There were many collective sighs of relief after the ‘big six’ teams of the Premier League, one-by-one, withdrew from the controversial European Super League which was recently announced to officially go ahead, despite many years of speculation.
The teams pulling out of the league came with its own backlash though, as fans across the country began questioning the clubs on their relationship with the supporters. A great number have felt that money and greed has come first, saying those higher up have ignored what the fans actually want.
Speaking to the Gay Gooners, the biggest LGBTQ+ supporters’ group in English football who dedicate their time to work alongside Arsenal FC, many of the members have felt that Premiership teams agreeing to join the league was a wrong move.
“Fans have embraced changes to footballing structure for the last 30 years collectively on the premise of competition and openness remain at the heart of the game, where possibilities from one club to the next remain equal,” said James. “A closed league with no incentives and the promise of riches not only compromises the integrity of the game, but is wholly degrading to the footballing family.
“No relegation, no promotion, just a mindless money grab that truly disconnects fans from many sense of prospect, engagement or excitement.”
A new super league featuring the best of the best would have taken football away from its original roots of the working class, emphasising football being for the richest of the rich, rather than everyone. Its negative impact on football in the UK could potentially have been huge. Protests by fans outside of stadiums, such as Stamford bridge, and the reaction on socials by fans, caused clubs to distance themselves from the ESL.
Along with the official withdrawals, club statements flooded official websites, with some not saying much at all and others acknowledging their fans – though with none admitting money was the incentive, apart from subtly by using the words ‘financial stability’.
The teams who may have lost out, despite how far they have come within football, is the women’s clubs. After spending several years fighting for funding and being taken seriously as players, bringing in a super men’s league first is yet another kick in the teeth for the female athletes.
“Chelsea could win the Women’s Champions League at a time when the game is growing [for women] in this country,” Isabelle told us. “Sponsorship may have come flooding in, [but] will potential sponsors be so keen on a competition which may or may not start in the near or distant future?
Women’s football has come too far to allow itself to be yet another footnote in the history of the beautiful game– Isabelle
Also, if teams have to be the same, then there is already a difference in top clubs within men’s and women’s football. “The two most successful clubs in the women’s game, Lyon and Wolfsburg, will not be included. Instead, it will be Liverpool who are not even in the top flight, and Tottenham, languishing in the bottom half of the WSL. The standard, therefore, will be diluted.
“Women’s football has come too far to allow itself to be yet another footnote in the history of the beautiful game.”
Even though this has been a big wake up call within football, others have pointed out that there are still bigger issues within the game. As Éanna pointed out: “[I] wish UEFA were as quick to act on racism as they were on losing money.”
Whilst Charlie, a non-Gay Gooner added: “I love football and I’m against the European Super league. I watched the news unfold over Twitter, but couldn’t help but think, why aren’t other subjects reacted to this way in football, like racism or sexism. It’s mad.”
Maybe as football fans we don’t want leagues to be ripped up and money to be a major part of why things happen (though it always will be), but the positive we can take from this is that it has brought up plenty of debates on how football and fans co-exist, and the parts they play in making the game better. Also, fans can make a difference.