Revenge is a dish best served in stifling 40 degree heat. Having had its 2022 World Cup bid process vilified across Europe as a corrupt sham, Qatar is out to further tug, nay tear, at the fabric of continental football.
The prospect of a biennial ‘Dream Football League’ encompassing 24 elite clubs from the summer of 2015 – paid around £175m each just for turning up – threatens to solidify the already entrenched power of those participating.
Even the name of the event makes me want to reach for a bucket. It’s a title which so obviously comes from people whose interest in football stretches back no more than a few years and are only attracted by the vicarious prestige of being associated with the world’s game, rather than any inherent passion for it.
It is then, the logical next step for the professional game which has sold off more of its soul with every passing season. Sponsor-creep has been inexorable; brands and logos pervade every press conference and training session. Indeed, football clubs themselves are now ‘brands’ and ‘projects for growth’.
Uefa won’t like it as it completely screws up Financial Fair Play, which was already standing accused of benefiting the big clubs. It would also totally undermine the Champions League’s status as the world’s premier club tournament.
Fifa won’t like it because it provides club football with a format which allows close comparison with the World Cup – further highlighting the gulf in quality between international and club football. The month of June is also used in odd years for international qualification games. The fiery club vs. country clashes are set for another ignition spark.
Players won’t like it (this one’s harder to justify) as those involved will see their twice-yearly sabbaticals disappear. At least they’ll be more than adequately rewarded for their troubles; for it can be guaranteed that their agents will successfully press for the direct trickle-down of funds. Those watching from the sidelines will naturally resent the life-changing sums these players command for a few weeks’ work.
Clubs won’t like it because the financial benefits for those involved will largely flow to players and agents. Of course, if it’s going to happen then no club will want to be on the sidelines and will lobby hard for their inclusion. The DFL will lead to jumbled priorities on and off the pitch and create unforeseen PR problems for clubs to assuage the sentiments of the ‘traditional’ fan. Which brings us to…
Fans won’t like it as it increases the disconnect (geographically and less tangibly) between themselves and the clubs they support and the game they love. Foreign ownership, higher ticket prices and the loss of atmosphere at games have all been driven by the flow of money into football, certainly in England. More money has also demanded more football be played. Which is where we are again with the DFL.
As a fan of a team likely to be on the fringes of this potential behemoth I am naturally torn between wanting them to be included (for reasons of money buying success) and hoping they remain ‘pure’, having no part in this travesty. I’d like to think I’d side with the latter outcome, though there would be a not inconsistent jealousy felt towards the teams able to hoover up all the best players due to their swollen turnovers.
The golden goose is morbidly obese
Changes to the Champions League are now almost unavoidable. The pressure for a closer-knit, top-heavy ‘super league’ style tournament will be very difficult to resist. This would be a humiliating blow to Michel Platini who has trumpeted the rejigging of the tournament to make it easier for teams from outside the powerhouse leagues to make the group stages.