Big money, big brands: How did we get to the football Super League?

The people’s game, once run by reactionary dinosaurs and funded by the sale of greasy meat pies and brown ale, is now at the mercy of an unholy alliance of relentless media billionaires, writes Chris Horrie

Thursday 13 May 2021 21:30
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<p>Fans gather outside Old Trafford earlier this month to protest against the Glazer family, the owners of Manchester United, before their Premier League match against Liverpool. The fixture was subsequently postponed</p>

Fans gather outside Old Trafford earlier this month to protest against the Glazer family, the owners of Manchester United, before their Premier League match against Liverpool. The fixture was subsequently postponed

It is a common complaint these days that, like Sam Cooke, people don’t know much about history. But one thing most people do know for sure, thanks to the Abba song “Waterloo”, is that it always repeats itself. More than this, when history repeats itself, everyone knows, the first time it produces tragedy, and the second time, farce.  

The tragedy-farce dichotomy seems to neatly describe the state of affairs in televised professional football in the UK at the moment. The vilified proposal to set up a breakaway European Super League so that the “Big Six” leading clubs, or “brands” as their owners now describe them, could monopolise income from pay TV is not new. Nor is the complaint that all the other clubs left behind in a rump league would be thrown to the wolves including, as it happens, Wolves.  

Plans for a made-for-TV “super league” involving a small minority of the Football League’s original 92 affiliated clubs date back more than 60 years to the birth of ITV. The finances and internal politics of football and television have been interlinked ever since.  

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