European Super League: Football fans' rage in current fiasco was decades in making

Protests by football fans carried the same zeal and fury we've seen from protests from all over the world. The cause was righteous, it was personal.

Srijandeep Das April 23, 2021 14:50:29 IST
European Super League: Football fans' rage in current fiasco was decades in making

Petr Cech behind a line of policemen as he tries to calm down fans protesting outside Stamford Bridge against Chelsea's decision to to join Super League. AP

Hugo Boss trousers are for 300 pounds a pop. That is what Dave Caldwell from the Guardian informs us in his dagger like analysis of the European Super League debacle.

Let's just say, I and perhaps even you will afford very many things before we can afford to say," You know what's really missing in my life right now? A pair of Hugo Boss pants for 300 bucks!”

But funnily the average blue-collared, middle-lower class football supporters are expected to shell out for ticket prices as high as 300GBP.

That is thirty-one thousand, one hundred ninety-three in Indian rupees.

A certain section of fans are being very deliberately priced out of the match experience of their beloved team. The VIP Boxes keep getting bigger.

At this rate, it won't be before long that the entire quarter of the top circles of a stadium is occupied by a committee of venture capitalists peering down like vultures.

The wisdom of the crowd has sensed this coming a long time. Fans of decades have been systematically left feeling disenfranchised. While fan engagement through strategic, tear jerking campaigns are at an all time high. Optics matter than real engagement does in today’s football club.

The people who are running the clubs don't get us. And I say 'us' because every football journalist is a fan first.

The collective column inches football journalists, fans, players, if filed together in paper, could have been seen from the International Space Station.

The Oligarchs, the Petro- Princes, Hedge fund bears, bankers, Real-estate sharks, ruthless businessmen all, are afraid of us now.

European Super League Football fans rage in current fiasco was decades in making

Leeds United players wear t-shirts with the logo 'Football Is For The Fans'. AP

When the supporters come down on the street to stop their own team bus, the paradigm of the known world shifts on its axis. And it has.

This is a reminder to them as much as it is for us. Football without fans is nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Protests by football fans carried the same zeal and fury we've seen from protests from all over the world. The cause was righteous, it was personal.

Whatsapp groups exploded, batteries were drained out, petitions were formed, a global forum that football needed utterly manifested itself as the many headed hydra. Reddit threads were filled with Economic scholars educating other football fans through elevated discourse.

They were afraid of us, we are not the sheep that they thought us to be. The spaces between our ears work just as well. They are afraid of us because we can make the ultimate sacrifice of walking away from the club we love by sheer strength of will and want for fairness. They are now afraid of us especially because fans could just step out and stop a multi-billion dollar industry overnight. This message is not exclusive to football club owners but all those who are corrupted by power.

This is the kind of enticement Alan Moore's V for Vendetta was aiming for-a collective raising of mob intelligence. The movement, in fact, all movements work on the basis of a decentralised hive-mind. The counter- attack turret hummed so loud that it drowned out the PR blow horn of ESL mouthpiece Florentino Perez to a measly low drone.

Think of the futility of the exercise of shouting, heat submerged into the sea.

Petr Cech, trying to hold dialogue with fans who stopped the team bus, would understand that analogy. He will be without his voice for days. The result of this intervention forced Chelsea's hand into their pockets calling their best legal team to draw out an exit contract from the ESL.

How silly of custodians to play kings, to plan a coup without a common consensus. Trying to hijack the international waters of the internet and gum into a kiddie pool? Where’s the sense in that?

Better sense did prevail among the owners of Super League 12, but not without an inexorable damage of faith.

“To FSG, your continued wrong decisions and lack of consultation with the fans in these big decisions has been your ultimate downfall,” said Liverpool supporters group Spion Kop 1906. Chelsea supporters called the ESL coup “the ultimate betrayal.”

€3.5bn (£3bn) pot of money offered by JP Morgan Chase as a “Golden Hello” made the heavily debt ridden European prestige clubs lose their sense of gratitude. Barcelona are £1bn in debt, Juventus are 100m GBP short of a debt repayment for their stadium, the Glazers debt taken on Manchester United’s holding risk surpassing 500m GBP by the end of next season, Liverpool needed funds for stadium expansion. This was a get out of jail free card. But the bourgeoisie tripped on each other’s coat tails instead.

They are not as sharp as we give them credit for.

They have done a public service. Millions of fam all over the world have a handle on hyper-capitalist economic forces in a matter of a week.

A veil has been lifted on the Big bully-Little kid dynamics of a market that has unwittingly cornered itself. The only way out was a rigged market system where the winners decide everyone else's chicken dinner.

For a league trying to replicate the NBA and the NFL, ESL completely botched at the very first step.

NBA would have consultations that would have been open to a league forum. NFL would have yearly long fan focus groups and surveys.

The Modi’s to their operandi was comically and tragically vaudeville. The ESL 12 clubs cast themselves at the villian with the black hat and the twirly moustache, in the absolute shady manner they went about it all.

After enough time passes this will be in case studies under the category of ‘what not to do.’

The players rallied under the flag of Ander Herrera and Jordan Henderson. As players they were deeply insulted that they nor the fans were not even a part of the conversation: The Director of AC Milan, Paola Malini, the club legend had to hear the news of the ESL coup from his press officer. Such was the shambles.

You can estimate how diabolical it seemed from the outside when a company notorious for its capitalistic ways Amazon distanced itself from potential deals with Perez. Streaming services and channels alike said "no thanks".

Within 24 hours of fans' intervention at Stamford Bridge, the Intellectual property of ESL became a poisoned apple.

All the anger the fans have suffered for being held in utter contempt and alienated through a lack of dialogue over ticket prices, kick off times, grassroot development, and women’s football, came out all at once. The rage was decades in the making.

It then turned into a matter of image and face saving. Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour sooner lost money than their reputation. Businessmen’s reputation is based on social currency. And all of them misread the social cues.

When Liverpool in principle owner John W Henry's personal apology video came out, it was within a matter of minutes a man playing a tiny piano was edited into the video and circulated across all perceivable social media carriers. Apology was not accepted. Henry said in that recorded statement underscored by a sad violin tune:

“I want to apologise to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours. It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans. No one ever thought differently in England. Over these 48 hours you were very clear that it would not stand. We heard you. I heard you.

“Again, I’m sorry, and I alone am responsible for the unnecessary negativity brought forward over the past couple of days. It’s something I won’t forget. And shows the power the fans have today and will rightly continue to have.

“And I hope you’ll understand that even when we make mistakes, we’re trying to work in your club’s best interests. In this endeavour I’ve let you down.”

John W Henry and his PR team was mindful enough to say “your club” in that statement. That is exactly right. Football belongs to the fans. Anyone forgetting this fact will be made an example of.

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