Why Change is Inevitable For Arsenal And the Sleazy Six
“If this project did not work, another one will. Remember; all the 12 clubs have signed a biding contract.”
“We have been working for many years on this project. Perhaps we have not known how to explain it – It is not just a chosen few. The founding members are those who have earned it. The clubs who have made Champions League semi-finals & finals, and who have fans all around the world.”
We can say what we want about Florentino Pérez and the manner in which he has continued his efforts at communication in the wake of the “failed” act of forming the European Super League. But the truth remains that many of the words he still uses to champion the idea and its potential creation are ominous indeed.
“I believe the English clubs have NOT totally left. They are tired of the backlash that this project has produced, I have seen them work on this with a lot of excitement. The contracts were binding and were signed.”
Tongue in cheek? Perhaps, but such staunch defense of an entity that at the moment does not exist in practice and only in theory would be a very strange hill to die on for the Madrid-native. In that light, we all need to rely on that old adage that there is no smoke without fire.
What amounted to nothing more than an attempted hostile takeover akin to a corporate boardroom coup d’état was that smoke. The fire has not yet been discovered as it slowly burns under a smoldering pile of laundry in the basement. It certainly has yet to be extinguished, if that is even possible.
Football being the global monstrosity that it is – and I use that term as one of both affection and hatred – was always going to become subjected to something like this. The writing has been on the wall for decades, and many in England (or those that support English clubs) either forget or do not want to acknowledge the fact that the Premier League they adore so much was, and has been, the chief architect of the current landscape.
No other football league – or overall pyramid – has more billionaire involvement amongst its ownership core than English football, which is directly tied to the financial juggernaut that it is.
Back in 1992, under the influence of Sky, the first season of the Premier League commanded revenue of ~350million pounds. 26-years later, revenue for the 2018-19 season was a staggering 5billion pounds. This is something that Michael will be touching on in a more in-depth piece to come, but the very short sentiment behind those numbers is the undeniable and almost irreversible fact that the absolute maximization of money by billionaires was always going to occur.
Everyone is fully aware as to why the likes of Roman Abramovich, Sheikh Mansour, the Glazer family, John Henry, and Stan Kroenke have dug in deep on the Premier League front; money. Some will say that Mansour and Abramovich are more in it for the sporting aspect, championing spending programs to build clubs a platform of success rather than profit and sustainability, but regardless of the motivations, billionaires go where the money is. Where the money will continue to grow.
It is estimated that Premier League revenue will increase another 1.2billion pounds in the next five years, and not only does that equate to the current crop holding firm in their grip at clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, but the notion that more will continue to follow in their wake.
In that light, the reality that we must all come to terms with is that Stan Kroenke and KSE are not going anywhere. And even if they were to sell Arsenal for what would likely be a massive profit, there is no guarantee the new owner would not be the same – or worse – than the former. And it would be the same reason why Mansour is set to remain. Why Abramovich will likely be around for a while. Why the Glazers will want to circle the wagons and try to do a better job than Custer managed to do; profit.
But one of the other realities of the Premier League is that it remains answerable to greater entities; UEFA, who answer to an even bigger presence in FIFA. And both remain just as corrupt as each other, while the Premier League is highly suspect in its own right. And it is this very sentiment that those at the helm of the big six who tried to wiggle their way free to the Premier League tried to pass-off as them trying to save football. To be masters of their own billionaire boys club that was answerable to no one but themselves, the founders.
Make no mistake, what was phrases as an alternative to the Champions League had all the hallmarks of a sporting entity that could have – and would have – eventually formed into a full league of its own. Where only the rich need apply, and if you wanted a seat at the table but came up short on the financial angle, you possibly would remain subservient in some manner. A very mafia way of handling things. Corporate, with a large splash of the old world.
This was a power play that you would see on wall street, one that was hastily put into action well ahead of the desired time-table. Pérez’s words echo that sentiment, too. And it also drops bread crumbs as to why Kroenke and KSE have been so staunch at digging into the club in the manner of which they have; this has been in the works for years and Arsenal’s owners were in on it from the ground floor. Everything they have done has been with this in mind; to be on the right end of the history they hoped to successfully write and make a killing in the process.
There are many key facets of the Super League that look very familiar to American sports fans, or those across the globe that are well-versed in all matters NFL, NBA, or MLB. And there is no reason to go into the details of it as they are readily available in the wake of it’s current demise, but the reason I am writing this is because I live in a country full of ownership consortiums and singular owners of sports franchises that, no matter how much backlash is seen, they very rarely release their stranglehold unless they receive an offer they simply cannot refuse.
If there is an avenue to make more money, they will take it with both hands and not let go. The base-level numbers behind the Super League regarding guaranteed revenue for each participant club was so great that there is no way these owners will pass that up in the long term. The idea is not dead, it is simply back at dry dock for a considerable refit that reflects the current climate.
I do not fault supporters for protesting against ownership on Friday. I do not fault supporters for speaking out against the Super League which takes every aspect of football that we hold dear and flushes it directly down the toilet. But at the end of the day, you don’t matter; we don’t matter.
Local support of clubs – Premier League or otherwise – is not enough to stop the natural expansion of a sport that has the most global appeal. There are more Manchester United fans outside of England than inside its borders, and the growth of fanbases around the world reflects that for every club that tried to break away from the collective.
The International Champions Cup is proof positive that clubs do not need to rely on local tribes to back them. Back in 2014, University of Michigan Stadium played host to Manchester United and Real Madrid to the tune of 109,000+ in attendance; a match that sold out in minutes. Four years later, Michigan was once again the venue with over 101,000 turning up to watch Liverpool and United clash in the summer tournament.
Arsenal, and the other clubs that were at the fore of an attempted revolution, are too big to fail in this regard. There will always be fans to support, to buy apparel, to follow on social media, to pay exorbitant price to watch the club they support (for one reason or another). Ownership knows that, and they bank on it – literally.
A quick glance at the latest Forbes rich list for football clubs shows eleven of the twelve founding Super League clubs in the top fifteen on Forbes’ list, with AC Milan just outside of it in sixteenth. This was always about more money, while having no one to answer to. And that is precisely the reason this idea is not – and will not – fade into extinction. It is the reason that Kroenke, or whomever could take his place, is only in it for the money…and why they won’t go away.
The landscape that defines the German Bundesliga does not and cannot exist in England, either. Billionaires do not get into situations where they have millions of people to answer to. There will never be near-parody in English football when it comes to elite clubs and those that follow them to the ends of the earth. That ship has sailed…in fact, it would not even get out of the harbor if it tried to slip out in the middle of the night while the guards were asleep.
It is a sad day when countless have to realize that we have been in bed with the enemy for years, even if the enemy came with a different signature. Be it Kroenke, Sky, UEFA, or the Premier League as an entity, once money became the driving force behind football in England – and globally as a whole – course correction was likely irreversible on a grand scale.
While a last bastion like Germany can try its best to hold out as long as possible, and hopefully survive collectively on the back of 50+1 as a chief boost to the immune system, England and the Premier League has only witnessed its first of many events that will keep it on an inevitable collision course with the growth of financial elitism and the desire to answer to no one while sitting pretty on a Scrooge McDuck pile of coin.
I love this club…this game. If you are reading this, chances are you do too. But the harsh winds of change have been blowing for decades, and what is to come cannot be stopped. Football will always be at the mercy of powerful forces that want to enact change, and this is no different. Change will come, it is just a matter of when.