Football fans, and plenty of other clubs, made their positions incredibly clear when news first broke of the launch of the European Super League – not on our watch.
The message was loud and clear and it got across as one by one, the “Dirty Dozen” rowed back on their decision to join the controversial breakaway competition that was set to replace the Champions League.
The uproar around the continent was huge, but especially in Britain. Supporters who have already been priced out of the game were at their wits’ end. Yes, Mr Perez, those in the 16-24 age bracket you wanted to attract with your reprehensible European Super League. This was the last straw and something had to be done.
Season ticket prices are extortionate, a replica shirt will set you back at least £60 if you’re lucky, even getting something to eat at a game will cost you a small fortune. Liverpool wanted to charge £77 for a match ticket. Of course, you could pay £1,000 for some hospitality seating.
Then the ESL came along, dreamt up by a bunch of men in suits who have no interest in their biggest “stakeholders” – the fans. Well, those fans made themselves heard. They aren’t interested in you making a quick £300million to line your pockets with and, in the case of some clubs but not all granted, not being invested back in the club.
It took thousands of them only 48 hours for you to realise the error of your ways. Hollow apology statements, or a video in a side room of a baseball stadium in Boston, won’t be enough to appease them. Resignations were in fact welcomed, there was no sympathy.
They won’t forgive you quickly, if at all. Reputations that were already teetering are now on the brink of untenable. The next time some of you dare set foot in the stadiums you own, you better be ready for an earful.
But how did we get to this stage in the first place where the rich already want to get richer? Marginalising those who are the heartbeat of a club even more?
Sky Sports pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville have rightly been applauded for their stance, the Monday Night Football broadcast ahead of Leeds hosting Liverpool was essential viewing and echoed the sentiments of every football fan, especially in this country.
Neville called the Glazers, owners of Manchester United, “scavengers who need booting out of this country” and while that’s unlikely to happen any time soon, it should serve as a message. Not only to those in charge of the elite clubs in this country, but how we got to this point and what needs to change.
When Sky Sports came to the table to create the Premier League in 1992, it was seen as a watershed moment in the game, just like the ESL and its subsequent demise is. Pumping an extraordinary amount of money into the game, creating the best league in the world, with the best players and with the best managers.
The Premier League is a monstrous brand, which has been expertly developed over the following 29 years, there is no doubting that and no-one is angry with it. The product is the best on the planet, the Premier League is the best league in the world. The most unpredictable too, we all remember when Leicester City won the title in 2016.
But it’s the broadcasters that have created the beasts of the “Big Six” that has allowed things to get out of control. They are now being threatened by the likes of Leicester, West Ham and Everton. Aston Villa are on the rise as well. The guarantee of a top-six finish is no longer there.
TV broadcast rights have spiralled into the billions, horrendously priced season tickets, kick-off times constantly shunted around that are unsuitable for the average working person, the group who effectively made football what it was in the late 1800s.
There are other players at the table now in BT Sport and Amazon, behemoths of the industry who were willing to shell out unthinkable amounts of cash to get a slice of the Premier League pie.
Of course, shoving the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea in our faces is the best way to market the league. Those teams are the most supported and, consequently, the most-watched. When shelling out billions for broadcast deals, the number of people watching on subscription services is the way to claw it all back.
But at what cost to the general fan? Neville and Carragher tapped into the heartstrings of the fans, effectively calling them to arms to down the ESL. Plenty of pundits appeared on their channel to espouse the very same.
But will Sky, who now seemingly care about fans, be slashing the cost of their subscription model? The most basic Sky Sports package with the usual TV channels as well costs £41 per month, so over a year that is almost £500 for the year. Sure, you might get a nice offer when signing up at £21 a month but that won’t last.
Maybe your team is playing on BT Sport a bit more often, so you want to watch them there. Well, there’s another subscription to pay, that’s another £15 a month on top of your bill. You have to sign up for a 24-month contract too, so that’s £360.
In the age bracket of 16-24 year old’s, a group Florentino Perez claimed the ESL wanted to tap into, that’s unaffordable. Can you blame those of that age turning to illegal streams on a dodgy Fire Stick to get their football fix of a weekend?
Even if the ESL is no longer going to be an enormous reset for football that was threatened, there still needs to be a bit more of a mini-reset. Football fans have shown they still wield huge power in the foreign-owned landscape that is the Premier League. While some of those owners may feel no connection to their club emotionally, the fans do.
So give them a chance to actually afford to be able to watch their team and support them. Because as we have seen, if you continue to push them aside as they don’t fit your business model, it will come back to bite you on the backside.