The Tempest ... or Much Ado About Nothing?

Nicholas Ryan 20/04/2021 11comments  |  Jump to last

My teacher said, that everything in life, comes down to a Shakespeare play. So, is the Super League, 'The Tempest' or 'Much Ado About Nothing'? My view is, it's somewhere in-between...

Those well-salaried place-holders at FIFA and UEFA seem to have no sense of irony, when they explode into apoplectic rage at businessmen being... well... businessmen. If you encourage foxes into the chicken coop it's never going to end well.

Let's be clear, I am firmly against the Super League which has been announced; However and it's a big however, this is a problem which could and should have been addressed years ago.


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The Champions League has to make money. It must have been clear, that the armchair soccer fan in the Far East is unlikely to tune in to a contest, between the team placed 2nd in Finland and the winners in Montenegro. However, he, and increasingly, she, IS likely to tune in, to Everton v Feyenoord or Aston Villa v PSV.

So, arrangements should have been made 20 years ago, to admit the 'nearly men' of England, Holland, Germany etc. to the 'VIP section', which is the Champions League. I suspect that Barca and Real would have been only too pleased, to have come across Everton, Aston Villa or West Ham in the early stages. Not only would those teams provide a competitive contest and a good TV audience, but they would have taken 10,000 fans, who would have spent their money in Spanish bars and Spanish hotels.

But the bloated bureaucrats of Zurich and Basel, were too slow and conceited to see what was coming, with the globalisation of football.

They already had a good and competitive product; it just needed tweaking, but they missed their moment.

The Europa League was an inadequate sop to the '2nd rank' clubs of the bigger countries. It was never properly funded and it took 19 matches to get from qualifying to winning. No wonder, many English clubs saw it as the 'curse' of the Europa. In 2008, Rangers made the final of the Europa League and, famously, received less prize money than Celtic, who went out in the 1st round proper of the Champions League.

So UEFA allowed this sore to fester over many years. Then, came the 'big money'. American and Russian investors bought football clubs, not because they had supported them as a child, but as ruthlessly efficient money-making operations.

The likes of Stan Kroenke and Abramovitch don't put a billion dollars into a venture because it's a plaything; they intend to see, at some point, a very considerable return on their investment. And, they want their asset to be saleable.

Large-scale investors like certainty, predictability and a continuous income stream, against which they can, if necessary, borrow.

They almost certainly will have similar scale investments in other parts of the world e.g. Fenway Sports, with the Boston Red Sox.

Fenway will have done their sums and realised, that their 'armchair' fans in China and the Far East, buy more merchandise and pay for more TV viewings, than anyone on Merseyside possibly could. Even Klopp, said he was stunned, when LFC played in Hong Kong and 60,000 people in Liverpool tops turned up.

Therefore, they [Fenway] don't actually care, if all the fans in Liverpool boycott them and move away; these are the lowest 'dollar per head' fans in their world; and Fenway will cry crocodile tears for a week, before putting up the prices of their replica kits in Singapore.

The money men regard us Scousers as rather 'quaint'; we're OK to add a little spice and colour to the proceedings, but at the end of the day, we don't spend much, so we can be quietly jettisoned.

So, what's to be done? Well, a knee jerk 'get rid of the traitors' reaction, though understandable, would probably be the worst thing possible.

Why? Because these are shrewd businessmen; they will have anticipated and factored into their calculations, the outrage of supporters and they will, in my view, be quite willing to be expelled from their 'home' leagues.

To declare a completely separate League structure, would be currently too radical and possibly unlawful. They will wait and then say, 'We had no choice, we were thrown out'. Make no mistake, the longer term plan of the Twinkling Twelve IS to establish a totally separate entity, with its own TV and streaming deals.

At that stage, the rest of us will have to decide, whether to 'beat 'em or join 'em'. It won't be an easy choice. For the immediate future, while the 12 stay within the present structures, this is not a disaster. Five years from now, however, existentially vital decisions will have to be made.

There may be some comfort to be had from cricket. Kerry Packer and the IPL have done something similar. The IPL is now, arguably, in terms of a TV audience, the biggest sporting show on the planet. And yet, Test Match cricket is thriving. All 5 days of the India Test at Old Trafford in September are sold out already. Live attendances for the county 20-over tournament in summer 2019 topped one million. A live-stream from the Oval of a Surrey-Middlesex match recently, attracted 240,000 viewers.

The one thing I think the 12 had not anticipated, was the direct involvement of governments; Both Johnson and Macron have said they are ready to enact legislation to protect football, if necessary. That could be a game-changer.

So, what do we, as Evertonians do? Well, as they say: 'Keep Calm and Carry On'. For the moment, we should encourage the Dirty Dozen to stay within the existing league structures; and we should see where the cards are going to fall, before we take any action.

This is the moment, to stress and trumpet the fact that we are 'The People's Club'; there will be thousands or even millions of disenchanted fans around the world, who will rally to that idea and find us their ideal port in a storm.

But, let's not kid ourselves; things have changed forever this week and will never be the same again. The wolves have thrown off their disguises and are now running amok amongst the poultry!

The people who watch their TVs and screens in China and America are those who now count. Those who attend religiously at grounds in northern industrial towns, are neither here nor there.

So, let us hope, that in Shakespeare's words, we don't sell out to 'The Merchant of Venice' we can enjoy 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and we end up with 'All's Well that Ends Well'.

Nick Ryan.

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Reader Comments (11)

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Barry Rathbone
1 Posted 20/04/2021 at 21:20:58
Thing is there are "super leagues" in each country this movement has just exposed how many of the cabal comprising such leagues are self serving chancers.

The published debt figures show the clowns bought success "on tick" and can't afford the repayments. Inadvertently the opportunity has arose to dismantle their fifedoms but I doubt it will be taken.

Fun while it lasted though

Si Cooper
2 Posted 20/04/2021 at 22:34:51
Nicholas, you come across as one in thrall to the ‘shrewd businessmen’ as if what they plan to do can only be sensible.
Don’t forget these people will have gone through a ‘fit and proper owners’ check where it should be made abundantly clear that they are not just acquiring a business, they are expected to be trusted custodians, and that is for what they are calling ‘legacy’ fans as well as the global audience.
Make no mistake, this was ‘Terra-forming’ not ‘evolution’, with the powerful (and yet more power hungry) trying to engineer an opportunity to pocket £300 million each and set up a protected cash cow competition without having to relinquish any of what they already have.
Audacious and preposterous at the same time. Fortunately people have seen how far beyond ‘it’s just business’ this scheme went and rightly threatened severe reprisals (a sort of reactive regulation I suppose). The businessmen have for too long seen toothless regulation in many markets as empty threats. Hopefully now the worm has turned.
Professional football desperately needs some common-sense reforms. The wage inflation / agents fees have to come in for intense scrutiny and hopefully the clubs can now come together to agree to sensible limits so that all clubs can look forwards to a healthy financial future whilst still allowing healthy competition and the prospect of advancement for well run clubs / well coached teams.
Danny O’Neill
3 Posted 21/04/2021 at 15:04:06
With the dust settling, there is a great deal of irony over the events of the past few days.

The Premier League and UEFA's Champions League put us on this course many, many years ago. How the fans of clubs who got invested in by Billionaires lapped it up along the way. The same fans that were understandably outraged yesterday. But should they have been? They have dined off the success of the businessmen that have invested in their clubs. Businessmen; people who are in it to make money. Why were they shocked?

I called the very point you make yesterday. These owners care not for the match going fan who pretty much only pays for their entrance. Maybe a half time pint and a sausage roll. The rest is spent in their local or regular match day pub, not going into the pockets of the club. Much better to have a business model that projects the product onto the screens of consumers thousands of miles away, willing to spend much more on subscription, club membership for a ruler, pencil and calendar and spend endless amounts ordering merchandise online. And then fill a stadium in Australia, Thailand or China for expedition matches. Expedition matches that may eventually become the actually competitive ones as the franchise is exported.

My question is whether this is a defining moment? Do we now review and genuinely overhaul our football system from the grass roots up (that is what is needed)? Or just fudge our way back to the status quo now that the Premier League and UEFA are the apparent "good guys". What I consider the movement(s) that set the conditions for this "crisis" is now potentially going to take the moral high ground and sell themselves as the saviours. Only to have this very concept happen in future, just dressed up differently and presented by a different body of people.

Andrew Ellams
4 Posted 21/04/2021 at 15:10:28
Just got a notification from Sky telling me that they will be showing the Liverpool v Man Utd and Man City v Chelsea games in May. Short memories haven't they.
Danny O’Neill
5 Posted 21/04/2021 at 15:29:09
No shame Andrew. Crisis over, nothing to see here!

The lapdogs will lap it up as though nothing happened.

Ron Sear
6 Posted 22/04/2021 at 12:08:58
Sorry mate but most of us want a pound of their flesh, better still hit them with everything they deserve:

Revenge should have no bounds. – Hamlet

Nicholas Ryan
7 Posted 23/04/2021 at 09:39:20
Seems I wrote this article 24 hours too early! In one day the story did actually move, from The Tempest to Much Ado About Nothing!

As for the Dirty Dozen, I can't help reflecting, that in the past, in the Royal Navy, unsuccessful mutineers were hung "from the highest yardarm in Portsmouth Harbour" and in the Army, they were shot in front of their comrades.

What will happen to this lot? Probably nothing!

Alan J Thompson
8 Posted 24/04/2021 at 05:40:07
Nicholas(#7); So you come not to praise The Six but to Bury them? And what was that line about being surrounded not by lithe and ambitious men but those well fed? Now is the winter of their discontent... we could be here all day, the Barred... sorry, Bard
Kieran Kinsella
9 Posted 24/04/2021 at 05:46:07

Hopefully he’s not doing a Marc Anthony in which case he’s going to rile us all up to kill the Brutus/Cassius lot eg BORIS/DBB and exonerate the fuckers eg Henry.

Nicholas Ryan
10 Posted 24/04/2021 at 08:51:10
With the collapse of the breakaway and the result at Arsenal, I suppose you could say: 'And now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer...'

Okay, I'm going....!

Alan J Thompson
11 Posted 24/04/2021 at 13:44:42
You take care, Nicholas, or they'll find you in a car park in Leicester.

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