THE MAN WITH THE FLAWED PLAN Real Madrid President Florentino Perez was one of the main driving forces behind the European Super League project which collapsed last week.
TEN years ago, in these very pages, I wrote an arch little pastiche of an Agony Aunt letter (Dear Pamela...) wherein a notional Manchester United supporter seeks advice whether to remain loyal to a bloated and compromised slapper of a club he and his dad followed for a lifetime, or to transfer affections to the doe-eyed little belter of a breakaway team formed by the idealistic footsoldiers of FC United.
It was a bit of craic and it took my mind off a failed attempt to breed an army of massive turkey-sized Man United-supporting pigeons (big lads, like) to swoop down on Elland Road and harass the locals. My scheme went belly up when their feathery leader, David Peck’em died during an operation for adenoids.
Anyway, ten years later and it seems the Tiernaur Nostradamus was onto something: Sunday saw the unleashing of Florentino Perez - the Wizard of Odd’s Flying Monkeys of Finance bearing tidings of a 15 (?) or 20 (?) team European Super League to supplant the Champions League and form, not a league but a cartel of Europe’s brassiest clubs.
One wave of his perfumed white hanky and a hundred and twenty years of working-class artistry was supposed to cut it’s own throat and cough up it’s crown for him to melt into golden tiddlywinks. No thanks.
Who do these tapeworms think they are?
What else was in that memo? The transition to a triangular ball? Sergio Ramos permitted to play whilst carrying a flamethrower? It was nuts; we all know why it is nuts, and by Tuesday the monkeys had all choked on their nuts. I don’t want to blow the paper trumpet of outrage at this flying circus of entitlement, but I’d like to echo the warning that they may try something like this in the future. This wasn’t a trial-balloon, this was a heave: more Trumpian than Machiavellian but these Aldi Bond villains were going for it.
Maybe this was a craven attempt to shore up Real Morbid and FC Arse-out-of-our-trouserlona,who have ran their clubs like sponge-hammer shops. Their debts are eye-watering, Covid had chased the crowds away and the loans are due this summer.
Maybe it is just the cologne-scented soul-fart of dull, pampered men.
Either way, they comically misjudged the mood of the supporters of every English club, and it was that tidal wave of scorn which has softened their cough.
Of course this arbitary ‘Big Six’ notion was hilariously off the mark: Aston Villa, Forest, Leeds United and Everton fans must have felt like folk being turned away by bouncers at a nightclub they helped build.
So the common cause and mutual respect of fans of all clubs had a brief flowering and it was good to see. I had comradely chats with Liverpool, City, Newcastle and Everton lads and even my Leeds United mate and blogger, Paul Walsh, who will hereafter shudder every time he sees a pigeon in his garden.
THE brazen greed and cultural vampirism of the Glazers has found its public lavatory shart- echo in the boardrooms of: drum roll, please ... Anfailed, - Stainford Bridge - The Etihate, - The Emirats - No Heart Lane, as well as the dirtiest cubicle of all: Sold Trafford.
It seems that United and Liverpool were the prime movers in this little putsch and that Manchester City’s motivation was primarily reputational. Their owners’ main concern isn't money but the reputation - washing of their dodgy little realm. Manchester City, for all their fine football, is their public relations bidet. Lord knows what Levy and Kroenke were on.
I just can’t get over their brass necks. I mean, Joel Glazer’s letter to the United fans was a sonnet of insincerity and in his video message to the Red Sons of Reason and Universal Harmony, John Henry looked like a hostage being filmed in some little old lady’s vestibule. We’re sorry. Yeah, sorry you got caught.
No relegation or promotion? That’s suspended animation. No Ajax, no Benfica, no German or French teams at all? How boring would that be? United versus Liverpool, not at either end of the East Lancs road but a 5am kick-off at the Golden Camel Hump Stadium and Torture Museum in Qatar. ‘Going to the match?’- ‘Er … if I get a buyer for the house, yeah.’
The question is: what can we do to protect the clubs we follow? Well, it’s hard to type the next sentence without breaking off to punch myself in the fizzer … but Boris ‘Dropped Trifle’ Johnson could be the man. Lobby Parliament to enact a version of the German 50 percent +1 fan ownership model and kid him on there’s votes for him in big northern cities (hahahahahahahahaah).
He has the hubris and the low cunning to see it through and he gets to be the Robin Hood of the working class without having to pull on the green woolly tights, or spend any money.
If fan ownership isn’t a goer, then Parliament could get behind the idea of an independent regulator for English football.
David Bernstein; Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester and Evertonian, and Gary Neville have been having a kickabout with this for the past year.
Among their proposals are a more equitable targeting of revenues and a code of ethics for all owners: if you want to run a club, you have to honour it’s origins and values: not just platitudes and a bouncy castle for the kids. The supporters have had enough of this greed and short-termism.
Man, it has been a rough year all round and I am supremely irritated that these owners thought it would really cheer us all up if we ponied up our clubs to make them even richer. The disconnect is worthy of Trump. So the supporters can’t afford to let up on this struggle. Already I have one foot out of the door regarding United. People I esteem greatly are half a season away from walking away from the game.
It’s that serious, Pamela.
Paul Flynn is a lifelong Manchester United fan.