Football fans, welcome to our world.
Actually, if you were/are a football fan and didn’t see something like the Super League coming, you were incredibly naïve.
The last 48 hours have been something of a rude awakening for those who still see the game as a working-class-at-play utopia.
In truth, it’s never been that. Even in the halcyon days of the 1940s to 1960s when this vision might have applied, it was always the mill owner who ran the club rather than the mill workers.
In the 21st century, we’ve moved on from the mill owners to oligarchs, dictators and hedge fund parasites. And they’re everywhere throughout the sporting world. It was only a matter of time before they tried to control football.
Golf’s long embrace of Super League style people
In golf, we’ve embraced brutal dictatorships, questionable regimes, and dodgy dealers for longer than most.
We’re already in bed with and ignoring the disgusting habits of Saudi Arabia and China, possibly the two most repressive and brutal regimes on the planet. We are best buddies with the United Arab Emirates, where “Lock Up Your Daughters” is actual policy rather than a crappy sixties movie.
But even golf draws the line somewhere. The Premier Golf League is golf’s version of football’s proposed Super League, a plan hatched by financial whizzes backed by Saudi money to effectively take over the global elite game.
For over a year, with well-placed leaks in the media, the people behind PGL have been trying to push their agenda of 18 worldwide events based on teams. They want to rip up the staple diet of weekly 72-hole tournaments as preferred by the PGA and European Tour.
Their problem is that elite golf is not already owned by the oligarchs, the dictators and the hedge fund parasites. That’s not to say they have no influence. But elite golf is pretty much owned by the players, and that’s who PGL have to convince.
Rory McIlroy’s stance is one PGL can’t get past
There are some – probably many – within the world’s top 100 golfers for whom the added riches of the PGL are a compelling attraction. However, there seem to be a majority who share the view of Rory McIlroy, who has publicly stressed his opposition to PGL and the source of the money behind it.
McIlroy has been the most vocal, but he is not on his own. Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and other leading players have backed him. Public support, so far, seems to be confined to the ageing and increasingly irrelevant Phil Mickelson.
Golf’s PGA Tour is a player-owned enterprise, albeit they have it run for them by commissioner Jay Monahan, who has a fair degree of autonomy.
But Monahan does what the Tour’s Policy Board advise him to do, and guess who was recently elected by his peers as chair of the TPB? If there was majority support for PGL, would McIlroy have been raised to such a post?
PGL say that their deal is still on the table. And there are surely some players who want to take it.
But the PGA Tour has strengthened its position in a semi-merger with the European Tour. They also know that the major championships, the game’s crown jewels, are on their side.
Without a mass migration of top players – unlikely to happen – PGL is simply a non-starter.
Players are the ones who can stop the plans
Football’s situation is slightly different. It will not be the established “traditional” fans who stop the Super League from happening, however much they believe they are the lifeblood of the game.
They are basically powerless consumers. There are huge, football-hungry markets in the Far East, the Middle East and potentially America. Their idea of football history goes back as far as David Beckham. They don’t care about the treasured traditions.
However, you can’t have an elite sporting competition without elite people playing in it.
I maybe look at it with a cynical and jaundiced eye. Hearing the likes of Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand speak of betrayal when they embraced the Glazers’ takeover at Manchester United seems somewhat hollow.
But perhaps they are as sincere as their words. If the majority of those playing the game at the top level think the same, the Super League is surely going to struggle for players.
Do the European Cup and World Cup – international football will surely be eviscerated by a Super League – mean as much to footballers as The Open and the Masters do to golfers?
Is it time for the world’s great footballers to make a stand for the fans and the game? As far as I can see, they are the ones with the real power to stop this Super League happening.
Bob’s American foray was a job well done
Perhaps predictably, Robert MacIntyre ran out of steam at the end of his American sojourn. He finished with a 78 at the RBC Heritage on Sunday.
But in every other regard, the two-month trip was mission accomplished. Robert established his name in the US and secured his second high finish in a major. All while not feeling he was entirely at the top of his game.
There’s a three-week break now before he tees it up in the British Masters at the Belfry. When he returns to the US the week after that, he should be refreshed and ready.