With the announcement of the European Super League, many supporters and former players are quite rightly attacking the intention of the Premier League teams involved.
For those who don’t know, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are planning to form a breakaway league which would include Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona and other such teams and trample all over decades of heritage, competition and footballing principles of getting what you deserve through your hard work and the millions of pounds in your owner’s bank account.
I was sat watching the Man Utd v Burnley game when the news broke and found myself in the rare position of agreeing with everything Gary Neville said. This is the same Gary Neville who, growing up as a Liverpool fan, came to represent everything I hated about Manchester United.
Neville launched into an attack on, in particular Liverpool and Man Utd, two working class teams, with real fans and real connections to their cities and I reckon 95% of fans, including those of this self elected big six agreed with every word.
But what hit the strongest for me was Neville talking about his experience as a part owner of Salford City. The League 2 side is one of the few in its division which can ride out the worst of the pandemic and the recession going on around it by virtue of its ownership and he didn’t seek to hide from that. But he pointed to chairmen practically begging the Premier League to bail out the Football League, which whether they like it or not, they rely on to keep the football pyramid alive. When help eventually came, it was £30m (£1.5m from each Premier League team), a pittance really given this is the league which spent hundreds of millions on transfers last summer.
What it showed, which in reality many of us choose to ignore through our romanticised rose tinted glasses, is that the lower leagues and us as fans don’t matter anymore to these clubs. They like having a full ground so it looks good on TV but the big Premier League teams don’t care one bit about the fans, they have TV money to rely on.
Now with their private school type sports day where everyone is guaranteed to be there next year and they all get a big reward just for showing up because they have deep enough pockets, this even more clear and those of us who wore shirts with Owen, Rooney and Henry on our backs as kids, and are now termed as ‘legacy fans’, can go swivel as far as they are concerned.
FC Isle of Man
So all of this got me thinking about a meeting I went to where my club Governors Athletic was due to vote on whether we would support FC Isle of Man’s affiliation membership with the Isle of Man FA. After a presentation from the club secretary, I was one of only two present to vote against the proposal as I saw it as only a bad thing for Manx football that would inevitably damage our own league structure.
But finally I see why FC Isle of Man is needed. They have a dream of reaching League 2, and whether they manage it or not, they’ll be taking the Manx community along for the journey. Whether they achieve it or not, they will be bringing fans from other teams to our island (post Covid) and boosting our local economy and whether they achieve it or not, I’d rather back a group of men and women with a dream who want to support our community and grow something special over some billionaire Yank, Russian or Saudi who turns up to have his picture taken with a big trophy and talks of ‘great fans’ while turning their back on their community during a global pandemic for the sake of a pay day. Instead of that we can fill the bowl and form rivalries with clubs we haven’t yet heard of.
Having accepted I was wrong about FC Isle of Man, I look forward to their membership scheme opening up again in the future and I hope thousands of Manxies do as well because football has gone to the wolves, so why not support a club seeking to do things differently and put our island on the footballing map.