18th December 2018

Blog – 17th August 2018

17th August 2018

So, La Liga’s gone and done it. League games. In the US.

The cellphones of Stan, Josh, David, Shahid, John, Joel and Avi (and the rest of Glazers) plus their trusted executive Ed, must have been twitching avidly following La Liga’s announcement. Football is going to America again. But this time it is a Spanish incursion and not the American-owned Premier League clubs which will spread the word in the apparently unconquered land of the free.  On this occasion the “Armada” will continue to sail westwards.

Still, the Premier League’s 39th Game concept remains firmly etched into the collective memory as an ill-thought out, poorly conceived idea. However, the Spaniards have gone the whole hog and committed to the real deal rather than the anglicised ersatz version in a push to win hearts and minds.

But, like missionaries planning their land grab of souls in far-off pastures, does it really make sense to have competing themes when the single deity of football can possibly be honoured more efficiently and profitably via one single point of worship i.e. a Super League format?

We’ve written and debated this point ever since we first covered the fiscal intricacies of football in late 2016. In applying basic corporate and economic principles at club level, the Super League format leaps out as an obvious next step and we have repeatedly said so, even in a Forbes article published just seven days ago.

Indeed our own annualised review of the Premier League clubs – ‘We’re So Rich..’ – points directly towards the bigger clubs i.e. the ‘Top 6’, elevating even further away from the pack, driven partly by a need to seek out new and increased revenues in order to fuel consistent economic losses, but also to break away from a competitive format that, in their view, does not bring enough rewards for being better than the rest. Hence the cash grab for international media right earlier this year and the beginnings of a disenfranchisement process regarding the remaining pack of 14.  The original founding concept of the English Football League, that of a mutual interest between the clubs, is long forgotten.

We made it very clear that we believe that the Premier League is already on the road to its demise. Yesterday’s announcement has reinforced our view.

From a strategic standpoint, La Liga’s announcement is really a prompt to get things moving. It may indeed be the case that those cellphones were already full of text messages hinting or knowingly expressing a view ahead of the official announcement. It comes as no surprise that Relevent, La Liga’s partner in this enterprise, is also behind the International Champions Cup which could, after a couple of drinks and an argument over who is better between Messi and Ronaldo, be seen as a pretend-lets-see-how-it-goes-not-so-sure-super-league-prototype-perhaps-only-in-the-summer kind of tournament.

Whilst there may be a few Spaniards in the works, there could be a few spanners too. Will the United States Soccer Federation allow the presence of the Conquistadors on their own doorstep? Will FIFA step in and if so what action will it take? Will the reaction in Spain and the rest of Europe be negative as it was when the the 39th Game was proposed? In turn, will the top European clubs seek a breakaway? All this and more in next week’s episode…

The situation will be fluid for the weeks and months to come. However, to us the end-game will have two simple outcomes. Firstly, there will be a means whereby the top clubs will be able to make significant profits in either an adaptation of current competitive formats eg a revamped Champions League, or in a new competition ie a Super League with all its protective and commercial traits. The second outcome is the trail of destruction that such developments will leave behind. Local leagues will suffer. Of this we have no doubt, both in terms of quality and financial standing. Again, we have written about this on previous occasions.

Unfortunately, English clubs face further complications from the potential implementation of rules restricting the movement of labour from EU countries once Brexit has been implemented.

Given that the top 6 clubs have occupied the top 6 positions in three of the last four seasons, the smaller clubs must be feeling somewhat disheartened at the prospect of paying inflated prices for players with established international playing records and who also meet the entry and work permit criteria for the soon-to-be EU-free United Kingdom. This, of course, does not pose too much of a problem to the bigger clubs and less so if the competitive landscape presents more lucrative opportunities, whether they be at home or abroad.

It does, though, reinforce the performance gap between the haves and the have nots.

Do we feel vindicated? Not yet, but we can see that the Super League is edging closer to fruition. Even if La Liga gets to stage a game or two in the US, the machinations behind the scenes to push for a more profitable and uniform resolution to the future structure and make-up of the upper tier of European football, driven by the likes of Stan (Arsenal), John (Liverpool), Joel, Avi and their trusted executive Ed (Manchester United) and the other US-owned Premier League clubs (Josh and David at Crystal Palace and Shahid at Fulham –  soon to be of Wembley too) will be relentless.

The risks are large as are the rewards for the chosen few. However, in the quest for the conversion of souls, the game is in grave danger of losing its own.