The Grey Neutral: Will we learn to trust football again?

WILL football fans ever be able to trust the people running their clubs? Although the battle has been won for the time being, how long until another attempt emerges to produce a bespoke league that suits only a few clubs? 

The pandemic has shown that when there is disruption, the business models of the world’s top clubs are put under pressure. Instead of looking at making changes that can benefit the industry as a whole, the solution is an idea that makes the wealthy considerably richer. And in football, that usually means, the more we have, the more we spend and the more we put in the wage packets of the top players. All though the game, living beyond your means seems to be an acceptable practice, from the very pinnacle to non-league. Rarely does anyone suggest a prudent approach that allows clubs to be self-sufficient, but when they do, they are accused of lacking ambition. The 12 clubs who claim to have the interests of the game at heart have a huge task on their hands; to build trust, to repair the damage and to demonstrate corporate responsibility. It will take time and the fans should not forgive them easily.

Mourinho’s off again 

Tottenham and Mourinho, like Manchester United and Mourinho, was never an easy fit, but the timing of his sacking could not have been worse. Firstly, the football world was in turmoil after the dead-of-night announcement about the European Super League – if it was attempt to distract, it didn’t work. Secondly, Spurs were just a few days away from a major final. Was Mourinho sacked because he might have made it more difficult for the club if he actually won the club’s first trophy since 2008? Spurs, earlier in the season, looked as though they might challenge for serious honours, but it all went wrong. Losing 3-0 to Dinamo Zagreb was a disaster, and not a Mourinho-type result at all. Has he lost it? More likely is that Mourinho’s golden time has passed, but the big change is greater competition, more innovation and a clutch of coaches who are good at creating and maintaining their own systems. Mourinho has been overtaken, but there are still many clubs who will employ him – big clubs. It’s hard to see him moving to another Premier club are coaching three of the so-called “big six”. It would seem unlikely he will settle for a lower level English club, but who will take him on? And will Spurs regret disposing of a manager who collects trophies, albeit at a slower pace than earlier in his career?

All quiet at the Emirates

The Emirates Stadium is one of my favourite modern football venues. It’s classy, a statement arena and impressively vast. Some say it lacks atmosphere and to some extent it was always on a loser – Highbury was cosy, historic and quite regal in its own way. It was also a lot smaller and capable of creating a unique vibe. On the day after the European Super League was announced, I ventured to North London and was surprised how many people were using the exterior of the Emirates as a jogging (sorry, running) track or a place to train for boxing, skateboarding and cycling. There was no sign of protest. Spanish TV were there and interviewed me on my views on the announcement. I told them it would not happen and I meant it. Later that day, the wheels fell off the ESL wagon one by one. Thank heavens.

Why does the Buck stop with Bruce?

Interestingly, the protests by Chelsea fans seem to have been the catalyst for a string of withdrawals from the flawed super league. Chelsea came to their senses, then Manchester City followed suit and then it was like the proverbial house of cards. For some reason, Bruce Buck, the chairman of Chelsea was getting some abuse and taking the blame for the club’s involvement. Buck may be chairman, but everyone knows it is not the New York-born lawyer that is the main influence at Stamford Bridge. Nobody appears to blame Roman Abramovich, the owner, or his Russian acolytes. Yet Abramovich will go down in football history as one of the people who created the modern model that is now trying to eat football. 

It was curious that Chelsea and Manchester City were not seen as the main instigators, and there may be a very good reason. These clubs are “new money” and crave credibility and want to be liked. Their early exit implies that they could see what was happening and wanted to distance themselves. Neither are owned by American business people. Buck may be guilty by association, but the fans should not merely turn on him because his passport is the same as some of the other characters in this drama. 


Photo: Game of the People

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