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HENRY McLEISH: The European Super League is a sickening example of greed on a grand scale – Scottish football must not get dragged down

A fan outside Manchester United's Old Trafford ground.
A fan outside Manchester United's Old Trafford ground.

The announcement of a European Super League is a step too far for a game already gripped by greed and less concerned with footballing traditions and the greater good.

There is no sense of history, tradition, sentiment or loyalty in this move.

It is a sickening and spectacular example of greed on a grand scale, led by billionaires and corporations who are using the game for their own financial ends and oblivious to the damage they could do to one of the most powerful footballing nations in the world – England.

Henry McLeish.

The game has been allowed to go in this direction for too long. Fans, the most important asset in football, are expected to act as mere walk on extras as high finance drives a manic embrace of measures that confront every decent value in football.

For the game to thrive, it must be driven by incentive and merit, by rags to riches achievements, by a focus on skills and strong links to the broadest range of clubs at every level of the game.

Fans have expressed their outrage at the actions of the few – and let’s remember, this is only the actions of a few – in this plan, and the irreparable damage that will be done if the great clubs in English football persist in betraying these aspects of the game in their selfish pursuit of money is obvious.

Personally, I am  sick and tired of gold plated rebels thinking they are bigger than the game.

The importance of international finance, especially from America, has already brought in alien ideas such as franchising, enriching the few at the expense of the many, and English clubs with remarkable remarkable football histories and achievements are now at risk of becoming also rans.

I have never been so angry about any aspect of football in a lifetime of playing, supporting and writing about the beautiful game and it’s heartbreaking for me to believe that a club like Manchester United would take a step such as this.

As a club they have been wrapped in sentiment, emotion and history since the Munich air disaster and the loss of some of the world’s greatest players, such as Duncan Edwards.

A sign posted outside Old Trafford in Manchester: Tim Markland/PA Wire.

Clubs with that kind of history must have taken leave of their senses if they are willing to slip the bonds of sanctity and mire themselves in such a sellout.

The move towards franchising, elitism without competition, is becoming more fashionable but at what cost?

The gap between different levels of the game is already widening and much of the game in England and Scotland is desperate for finance to survive.

A league based on money not merit

It’s worth remembering that in this new franchise superleague there will be no relegation. Clubs’ places in this league will be based on money not merit.

Some will argue the highest level of club football in Europe is already gripped by money. But this move is qualitatively different and I sincerely hope Fifa, UEFA, the FA and supporters organisations will fight this idea until it is defeated.

Measures are available to the authorities, such as removing the clubs from their premier leagues and banning participating players from international competitions.

Within the clubs players should also be prepared to speak out. The top stars are already earning massive salaries, wages beyond most people’s wildest dreams. They do not need more money and they should be embarrassed to go along with this plan.

Banners outside Anfield, home of Liverpool FC.

Scotland has to learn from this too. There have been murmurings for some time about franchising and unfair systems of finance in the game and there has been a tendency to focus on the elite and forget the rest.

We must be careful to ensure the pursuit of money is not allowed to undermine the game in Scotland at the expense of the common good.

Of course, it may be that this is all a sophisticated ruse to persuade UEFA to put more capital into the champions league.

The scarves of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, who announced in a joint statement they are to join a new European Super League: Yui Mok/PA Wire.

I hope so. But I don’t believe that to be the case. The clubs involved in this plan are going further this time than they have talked about in the past and it is time for people who care about the game to oppose it with everything we have.

Money is a valuable commodity but we are reaching the stage in football where it is something that is worshipped and that cannot be the case.

The game has been moving in a dangerous direction for some time and we are now at the point where a line has to be drawn in the sand to prevent it ending in catastrophe.

This is a struggle for the very soul of football.

Henry Mcleish is a former first minister and one-time East Fife player, whose review of Scottish football in 2010 led to the publication of Scotland United: a 2020 Vision.

 

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