I don’t know how many of you have traditional weekday office jobs, but I do, so that’s my frame of reference when I think about stories like this one. In every office job, there’s going to be a time when you’re dragged into a project that you either know won’t succeed or that you think may be a thing, but that you really, really don’t want to be a part of, for whatever reason.
And yet, at that meeting, there’s donuts! So you go to the meeting to grab your free donut, because nobody in the real world just hands out free donuts, and you settle in and listen to what the presenter has to say.
Then, as you’re listening, your opinion either hardens or changes. You realize that either no donut is worth the boredom of sitting in that damn meeting for an hour, or you start to begrudgingly think “okay, well, I guess I’ll keep listening”, and you kinda sorta pay attention.
Well, a similar thing happened at the top level of European football recently. Something called the European Club Association had a meeting last week, and they must have had a pretty spectacular pastry/treat spread laid out, because a lot of the top clubs in Europe showed up. Also at that meeting: Arsenal, who are a top club as far as revenue, which is why they were there.
Having such a meeting, of course, stokes the flames of “BREAKAWAY SUPER LEAGUE”, which has been a thing since seemingly the advent of the Premier League, which I will remind you was itself a breakaway super league, formed to claim the lion’s share of footballing revenue in England. It’s been pretty good at that.
These clubs either really got addicted to breaking away from things or, more likely, got addicted to the money generated by said breakaway, because the concept of a closed European super league has been a topic of conversation since the mid to late 1990’s, when it was going to be called the Europa League.
Several clubs from across the continent - your Bayerns, your Real Madridses, your Barcelonas, the usual suspects - have kept the idea on a low boil over the years, and every now and again, usually when they’re feeling particularly money-hungry, the concept spikes up again, as it did last week.
The ECA got together, including Arsenal, to talk about “options for the future”, otherwise known as “how do we stick our heads deeper in this giant trough of money, and who’s going to keep refilling the trough?”, and that of course becomes “BREAKAWAY SUPER LEAGUE” all over again, because that, given the world in which we live, is the natural outcome of these things.
Arsenal, of course long assumed to be a part of any said league, came out of last week’s meeting with a different spin. Managing director Vinai Venkatesham did not mince words when asked about the ECA meeting:
“Arsenal aren’t or never have been interested in playing in any competition that weakens the Premier League. The Premier League is the world’s leading league in the leading sport; we don’t want to do anything to damage it.”
Of course, words have very little meaning to either extremely rich people or extremely rich businesses; they will often say pretty much whatever they think people want to hear, all the while doing whatever the hell they want to do. That’s the nature of the beast.
That said, it is nice to hear a sentiment like “we don’t want to do anything to damage (the Premier League)” from one of the league’s most prominent members. It shows that Arsenal, rather than bolting at the first fistful of banknotes waved its way, will at least approach discussions of a European Super League with the health of the Premier League in mind. Arsenal have as good of a Premier League history as any team, and it would be a shame if they threw that all away just to chase a few more euros/pounds/dollars or whatever.
I’m not naive enough to think it’ll never happen; money talks, etc. it’s just nice to hear Arsenal pump the brakes on it a little bit for now in favor of domestic competitions.
UPDATE 8.50AM: Apparently, UEFA isn’t really interested in a breakaway super league either, calling it a “fiction...or a dream”.