Shut down

Old Trafford was the site of some heated protests last Sunday, which resulted in the Manchester United Premier Division game against Liverpool being postponed.

Whether you are watching the demonstrations at Old Trafford last week and an outrageous one Seeing insult to justice or a legitimate kind of dissent, a public statement of finally long-standing grievances, it’s clear that maybe for the first time in English football, there is a real sense of militancy among the fans.

With the super clubs on the decline, the possibility of change seems real – or at least more real than it has been for years. In this case, fans should probably find out what they want.

It is already noteworthy that the serious protests have centered on the two superclubs that have the biggest reason to be frustrated with their owners. The mutiny of the past few weeks feels complex. Manchester United and Arsenal fans both have specific issues with their American billionaire owners that go well beyond lack of success on the field and provide a wider sense of football being taken away from its roots and the people it used to belong to ‘. This is happening in a country that is gradually evolving from lockdown into intense financial uncertainty. There is a lot of pent-up energy that can dissipate when life returns to normal – or it doesn’t, especially when the economic situation worsens.

Lines about procurement may be too abstract to spark public anger. The way soccer clubs, large unprotected social institutions, have been taken over by hedge funds, oligarchs and sheikhs is perhaps a direct example of modern capitalism. Football is suddenly an active political issue, as it has not been the case in the UK in years – and that is happening at a critical point as it appears that domestic broadcasting rights have peaked.

Much has been said about the German 50 1 model, which guarantees the influence of the fans. Certainly no one thinks stronger fan representation is a bad idea, but that’s only part of the problem that is evident in Bayern’s dominance. Fan representation is of limited importance without a new financial regime.

It’s not easy. If you change the system in one area, an imbalance quickly arises elsewhere. Take, for example, the hard upper salary limit introduced in leagues 1 and 2 last August, which was abolished after a challenge from the professional football association. By and large, the smaller clubs voted in favor and the larger clubs that felt artificially disabled were against. The regulations were designed to protect clubs marginalized by the pandemic. However, if they had lasted for a longer period of time, it would have opened a gap between the top division and the championship. What was right for Accrington Stanley was not right for Sunderland.

So let’s get back to basics. Most fans would probably accept some kind of elite: the idea of ​​92 league teams with exactly the same resources is not only impractical, but also boring. Big clubs have glamor. Everyone likes playing Manchester United and Arsenal – and having the chance to beat them. Golden memories do not consist of triumphs over the Generic Team of Roughly Equal Ability XLVI.

But how many elite clubs should there be and how elite should they be? In the past, English super clubs were less elitist than elsewhere. Manchester United is the most successful club in the history of the league, but has only won 20 titles, which is roughly 16 percent of the total possible titles. This is comparable to Bayern, who have won more than half of all Bundesliga titles, Juventus with 38 percent of Serie A titles and Real Madrid with roughly the same percentage of La Liga titles.

This is just a measure of competitiveness. For example, there were 24 different champions in England, more than twice as many as in Italy, Germany or Spain – although the English league is much older than the other three. Over the past 20 years, 14 different teams have made it into the top four in Spain, 13 in Germany, 12 in Italy and 10 in England.

What is optimal? There probably isn’t a right answer, but steps seem best to be avoided. Having a big two or four or six doesn’t seem to help. Championship clubs are spending too much money to fill the gap with the Premier League and there are parachute payments to facilitate the passage of teams in the other direction, raising the championship itself a significant level above the premier league.

But there is a fundamental problem here, and it is that success always tends to perpetuate itself. A team that wins earns more prize money, generates more gate revenue, and earns more TV revenue. You can buy better players, which in turn makes them more attractive to fans and generates more money to invest. If there is not to be a self-sustaining elite, there must be subsidies. For this reason, home clubs in England gave 25 percent of goal income to away teams until 1983, a form of redistribution that helped reduce the advantage of clubs with large stadiums.

The establishment of the Premier League marked the definitive departure from this model, which recognized the responsibility of the big clubs to the small ones. The elite could take in a bigger chunk of the available income and stop worrying about what Rochdale or Cambridge were thinking.

It’s easy to despise the Premier League, but the investment that made it possible has radically improved the facilities and quality of football. To what extent would fans be willing to sacrifice this for a more equitable model? How much should Mansfield say about Manchester United affairs? Would it have been worth saving Bury to challenge Barcelona less?

The presence of externally wealthy owners, which effectively means clubs don’t have to generate their income from football, makes matters even more difficult. However, the problem of redistribution is central. Much has been said about solidarity, but unless the problem of the tendency for success to perpetuate itself is not addressed and the superclub fans are not facing the issue of subsidization and redistribution, the discontented are essentially just hoping to swap those billionaire owners against better ones. The bigger problem is that billionaire owners are primarily needed.

A weekly update from our football correspondent Daniel McDonnell along with the best writing from our team of experts. Issued every Friday.

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