Pre­mier League must re­sist greedy Euro gi­ants’ siren song

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - This

In the Bun­desliga, Bay­ern Mu­nich have won the past six ti­tles, although they are do­ing their best not to this sea­son. Ju­ven­tus have won the past seven Serie A ti­tles. Barcelona and Real Madrid have won 13 of the past 14 Liga ti­tles. If one was seek­ing a clue as to why these leagues might have lost value in the eyes of broad­cast­ers then per­haps these can­tan­ker­ous old clubs of Euro­pean foot­ball could start by look­ing close to home.

The rev­e­la­tions in Der Spiegel week, re­veal­ing the plans for a break­away Euro­pean su­per league – the old­est trope in the mod­ern foot­ball apoca­lypse sce­nario – show these ve­nal, greedy clubs as they re­ally are.

Not con­tent with hav­ing ran­sacked their own leagues they want the whole of Europe too and when it comes down to it, the prob­lem is al­ways the Pre­mier League. It is the new money too, the fos­sil fuel bil­lion­aires of Manch­ester City and Paris St-Ger­main, but it is the power of the Pre­mier League they fear most.

English teams do not need a Euro­pean Su­per League. Their sup­port­ers do not want it. The Pre­mier League cy­cle of rights that be­gins next sea­son runs to 2022 and it knows many of its Euro­pean coun­ter­parts are grow­ing des­per­ate. The Pre­mier League has raised £8.3bil­lion alone for last month a net debt of €157mil­lion but, when all their obli­ga­tions are taken into ac­count, it comes to €490mil­lion. They need a new model to sur­vive and, short of sell­ing the clubs out from un­der their mem­bers, a Euro­pean su­per league is a strong al­ter­na­tive.

Ju­ven­tus are in a league that yields less than €1bil­lion in do­mes­tic tele­vi­sion rights a year. AC Mi­lan fin­ished sixth in Serie A last sea­son and will vote for any­thing that res­cues them from the medi­ocrity of the last five years.

No one should con­done Manch­ester United and Ar­se­nal hav­ing a role in the whole sorry busi­ness. They were named among the core seven but they do not need this any more than Liver­pool, Manch­ester City, Chelsea, Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur or the rest.

The Pre­mier League has proved it­self to be the league the world wants. Un­ques­tion­ably flawed it might be but much more prefer­able to the mon­strous, sealed-off greed fes­ti­val be­ing pro­posed.

The Euro­pean Su­per League con­cept is al­most uniquely for tele­vi­sion. A com­pe­ti­tion for which you gain en­try by virtue of “tele­vi­sion pres­ence”, as the Amer­i­can ra­dio pre­sen­ter Char­lie Stil­li­tano, mys­ti­fy­ingly at the cen­tre of all this, out­lined in his leaked email. It is made for an au­di­ence out of sight, in dif­fer­ent time zones, an idea that ap­peals to cash-hun­gry fa­mous clubs who live be­yond their means. It cares noth­ing for the an­cient ri­val­ries of the do­mes­tic leagues or thou­sands of fans who fol­low the old pil­grim­age trails to fa­mil­iar sta­di­ums every week­end.

No one wants it. None but the club pres­i­dents and chief ex­ecs who can­not ad­mit in pub­lic that maybe their great team have taken too much of the do­mes­tic share over the years and de­val­ued the league. Or that per­haps their own vain­glo­ri­ous spend­ing has tipped their club over the brink. Men who do not have the hon­esty to ad­mit to the fans of clubs such as Real Madrid and Bay­ern that per­haps they might have to lower their ex­pec­ta­tions for a bit.

In­stead they stum­ble on­wards, des­per­ate to gen­er­ate more at the ex­pense of what fans con­sider im­por­tant. The top English clubs have been able to re­sist, led by the Pre­mier League and its ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Richard Scu­d­amore, who has pulled them to­gether to make the best of their league.

The Pre­mier League is im­per­fect but it re­mains the most egal­i­tar­ian of all. It has a trickle-down mech­a­nism that no oth­ers have. When Scu­d­amore leaves later this year, who will take his place? Be­cause left to their own de­vices, it feels like they one day might do some­thing fool­ish.

Chang­ing times: Fans of clubs such as Bay­ern Mu­nich might be watch­ing a team who are part of a Euro­pean Su­per League in fu­ture

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