Rob Sainty: Finding a positive from the ESL drama
- Credit: PA
It’s been a dramatic week in the world of football, with the announcement of a European Super League swiftly followed by the backtracking of its English contingent shocking and sickening football fans.
The total disregard for the game’s history and the disrespect shown to its paying supporters by the owners of the Septic Six has been appalling, but it hasn’t come out of nowhere.
Ever since the formation of the Premier League money accumulated at the top of the game, and it’s that money that attracted those owners into English football in the first place, so while the league may well try to present itself as an heroic defender of tradition, never forget that it has nurtured these vipers for years.
TV money has made fans in grounds much less important for Premier League clubs. For example, based on figures provided by the highly-respected Swiss Ramble website, two seasons ago Newcastle had the 19th largest cumulative matchday income in the world, worth £24 million, yet that’s roughly half of what they were able to pay for a single player.
The real money, as the rebel owners know, isn’t in the stadiums of the UK, it’s in the Middle Eastern and Asian TV markets where there’s a huge appetite for their “product,” and make no mistake, that’s exactly what they see our game as.
As for the clubs, they must be punished, but is there a real will to do so among the football authorities? It’s easy for the FA to crack down ruthlessly on Bury Town, less so on Manchester City.
At least one good thing will come from this debacle, however. For some considerable time, the Football Supporters' Association and the various Supporters' Trusts around the country, including our own, have been pushing for the promised fan-led review into football to get underway, but have been met by political indifference.
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Now, as a result of the Super League development, it has now been announced and will be led by former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, a true football fan who is also a supporter of safe standing. We look forward to seeing it move forward.
As for City and their fans it's been a frustrating week, albeit an instructive one. Dimitris Giannoulis will certainly have learnt that having gone into an ill-considered challenge with an equally out-of-control opponent the most effective course of action is to roll on the floor wailing like a banshee, as demonstrated by Bournemouth’s Ben Pearson, resulting in the Greek’s early dismissal.
Hopefully referee Graham Scott isn’t planning a career in casting as he clearly can’t spot a great actor....
We also learnt just how much Daniel Farke’s team have improved defensively given that the back four, and particularly the monumental Grant Hanley, had to pretty much play a rampant Watford on their own as City’s much vaunted defensive midfield was largely missing in action.
Of course, there were reasons, not least the fact that they had to play over 70 minutes without Giannoulis on Saturday and the effects of the promotion party that followed, but it was a tough watch for fans and there was justified disappointment at the performance.
Whilst that’s resulted in concerns being raised about the implications for next season, I don’t share them, simply because City won’t be taking the field with the same side in the Premier League. Stuart Webber has already made it clear that the club were too loyal to those who got them promoted last time and the same mistake won’t be made again.
Now the question is whether, having achieved their goal of promotion, the players, many of whom are running on empty after a gruelling season that started within 38 days of the last one finishing can raise themselves for a final effort to secure the title?
Given the character of this squad I think that they will.