By Tony Attwood
Last time Arsenal won the league, the club did it with no defeats. The time before that Arsenal had three league defeats, but went on a run from 23 December to the end of the season in which no league matches were lost. As of today we have had three defeats, and the club is second in the table on goal difference and with a game in hand.
But the momentum has been lost with three defeats and a draw in the last four, and the issue is simple, if the club is to win the league it has to start winning on Saturday away to Aston Villa – a club that has won five out of 11 of its home games this season.
And of course, for us mere supporters who can do little if anything to influence the team, that just means waiting.
Fortunately, however, there are issues to distract us, such as the topic of SuperLeague II which the media seem to dismiss as a mere irrelevance – silly foreigners being silly when everyone knows that the real football, the ONLY football anyone cares about, is in England.
But SuperLeague II is more than a distraction because if it were to get going Uefa will become irrelevant.
Now we know that when footballing organisations make huge cock-ups nothing happens. We might think of the FA and its Wembley Euro final, and with Uefa their disaster of a Champions League final in Paris.
But what has not made much of an impact in England is the fact that the new Super League (known now as the European Super League or ESL) will include between 60 and 80 clubs. Roughly speaking that is every club that at the moment would go into the Champions League or the Europa League. And the attraction for the clubs is that they will not just play a guaranteed minimum of six games. Each division will play as a league of 20 clubs, playing each other as the Premier League does now, home and away. A guaranteed 38 games a season.
In addition, there would probably be a cup or two like the Champions League and the Europa League, and it is always possible that a domestic cup could exist alongside it as well.
This then means that the competitions organised by Uefa will become utterly irrelevant; they will be the cups of the leftovers – the smaller clubs that didn’t make it into the Super League. Although whether they will want to do the sort of travelling that Uefa insist on, remains to be seen.
So Uefa loses its main financial stream, and Uefa is the prime revenue source of Fifa – which gives them both a problem.
But if this happens and the clubs play outside of the Uefa / Fifa framework it is unlikely that clubs and their players will want to let Fifa and Uefa muscle in on their events when they can organise it all themselves. After all Fifa has been shown to be an organisation that will sell the world cup to a non-football-playing dictatorship with a very hot climate.
So how could Fifa and Uefa have been so utterly stupid as to allow themselves to get into this position?
In fact Uefa banked everything on getting a decisive win in the European Courts which said that Uefa and only Uefa could authorise and organise international football competitions in Europe. The clubs that were in SuperLeague argued that this was a monopoly position and against competition law.
What has happened, it seems, is that the court has argued both sides at once. Uefa is not a prohibited monopoly so a win for Uefa. But if clubs want to go off and set up their own organisation outside of Uefa, there’s nothing to stop them. A win for the clubs. If Uefa wants to expel the clubs it can. If the clubs want to form their own new league, they can.
And although most of the SuperLeague clubs backed out of the competition once the media organised its mass protest against the programme, many clubs still need the extra money that will arise from any competition they run. And now with the enquiry agreeing that Uefa showed criminal ineptitude in running the Champions League final, there’s nothing more to debate. The clubs want out.
And once out of Uefa the clubs will automatically fall out of Fifa. Besides, what the clubs don’t want is to risk the health of a player who is worth hundreds of millions, playing additional matches for their countries. They also don’t like the countries that pay nothing towards training the players making money out of the players, while not having to pay anything if the player gets injured on international “duty”. (And that word “duty” will go, as there is no “duty” – it is a commercial venture.)
Part of the modelling here comes from American sports – and it is interesting to note that Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester United, and West Ham all currently have American owners. The others (Newcastle United, Manchester City etc) can remain where they are, since they have spent so much money getting there.
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