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United and the Glazers
The thing Man United fans – and all fans, really – need to learn, and learn quickly, is the same lesson that trade unions and resistance movements have learned throughout history. When they demonstrate unwavering solidarity, they cannot be defeated. But as soon as there is any daylight between them, they can be picked off, divided and ruled. By far the greatest weakness that we all have is love for our clubs, which is precisely what the parasites that control them exploit every single day. It’s time to start viewing the Glazers, Kroenke and the rest – including those in the hot seat at City, despite the unparalleled success they’ve delivered to their fans – as colonisers, for that is exactly what they are. They arrive, extract wealth from the backs of working people, and put up barriers to stop them sharing in the profits from the thing they created. I mean, the Glazers have literally not put any money into Man United: all they’ve done is extract it. How they were ever allowed to undertake a debt-financed buyout is beyond me.
So it’s time to start reading books on anti-colonial resistance, for that is what this battle is. The only way we are going to get rid of them is by starving them of resources. Every single fan should be prepared to bear some personal cost for the greater good: cancel your season tickets; cancel your club memberships; stop “supporting the team” for a bit; stop buying merchandise. Old Trafford, the Etihad (remember when it had a proper name?), Ashburton Grove (does anyone remember that that is what Arsenal’s ground is meant to be called) and the rest must be empty, and remain empty, next season. They need to lose money in every single game, both to bring down the value of the club and to make them start panicking about their investments. They need to be bled dry. If we don’t do this, it will just carry on, forever, and we’ll all be complicit. But if we do do it, we can force them to the table and start making demands.
The other thing is that they need to be saved from themselves. I’m not convinced that what was driving the ESL was just “greed”. That’s too glib. It seems to me that Real, Barca and the rest have genuinely over-extended themselves and perceive it as such. The level of competition at the very top is so intense that the “market forces” they experience are such that they are constantly compelled to shell out for the best players. So, they’ve never had more money, but they’ve also never had more risk. It’s the logical end-point of late neoliberal capitalism: a handful of clubs in a hyper-competitive market that has different competitive pressures – because of the money involved – to further down the pecking order, but the consequence of everyone else is that it leads to a tendency towards monopolisation. The ESL clubs face a hyper-multiplied version of the threat facing any big club that is in danger of dropping from the Premier League to the Championship. It’s no wonder therefore that their money men wanted to mitigate this risk. It’s the same challenge facing all our neoliberalised institutions: the stronger revenues get, the shittier people’s pay and conditions or the service provided becomes. It’s bonkers, but it’s the way monopoly capitalism works.
Ironically, the only way to deal with this is to redistribute money and power more aggressively between clubs and divisions, and shift to a more “socially embedded” form of football capitalism. Markets are only genuinely “free” when huge imbalances of power don’t exist. The very fact that Real Madrid or Bayern or Juve win every year sows the very seeds of their own financial excess, creating a vicious circle of revenues and over-investment, and an ongoing tendency towards monopolisation. If the financial stakes were more disconnected from the sporting ones (with more teams from a wider array of countries getting into the Champions League, and a a skewed distribution of money so that poorer performance generates more money to redress a competitive imbalance) the game would be more exciting, with less concentration of power and the really big clubs would feel less vulnerable as the risk of them missing out for a year or two would carry less of a negative effect. This is basically why American sports, for all their faults, work pretty well: the draft and salary cap achieves the kind of redistribution necessary to keep the game competitive.
…Given club valuations, I appreciate the issue in instigating a 50+1 model of fan ownership. However, in the same way that the Glazers have issued shares with different voting rights, could the same not be done I.e. the Glazers own as much of the company as they like, but major decisions regarding the club (safe standing, senior appointments, right for dividends to be paid, which bloody league to compete in) would all have to have the say so of appointed fan representatives. If the fans decided that dividends were to be paid, then the Glazers could still profit handsomely, retaining investor interest, but encouraging and positive working relationship with the fans and fans’ representative.
We can all dream right?
…So on Monday I was having a discussion with my son about which team we should support next season now that United had gone from being called the Red Devils to actually becoming Red Devils…I was thinking Everton or Villa and he thought Norwich or Wolves or maybe a Championship club. Then some 24 hours later we were pulled back from the brink.
The problem is that despite this abortion of an ESL being put to bed (FOR NOW…the bastards will be back!) as a lifelong united fan I can only see a slow decline in the club unless the Government actually passes legislation about how football clubs can be run. (Can Boris nationalise football clubs?). Woodward’s gone, yes, but despite some news outlets reporting that because this proposed cash cow has been sent to the slaughterhouse the Glazers will sell up, I don’t think this is the case. Probably the only “Consortium” that would pay the price they would want is the journalist-dismembering Saudis! No; the Glazers will stay (as will FSG and Kroenke). They will continue to take 100 mil per annum out of the club whilst Old Trafford will increasingly live up to its name becoming more dilapidated year upon year as they won’t even spend money to fix leaking roofs. Ole’s transfer plans will now be in tatters as it is obvious now that JPMorgan cash would have been used. Pogba (not bothered that much) and Bruno will go. Rashford? and we’ll be fed a diet of “we will continue our proud tradition of promoting youth through the ranks”. It’ll likely come to the point that even my City supporting mate will stop taking the piss out of “The Rags” and start feeling sorry for us as he admires the new shiny mega trophy complex stretching across the whole of East Manchester built by non-journalist-murdering Middle Eastern potentates.
Now, I don’t have a problem with United being crap. I was a regular when goalkeeper Alex Stepney was top goalscorer and was there when we were relegated…so was my City mate who didn’t need a bath that night courtesy of all the spittle he received leaving the away end. It’s just that as long as the Glazers are in charge the only aim will be to keep the club relevant enough to keep the tourist money rolling in and not win trophies. Despite this apathetic lack of ambition I’m unfortunately an addict so I’ll keep watching…until they try again that is.
As an aside somebody needs to let Joel Glazer know that in order to “rebuild trust with our fans” as he wrote in his grovelling attempt to stave off some of the criticism you would have needed to build said trust initially.
I need a drink!
Gary (still just about an ex pat United fan in Pennsylvania) B
Let them do a Leeds
There is one outcome I’d like to see happen as part of this post ESL world and that is the inevitable consequences of their actions for all.
A suspension from European competition for a two seasons, preferably three seasons for all twelve Clubs.
Granted it means Arsenal and Tottenham would be off the hook but it would be nice to know that their hopes of European glory would be as dead as my love for football right now.
The English Clubs would survive the financial impact yet it may at least serve as a harsh shot across their arrogant bows when they see the potential impact it could have on their ESL chums.
To those in the most financially dire situation that is the Spanish Clubs and to a lesser degree the Italians, I say let them “Do a Leeds”.
Financial collapse in the reckless pursuit of glory.
There should be no sympathy or attempts to engineer a rescue for the giants of El Clasico in particular. They already enjoy and waste their larger than fair slice of the La Liga pie.
“But they’re too big to fail” I hear you cry.
“The Champions League would be worthless without their global fanbase” is the predictable lament. Nonsense. There’s plenty of huge historical clubs that would fill the void pretty quickly for a few seasons. Plenty of seasons have been and gone without many of “The Twelve” involved and it’s literally grown bigger than ever.
It’s a credit to the resilience of Leeds United and their fans that they’ve returned with such aplomb to the top flight after their demise. A giant of domestic football that the league survived without.
It was a long and arduous journey but they made it back, everyone is glad they did so and they’re probably better for it. Juventus and Fiorentina clawed their way back from previous scandal. The “product” wasn’t damaged.
There has to be consequences for clubs trying to change the system their advantage alone when their management goes wrong. If administration is the result then so be it.
Even they don’t suspend them, the status quo will eventually see them face economic meltdown
They can’t enjoy a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget indefinitely.
Eoin (let them burn) Ireland
Thursday’s Mailbox: Why would Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal owners stay?
Are City really losers?
Just catching up with the aftermath of the superleague fiasco, and had a wry chuckle about Man city ending up in the Losers section of the Super League Saga – Winners and Losers.
Taking a different slant on it, It’s like they’ve gone to war and left bodies of their enemies everywhere, while possibly converting a few to their cause, relegating some to the non hostile sidelines and neutered the power & influence of others.
Firstly looking at media, headlines along the lines of ‘Sheikh Mansour is the unlikely saviour of football’ from the likes of Ian Herbert would have been unheard of prior to the fiasco. Also while you’ve got the usual suspects ploughing on with their ‘RedWashing’ campaign as highlighted in Mediawatch, it could well be that those others that have laid all the ills of football at the Qatar/Abu Dhabi door for the last few years, might actually start to consider the biggest danger to our domestic game is likely from those owners across the pond.
Then we have the removal of Agnelli, Woodward etc from the ECA/UEFA. These have likely been the biggest drivers of FFP and sanctions against MCFC for the last few years, and with them gone a huge chunk of lobbying & influence against MCFC goes with them. Even the PSG guy now being made up to ECA chairman could have a silver lining, as Mr. Tebas ( recently added to ECA) might wind his neck in with regard to his usual anti-PSG/MCFC/PL diatribe.
Then the money. Its pretty obvious that Barca/Real/Utd etc have huge debt and entry into the SL (as tier 1 team) would give them a big influx of cash for infrastructure & team upgrades and also an income advantage over MCFC (who would likely end up tier 2). Without the SL cash injection it seriously hinders their re-signing/ acquisition of the Messi/Mbappe & Haalands of the world.
And the disadvantages? Not much really. They’ve lost an exec (Soriano?) from some committee and MCFC’s stock have taken a big hit with their own fans , and with other teams fans (which probably wasn’t that big anyhow).
So Losers? Nah. It’s like they’ve played numerous games of chess and lost a rook and a couple of pawns, whilst their opponents have lost numerous queens and had their kings backed into difficult to defend corners.
Scott (MCFC executive for a UEFA position soon?) North Yorkshire
The fish rots from the head down
You have to love all this outrage against the Big 6. People claiming it isn’t tribalism to want those teams to be demoted and left out of the CL. Even though their teams are sucking on the teat created by their global draw to bring in the big broadcast revenues that they receive.
If there are to be any punishments or redressing the situation, surely it has to be at the UEFA/FIFA level first. The fish rots from the head down, is a great saying and so appropriate here. They are all banking their incomes on the backs of club sides – these clubs. The club sides pay the extortionate wages of the players (and their agents.) Yet they want to cram more club games into the calendar so they can make more money. Where does that go? Well most of it into their pockets. FIFA is proposing a Club World Cup in China in 2022 or 2023, UEFA expanding the current CL to possibly 19 games.
But on whose back does all that happen? Ultimately the clubs.
The genie was out of the bottle once salary caps were lifted in the 60’s. Players fought the max wage by threatening to strike and won against (English) owners who absolutely controlled the game (and made money out of it.) With the Bosman ruling in the 90’s, players – and their agents – hold all the aces. Ultimately.
In the free market, a business can drive everyone to the bottom if they want, by losing money in an attempt to drive out competition before putting prices up to some exorbitant level later. There are other ways to dominate. It’s why many are okay with some level of regulation that helps level the playing field. We see the struggle today with how to manage the gig economy to stop companies like Uber from driving down costs and worker rights.
Organisations like UEFA and FIFA control the game and get to make up the rules under which clubs operate – as long as they don’t fall foul of country laws. But with their own self-interest above that of the clubs and the players, do you think we will ever see that?
Their essence is one continuous power struggle. Power within their organisation, power between organisations – FIFA vs UEFA, UEFA vs ECA, UEFA vs EPL and so on.
Letters were sent in about the fit and proper test for the big 6. Where is the fit and proper test for the FA, UEFA or FIFA? Plus, how many of the other EPL clubs pass muster. Villa, for example. One owner was jailed in absence for tax avoidance in Egypt, another is being sought jail in China for failing to pay debts, while a third is implicated in a sex dungeon case. (Not to pick on Villa, just the first one that came to mind.)
What is the fit and proper test to determine who manages the fit and proper test of club owners.
Sure, there will be all the faux outrage, the tribal desire to hit those clubs, but it’s all to gain an advantage over them NOT to foment fit and proper change to football. If it doesn’t start at the top, apart from slapping the clubs because they can, change won’t happen.
So here’s something to ponder. Imagine if the Glazer’s didn’t own Man Utd. Imagine that they didn’t routinely service their enormous debt with shampoo sponsorships and bread partners. Imagine that all that money instead went on players wages and transfers. Imagine how out of whack the balance of power would be in the premier league? Clearly there would need to be a great manager in place to get the best out of the team but with debt and greed taking a large part of the potential funds available to Manchester United, are the Glazers actually a good thing for English football?
Of course not, they’re monsters, but you get the gist.
Joe (Man Utd)
Je suis PSG
It was always a tough Champions League draw for the neutral – Real Madrid + the three clubs who broke football – but there was one fairly simply fallback: anyone but PSG.
And then the past few days happened and I guess it’s a case of Je suis Parisian. God I’m glad Poch is there to stop me feeling so grubby.
Strange times indeed. I assume other neutrals are of similar mind?
For what though? What rule did they break? As objectionable as I found the ESL the clubs, to my knowledge, didn’t break any rules of the competition… They were perfectly entitled to talk about forming a breakaway league. The fact that is a crappy thing to do is neither here nor there.
Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’s a section in the laws of the game about sedition…
They won’t, shouldn’t, and I believe can’t be punished for having those discussions and announcing a vague intention…
The PL cannot just levy random punishments on teams when the team says something they don’t like.
…Remember this time last year all the bottom 6 clubs wanted relegation scrapped and the season voided?
No, just me?
Punishment you say?
I thought at least the Leeds fans would remember the talk of cancelling promotion, no?
Don’t get me wrong I’d love to see all 6 be sent to league 2, just because I love anarchy and its a football manager 2022 wet dream, but seriously lads your memories can’t be that bad, can they?
Or is a club looking to cancel relegation/promotion only an issue if it includes “bloody foreigner” clubs too?
Off your high horses folks.
(If a response comes back saying “well technically they never broke a rule” I’ll cry in shame, as I genuinely thought it’s was the morality of it all, not rule L9)
Perhaps Perez is a genius
I’m curious about Florentino Perez’ comment that “Nobody has yet paid the penalisation fee for leaving the SuperLeague.” If all 12 teams end up leaving the league, as now seems likely, who will this fee be paid to?
(On a side note I’m also puzzled by the use of the word “penalisation”. Surely it’s a penalty fee. This seems particularly ironic given that penalty is a pretty standard footballing word, but maybe Florentino is more about money than football. Hopefully it’s just a translation error…)
Maybe this was never about forming a European Super League. Could it be that Florentino figures that whoever is the last man standing would be the beneficiary of the “penalisation” fee? Maybe this is all a diabolically clever plan to get 11 other wealthy European teams to pay off Real’s debt!
Andrew(Sees right through this fiendish scheme) – Canada
Well woah is all I can say.
I found the whole experience(minus the end) very trumpy. Big, loud and seemingly without a real plan, just promises that it will be great and it will help out football as a whole. How? It will, just ‘believe me’ says the wolf to the sheep.
Fair play on the fans, media, pundits and pro’s who condemned it. It’s rare in life for so many opposites to come together so this was a truly heart warming moment.
On the other hand I am baffled. How did they think it would work? Where is the real plan? Why didn’t they leak it to the press to get some feedback? What was there backup plan? If some how-some way it worked and the fans liked it, how did they think the other competitions would reply? And where do you get the balls as a Tottenham or an Arsenal to even dare to join it?! You can even throw Man Utd and Ac Milan into that mix.
Florentino Perez has not given up which does not shock me. This is only the beginning so we must get ready for round two.
I think I wrote in a unpublished mail regarding mega clubs, featuring this. The Real’s, Barca’s and Juve’s are all mega clubs but it has been blindingly obvious over the past decade that in order for them to financially compete with the PL, they need to change the rules. There is some justifiable reasoning to this. The rules in their domestic leagues are very much in their favor but that lemon has been squeezed dry. They need last 8 finishes in the champions league, consistently, to survive as they are. That’s also forgetting pandemics and recessions.
On the PL side American investment has come with the unfortunate burden of being a financially profitable organization that must push for year-on-year growth. Football is secondary to the dollar/pound/euro for these organizations.
I do not think for one second FSG, Kroenke or the Glazers will leave. The Glazers have taken about a billion pounds out of Manchester and I don’t see them giving that up. FSG bought low and could now sell high but they know there is more to come. Arsenal, who knows. City and Chelsea have eastern billionaire money with ties to suffering and corruption so I doubt this will change their approach. Spurs are Spurs, a new stadium didn’t fix that.
So what next? Well it appears now that the captain steering the ship has changed. Unfortunately for us the captain is us fans, pundits, media and pro’s.
We need a unified, adequate and justifiable plan for the next evolution of European football. Whether we like it or not It is coming, the more efficient we can make it, the more money we can pass around and (hopefully) the quality goes up. We need to decide what that looks like, who benefits and why, what protections are in place and how to ensure the playing field is as level as can be.
Football like the world is changing, it is up to us to decide whether we sit back and watch( which we will) or do we stand up and do something( which we can).
To start- how about we make a F365 European football draft proposals? Fans take part and put their collective input in, The Who what where when why and how of what we want and don’t want.
Whatever it may be, we should create, collect and deliver a unified proposal that makes sense for football and its fans and not bankers, financiers and shareholders.
If we are going to parachute Celtic and Rangers into the prem we need to merge the first 3/4 tiers to create a wider British league. We already have conferences for north and south further down the pyramid so there’s no reason we can’t merge 3-4 levels then split earlier on national level at some point.
If we were so opposed to the ESL wrecking our game then we can’t wreck another leagues. Personally Id be intrigued by games like Forest-Hibs or Aberdeen-Norwich. It would presumably be very good financially for Scottish teams. We have to offer them an alternative, not take away their cash cows and leave them high and dry.
Some interesting ideas for financial reform put forward by Lee in Thursday afternoon’s mailbox. However I must take issue with his proposal to get rid of cash transfers. This can work in an NFL-style closed shop, but it is a nonsense in a pyramid setup. Just to take the first example that popped into my head: around 5 years ago Tottenham bought a promising young player named Dele Alli from the universally-adored lower-league club MK Dons (I wonder what that Dele lad is up to these days? Anyway, I digress…). Now, which player at Tottenham would even entertain the possibility of moving to Milton Keynes in exchange? None, that’s who (possibly barring some youth-team players who MK Dons probably wouldn’t even want). So, not gonna work, sorry…
Lauro (Kyle Lafferty is signing of the season), KFC
Was delighted to read SC, Belfast’s letter yesterday afternoon because it encapsulated a lot of the feelings I have been having about the European Super League and football in general since Sunday. Football is, simply put, too expensive for me to watch and enjoy properly. Being born in 1991, my entire English football supporting years have been behind the Sky paywall. I fell in love with the game in spite of this through playing it, playing FIFA/Football Manager, reading Match magazine, FourFourTwo & Football365. And of course, watching Match of the Day whenever possible. Watching live games was a rarity, either the odd Champions League game on RTE or whenever a friend with Sky invited me into their house. It was not until my early/mid twenties that my parents got Sky Sports and I was able to watch games with some regularity, but by then, it was too late. I wasn’t as bothered, because I had been so used to doing without. Then BT came along. Then Amazon. And now, any interest I have is ruined by the multiple paywalls, and no guarantee of getting the games I want unless I buy all three.
That’s what really rankled me about Gary Neville – the people’s champion – and his disgust at the ESL. His impassioned speeches, his call to arms were made to fans behind a paywall, to fans who can afford to hear him say it. Otherwise, does he care? Does he care that football is taken away from so many people because of the current price, does he care that he works for the organisation that started all of this? Does he f*ck! So, yeah, well done him – genuinely. He fought for something he believed in, it’s just too bad his indignation is only about sporting merit. I will say this though, fair play to Sky for putting all the match highlights on YouTube. It has been really handy for me, and is much better than BT blocking Champions League highlights because my ip address is not in the UK. But Sky though, giving the people free, quick highlights is lovely, if you ignore the fact that it undermines the BBC and specifically Match of the Day. People don’t have to wait until 10pm anymore. BBC couldn’t even have both the FA Cup semi-finals – whether by lack of funds or just not allowed – in a pandemic, fan-less ground year because one of the games was behind a paywall. Which game? The one involving the two teams who might not get there as often, so was more of a rare treat to the fans of those clubs? Yep, that’s the one that cost money.
While I was/am against the ESL; apart from the ‘closed-shop’ element, what’s the actual difference from now? Inaccessible football for the fans, with the sole intention of making rich people richer. Sounds pretty much exactly like football was last Saturday if you ask me. Nothing will happen, and the status quo will continue. The 50+1 rule is impossible to implement without everyone losing a lot of money, and if you punish the Dirty Dozen too much, they will just leave, and start their own league where they get billions of pounds and don’t have to play in the Championship or worse, non European football.. Football is broken, and will continue to be broken until it can’t break anymore.
Neill, (increasingly apathetic football fan) Ireland
I haven’t been able to watch football since the ESL attempted coup. Am I the only one? It just disgusts me now.