what we believe in, isn’t it? I’d be happy if my grandsons just got as much pleasure out of playing as I did.

But above all I want the UK game to retain the beauty of its aspiration – that any team can win the Premiership and go on to become The Champions League winners. Promotion and relegation is at the heart of our game. Many teams rarely get the chance to enter the Premiership. It doesn’t matter – owners and fans will always believe it’s possible. I’m fixated now on reducing overseas investment in control of our clubs. I can’t believe the current Gov will do anything about it but you never know. That supporter reaction got them spooked too I think.  People power really does matter at times and this Gov needs every bit of support it can get over football. Intriguing eh.



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