Unprecedented. Volatile. Strange.
Just three words to describe one of the most incredible weeks football has ever seen.
When, on Sunday night the 12 official club accounts tweeted to declare they were joining a European Super League, it was staggering news. But the way the football industry stood up to the biggest bullies in the playground – and won – was the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters. It took just 48 hours to crush some of the biggest clubs on the planet.
The romantics will say the fans won the day. Fan protests outside grounds, supporter group statements, non-stop negative press coverage and social media outrage clearly made a huge, huge difference. The clubs have recognised that fact and referenced it heavily in their grovelling apologies. Who knew that it was possible to grow a conscience in 48 hours? It showed how quickly football can move when it acts to protect its survival. It was fighting for its life.
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The cynics, meanwhile, will point to the roles played by the lawyers and senior leaders across FIFA, UEFA, the leagues and national associations. Their aggressive threats to pretty much erase the 12 clubs proposing to break away – and their players – from any form of competition beyond their proposed Euro Billions bonanza showed absolutely no mercy.
On the TV, star pundits became front line campaigners with rallying cries on a Monday night to stop the European football giants attempt at supermarket sweep at all costs. Direct orders to mobilise were announced live and direct into our living rooms. Then came their impassioned declarations of never working for companies associated with such greed and disregard for what our beautiful game stands for. Bravo! We all cheered. It was box office television. We all lapped it up. They were sensational.
Even the government – taking a quick break from having to sort out a global pandemic – decided to take up the opportunity to get a volley in. A welcome open goal for a Boris toe-punt. They would use their powers to stop this evil threat to our national game. More cheers.
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Football had kicked the crap out of the European Super League. And it felt proud as punch and rightly so. What a result!
But now as the dust settles my biggest learning from all of this has been that when football – and all its stakeholders – really care about something or it is threatened this beast of an industry can seriously kick some ass.
So now football has successfully wrestled the money back I want it to suffocate racism, drop kick social media abuse out of our lives and use its muscle to genuinely transform the grassroots of the sport.
We face an opportunity to ensure this crisis doesn’t go to waste. This cannot be the end. It has to be the beginning of a new unified way our industry takes on issues. I tweeted this week that football only really moves into action when the money is impacted. I want to be proven wrong.
Leon Mann is a sports consultant and filmmaker