By Tony Attwood
A little while ago I reported on how much of Europe was discussing the admission by Uefa that it was unable to cope with match fixing and needed to engage outside help. The story was in many European papers but not in the UK. Indeed I wasn’t able to find any UK media talking about it at the time the story broke in Europe. A few did pick it up in a very small way after we ran the piece but that was all.
The same was true when Switzerland changed its laws so that American officials could interrupt the Fifa congress and start arresting the multiplicity of corrupt old men.
Since then I have been wondering how often the UK media likes to go out on its own and simply ignore the mainstream stories that get the rest of Europe excited and instead just look inwards. My suspicion is quite often, for the simple reason that it is a technique that helps the FA put their message across.
Clearly the FA has a close link with some media because it offers licences to show FA Cup matches and England games, so continuing the notion that those who get the rights must also obey other rules we might expect some such quid pro quo.
So it has turned out to be with what Europe is calling the Gianni Super League – the name given to the invention of Giovanni Infantino (known in some quarters as “Giannis”) of a super league made up of the 50 biggest clubs in the world.
And although the English media are not reporting this much Infantino is not being shy about matters, for this is not a rumour whispered in a smoke filled room late at night, this is in the open, as revealed with Infantino said…
“My vision is that we should have for example 50 clubs from all continents that have more or less on the same level If we want to develop football around the world – and that’s the mission of Fifa.”
This vision, the European press report, is what might be called a “global construct”, built with the help of Florentino Perez, the patron of Real Madrid. It will be a competition played outside, above and beyond the national leagues. It has been discussed and there have been rumours for years and years. Now it is in the open – except if you live in England wherein it is possible no one has yet let it slip.
Of course this is not to say that the deal is about to be done. The only European clubs that support Infantino openly are Real Madrid and AC Milan. Elsewhere, overtly, there is scepticism, but there appear to be rumours everywhere that the scepticism is, in reality, a front – a bargaining chip from clubs that want to enter but which also want the whole project to be worth their while.
But Infantino does have the final joker in the pack in his hand. Because although there is resistance from fans, and scepticism from broadcasters that know they are going to have to pay ever more to get the rights to the games, there is an awareness that one issue drives each new wild and crazy Fifa scheme. One thing that has ensured that despite every possible corruption scandal imaginable, Fifa is still there, still running the show.
And that one thing of course is finance.
Clubs may well show loyalty to their lesser brothers who are not fortunate enough to be in the 50 team league of two divisions. Until the amount of money to be earned is mentioned. And then suddenly, well maybe not. They might do a few friendlies elsewhere, but primarily, it is playing in the World League that matters.
Clubs can be bought because directors are greedy, and will do anything for money. And ultimately fans too want to be part of the big show. No matter that the world has seen just how corrupt Fifa is, if the World League starts without English clubs, then so be it. The English are, after all, the last to accept change and even then they try and do it their own way (VAR is the perfect example).
Given such views, and the ceaseless dreams of Infantino’s avarice, it is looking more and more that this notion is on the move. Clubs and countries may not agree at first, but when others do join, and we are left out in the cold, as the money pot moves elsewhere, then, can you really imagine clubs owned by multi-billionaires not wanting to be part of the show?
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