“Do I Not Like That”

The late, great Graham Taylor must have been muttering this phrase from above recently as the 12 European ‘Football Giants’ – hereafter forever known as the ‘Giant Greedy Bastards’ - gave birth to the most ill-conceived and short-lived ‘grand plan’ there has ever been - the European Super League (ESL).

It was a remarkable show of fan, media, player and manager power which consigned this ludicrous proposal to the scrapheap, despite Real Madrid and Barcelona still refusing to accept it could be brought back from the dead. Why? Because they need it more than most. Debt ridden and under pressure to deliver for their success hungry fans, where losing to one another is the ultimate sin, these so called giants have taken two steps forward and a good two hundred and fifty back!

Charlie Shillito, associate in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Nick Humphreys, Employment and Sport Partner, both from Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP joined STL Chairman, Brendon Cross and ex FIFA Licensed Agent and B4’s CEO, Richard Rosser, to discuss the fallout, lessons that can be learned for any business and what’s next for football.

Football is one of the most popular sports in the world, with millions of dedicated fans supporting their teams, it is a huge part of peoples’ lives. Charlie, Nick and Brendon reflected on what they felt were the biggest mistakes that the 12 Clubs made, what lessons every business can learn from this almighty cock-up and what they thought might happen next in the world of football.

Charlie talked about how out of touch the owners were and that they were simply unaware of what they were doing and how unpopular this decision would be. Charlie summed up the situation by saying “In the end, what they were doing was trying to form a breakaway league that, unbeknown to them, the people within their own business and their customers didn’t want.” With club owners going behind the backs of players, fans and stakeholders, Nick said this was always destined to fail.“This was the biggest media story in football for 30 years and I don’t think it’s any surprise whatsoever that there was no buy-in from the players…a players’ career is very short on average and supporting this league would have cost them in many ways, not just financially. It was quite clear that once the players and the media had picked up on this the protagonists would be put in a very difficult position…once one folded, most of the others followed suit.”

The decision for club owners to independently make the decision to create their own league has raised the inevitable question …. how will football be affected by this long term?

Brendon commented. “There’ll be a bit of change, but in a positive kind of way, it won’t be the death of football.” This has certainly created an unnatural shift in the way football will be in the future but not necessarily for the worse. A key point Brendon touched on was that as long as games are still played, the fans’ attention will be brought back to supporting their teams and this whole situation could potentially be forgotten about. 

Richard raised the threat of eSports to live sport and recently quoted stats that the Football World Cup could quite easily be eclipsed in terms of viewing figures very soon by eSport. Charlie responded. “I don’t think football will suffer huge damage at the hands of eSports…. Football fans live for promotion, the giant killing in the cup or the away trip to Real Madrid and that fact is they never know when it will happen again. Football will always be popular, just look at the fan bases these clubs have around the world…100 million Man Utd fans in China alone, 142 million globally.” It’s enough to make your average Oxford Utd or QPR fan go weak at the knees!

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