The outcry against the proposed European Super League has led footballer Patrick Bamford to make a compelling point about racism in the game.
Over the last year alone, the pandemic has caused disagreements at every turn; Brexit continues to be an inflammatory talking point for families, and the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis will never not be much-debated. But this week’s news has proved that the one issue that unites the nation is… football.
From Boris Johnson and former England Lioness Alex Scott, to football fan accounts and the men standing behind me in the queue at Tesco yesterday – everyone is expressing their shared outrage over the proposed European Super League.
Six English clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – have signed up to the league, which would effectively rival and then hope to replace the Champions League. The competition would have 15 founding teams – who will split €3.5 billion (just over £3 billion) for signing on – and another five sides would have to qualify each year. The biggest criticism is that these five clubs would be the only ones entering the league based on actual sporting achievement.
Basically, it’s all about money and pretty much everyone who has spoken out about it has agreed that this is ruining football as we know it for the fans.
It is of course understandable why the proposal has gone down like a lead balloon. And it is sad that the passion of sport has, yet again, been compromised because of money. But Leeds United player Patrick Bamford has voiced an uncomfortable point about the united rage that the nation is feeling and sharing.
“From what I’ve seen on Twitter, I haven’t seen one football fan who’s happy about it,” Bamford told Sky Sports when asked about the breakaway league. “Football is for the fans. Without fans, clubs would be nothing. It’s important we stand our ground.
“It’s amazing the amount of uproar that comes into the game when someone’s pocket is being hurt. It’s a shame it’s not like this with everything that’s going wrong in the game, like racism.”
His words are in response to the online racial abuse that a host of players at Premier League clubs have been targeted by, including Manchester United trio Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe and Marcus Rashford, and Chelsea’s Reece James.
The Premier League has launched a No Room For Racism campaign but, as Rashford said earlier this year, “It’s not improved over the last few years.” In fact, Home Office figures from 2020 showed that more than 150 football-related racist incidents were reported to police during the previous season – a rise of more than 50% on the year before and more than double the number from three seasons ago.
So, while fans are right to come together and show that the idea of a Super League is wrong, perhaps this should also serve as a reminder that we are more powerful when we unite against other, and often more important, issues people have previously been too quiet about.