UPDATE: with the withdrawal of the majority of clubs from the European Super League, the threat to the game’s finances in the immediate term has been withdrawn. However, until fundamental change to address the systemic failures to the games finances and its fundamental values – particularly the visible levels of racism – this threat will not go away. SA 21/04/21
The announcement of the proposed European Super League (ESL), with 12 of the world’s richest clubs forming a midweek league from which they cannot be relegated, is a kick in the teeth for lower league clubs who have been struggling without crowds during the lockdown.
The 12 clubs are proposing to share €3.5billion to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with at least €10billion in ‘solidarity’ payments expected during their initial commitment to the competition.
Local Liberal Democrat councillor Sam Al-Hamdani said: “Calling these payments ‘solidarity’ payments is really galling. Solidarity is what should be shown to the rest of the football pyramid.
“Hours before this announcement, Leicester City – recent Premier League champions who have been excluded from this elite club – reached the FA Cup final. They did so with a team who have played extensively in the football league, including Kasper Schmeichel (Notts County), Jonny Evans (Sunderland and West Brom), Jamie Vardy (Fleetwood Town), and James Maddison (Coventry City).
“That shows the extent to which the Football League and non-league football underpin the game at the highest level. The proposals for this League further the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and fail to recognise that with no Football League, top-level clubs would be massively diminished.”
In the last two years, Macclesfield Town and Bury football clubs have been wound up, and a host of football league clubs are struggling and at risk as a result of the impact of coronavirus on already precarious finances.
Councillor Al-Hamdani continued: “Clubs from the Football League are often at the heart of their communities. The gap left in the life of Bury when the club was wound up was heart breaking to see, and it would be all too easy for that to happen in other towns, including our own, if things are not managed well.
“A good friend of mine, a Bury fan, told me that for his father, now in his eighties, match day was the one day of the week where he still got to go out, socialise, and connect with his friends. When the club folded, that disappeared overnight.
“Each time the clubs at the top of the pyramid make a decision like this, concentrating funding at the top end at the expense of others, it makes the collapse of other clubs even more likely. That will leave more people to mourn the gap where a club used to be.”