by Tony Attwood
Breakaways, breakaways, everywhere we look are breakaways.
But not it seems involving Arsenal.
Arsenal has become the first (or if I missed it while arguing with Man City fans, one of the first) clubs to put out a statement saying that they are not interested in the notion of the European Super League as a breakaway.
Joining a new breakaway would take Arsenal out of the Premier League and such European competitions as they might qualify for.
Arsenal is also either the first or one of the first to admit that they were part of the discussion group on the subject, which of course is reasonable since they need to know what’s going on. I’m not sure if Tottenham will be pleased or releived. They were not on the list of clubs invited, but on the other hand, removing Man C, Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal from the league would enhance their changes of winning the top division for a third time since they joined the football league in 1908/09 (an application which Woolwich Arsenal voted for incidentally).
Vinai Venkatesham the MD said recently (not in 1908/9), “Arsenal aren’t or never have been interested in playing in any competition that weakens the Premier League. The Premier League is the world’s leading league in the leading sport; we don’t want to do anything to damage it. I see these articles that Arsenal want to break away – we never want to do any of that. But we also have to recognise we have to be in these conversations or we wouldn’t be responsible.”
Raúl Sanllehí, confirmed that in order to do their job as directors properly the senior men at Arsenal were part of the discussions, saying that it was responsible for the ECA had to look to all the options for the future saying, “One of them, of course, could have been the possibility of a European Super League. We had a working team that participated – I was at Barcelona at that time, Ivan Gazidis was there too. It was a conversation we didn’t hide from anybody, not even from the ECA smaller clubs.
“We knew that could be an option and we explored that option. We looked into that in two ways: a way of exploring the real possibility and also how it would help us to negotiate with Uefa under the new terms because every cycle we will negotiate. At the end of the day the outcome was the best possible because we got into a new deal with Uefa within the system that protected the domestic leagues.
“There is one document that has been presented in an article that has Arsenal’s name; it also has Barcelona’s name. But there’s no signature and I can assure you in Arsenal and Barcelona we have not seen the document. It’s a draft… it’s a real document – I cannot deny that – but I can assure I’ve not seen that document…. I don’t know what the future will bring because the future writes itself. I don’t envision, not in the short term or medium term, radical change.”
Meanwhile one league down, in the Championship some clubs seem to be getting very unhappy about the £590 million TV deal with Sky. There is talk of there being enough Championship clubs ready to reject the contract to force a change. And the alternative being proposed is… a breakaway which again it is said, is supported by about 15 clubs.
Here the leading rebels are Leeds United, Derby County and Aston Villa. It is being said they want the Football League to walk away from the 2019/24 deal for TV with Sky claiming that it “vastly under-values” the games in the Championship. They also claim most Championship sides support the move, although of course it could be that the third and fourth tier quite like the money that drips down to them (and certainly don’t have the resources to exist without that money).
Mel Morris of Derby stated last year that the Football League only gets 5% of the money the Premier League gets. He says it should be 25%. However some commentators have noted that the owner of Leeds also owns Eleven Sports who, I believe, ran the TV showing of the pre-season games involving Arsenal and other PL clubs. The thought is he might have an interest in bidding for alternative styled TV presentations.
The last time the Championship walked away from Sky they went with ITV Digigal which then collapsed, although that was as much to do with appalling technical problems as anything else. They really should have tried running the service showing cartoons for six months before claiming it was ready.
One thought is that the Championship could form a partnership with the Premier League and break away from League One and League Two. A spokesperson for the FA said, “We do not think.”
Actually to be fair what he said in full was, “We do not think a breakaway would be in the best interests of English football,” but actually when it comes to the FA the first four words tell us what we already know.
Part of the problem here is debt – the clubs in what used to be the second, third and fourth divisions have huge debts – estimated at being around £1 billion and rising by a further 2.5% a year. There is also the feeling that with new ideas about ways to watch football live expanding all the time it is wrong to agree a five year deal on anything.
Fifteen clubs are said to have threatened the EFL with a breakaway if their demands are not met, but several are now seeming to be backing away from that. Part of the question is whether English football needs the strong lower levels of football that it has and which are not to be found in many countries. If the disparity between the PL and the Championship is too big then all we would see is clubs yo-yoing up and down. At the moment it is a struggle for new clubs rising, but it is not an automatic yo-yo down once they have come up.
- Arsenal v Tottenham update, team news and appalling, flagrant media bias
- Arsenal have benefitted by the world cup break: allegedly.
- Arsenal and Tottenham: which has had the easier ride so far this season?
- Arsenal v Tottenham: not exactly a battle of equals.
- Death by 300,000 passes: how the Arsenal transformation started 2 seasons ago.