Just when football thought it had seen its fair share of scandals, along comes the European Super League (ESL).
A group of 12 men, with no consultation with players, managers, or supporters – with one of them sneeringly referring to those who have slavishly followed their clubs for years as legacy fans – decided to form a separate breakaway league.
Abandoning decades of tradition, the 12 clubs plus three who decided not to be named, would become Founding Members of the ESL, and they would be joined by five other teams who would qualify for the tournament each year through success in domestic leagues
They ESL would be split into two mini-leagues of ten teams who would play each other home and away in mid-week throughout the season, with a play-off system used to decide the semi-finalists and winner.
There would be no promotion or relegation for the Founding members, all of whom were guaranteed £350 million a season from the project backed by BUS merchant bank Morgan Stanley.
When the news broke, the reaction and opposition was so bitter and universal, that nine of the teams involved hastily backtracked and pulled out, including the six English clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs, and Tottenham.
Technically three clubs are still in it – Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus – although the chairman of the latter has admitted that the project is dead for now.
And Real Madrid president Florentino Perez insists that the idea is on standby for now, complaining that the proposal had been for the good of the game. He also complained bitterly, saying the reaction had been so visceral that it was like somebody had been killed, that the owners had tried to kill football.
But that was exactly what the project attempted to do. It aimed to eliminate the element of competition that makes sport meaningful and it fundamentally failed to understand the fan experience.
The element of jeopardy is essential in any contest – defeat has to mean anything as much as winning and there have to be consequences for a poor season as much as there need to be rewards for a good one.
The architects of the scheme also failed to understand the traditions of the game. Although the teams involved, in theory would have played in their domestic leagues, they would have been devalued because there was nothing at stake for them. It would have led to teams running two sides – an A team to compete in the ESL, and a side e made-up of reserve and youth players to appear in the domestic league competition.
That means that a Merseyside derby, a match a clash between Tottenham and West Ham, and a Serie A clash between the big three and the sides from Rome or Napoli, would have been robbed of any meaning. Good luck trying to sell that to the broadcasters and sponsors, let alone the fans.
This exercise was all about money – about the already obscenely wealthy trying to enrich themselves even more at the expense of everybody else.
It was disgraceful, deeply cynical and, had the reaction not been so savage, they might even have got away with it.
Football fans should be under no illusion. They will try again in the future, and this time they will lay the ground out in advance, with well-crafted marketing messages.
Vigilance is needed from now on, because these owners have proved they are not to be trusted.
Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.