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Published on January 29th, 2018 | by Bill

Brexit, the Big Six and how a European Super League can right the wrongs of the Premier League

It’s no surprise, that in a country that voted for Brexit, the idea of football’s ‘Big 6’ leaving for a European Super League is met with rancour by English football fans. The concept is so damn foreign. Yet, the concept of Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea breaking away to form a division of the continent’s financial elites could actually offer English football the chance to ‘take back control’ and right the wrongs of the Premier League since 1992.

Manchester City’s transfer spend and lead at the top of the Premier League make a mockery of the idea of a league ladder when cold hard cash rather than wrestling with the rungs becomes a key propellant to the top. Meanwhile, the 8 point gap from the lowest of the Big Six clubs, Arsenal, to previous flash-in-the-pan champions, Leicester City, is matched only by the 8 point gap between Everton in 9th and bottom club Swansea in a 20 club division which is fast becoming about not getting relegated.

Meanwhile, the teams in the Championship, Leagues 1 and 2 clatter into various glass ceilings due to parachute payments and foreign cash injections  with their aspirations being to one day be part of this dysfunctional top tier. The ethos has clearly been to let cash run free and let the markets take care of everything which has proven so unsuccessful in all other areas of our lives.

And yet, imagine a top division shorn of the Big 6 clubs who have grown to dominate all aspects of our game from the league table to the big screens of provincial pubs. Richard Scudamore would be a fine man to lead the European Super League, taking with him his Premier League executives to embrace the show business of the big brand game.

In its place new/old giants would emerge: Everton, Newcastle, West Ham, Aston Villa, the two Sheffield clubs, all outfits which have struggled with their sporting roles in the Premier League era. And that would be half the problem, stopping a new Big Six emerging in the crevices of those playing midweek fixtures against Juventus and Bayern.

Of course there would need to be regulation, something that top level football could borrow from American sports rather than just hosting them like Spurs. For instance: a salary cap as in the NFL to maintain the sporting integrity of the league. Adding the turnover of the teams and dividing by the number of clubs is a place to start. Likewise the pooling and equal distribution of jersey sales revenue.

Then, via Brexit and unburdened of the European competition rules which may have prevented it, a quota for English players aged 18-21 in every top division starting 11 could be a serious proposition. This would instantly increase the game time of our national team talent and inject a whole new layer of competition.

You’d have to cap the number of youth players in academies and bring back the distance rules to stop clubs poaching players outside of their communities but that just makes good sporting sense.

Yes, the England team, supposed to be one of the major beneficiaries of the Premier League when drawn up by the Football Association (before they quickly lost control of it) would benefit from losing 6 clubs to a European Super League with the chance to convert the top division into its original premise of 18 or even 16 teams, with sufficient breaks to allow proper preparation for tournaments.

Then you could have a further return to sporting values with an unabashed declaration in writing that football should be run for the benefit of supporters its member clubs and players via a Football Charter. This could be framed with a living ticket price for supporters living within a certain radius of stadia linked to the Living Wage Foundation living wage.

Even better, a move towards a minimum 20% block share of supporter ownership as a prerequisite of entry into the Football League would be beneficial for governance and fan representation. Add in a ‘Football Parliament’ to replace the FA’s archaic council and you may see the dusty blazers transformed into something dynamic.

Safe Standing would also need to be rapidly introduced, for the sport to truly celebrate fan culture and to allow a route back for the working class and poor supporters that were so blatantly marginalised by the FA’s awful 1991 Blueprint For The Future Of Football.

Free-thinking Football Chairmen, such as the progressive Andy Holt at Accrington Stanley, would have to be brought to the table and their ideas on the equitable sharing of TV revenues taken on board. Of course, there would be a hefty hit in the size of the television deal devoid of the Big 6 but there is no reason the best of English football could not garner enough TV revenues to maintain a healthy and sustainable game.

Add in a 10% transfer tax to help normalise the car-crash transfer market and a levy on the profits of bookmakers on football bets and you’d have a decent pot to fund Supporters Direct and the grassroots game.

But what about the fans of Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea who were there before 1992 and don’t want a European Super League? Such a move would force a confrontation between club and old-school fans that has been long in the making. Whether a majority of season-ticket holders and members against a breakaway could prevent this is hard to tell but continuing involvement in a domestic English set-up would have to come with their club’s wings being clipped to assure the sporting integrity of the league ladder.

Let’s call this reset button, new top tier the Unity League for now and let’s have closer links with our football friends in Germany who might themselves consider waving off their dominant clubs. Unity being something that Brexiteers and the Big Six have struggled with for some time.

 Written for STAND, by Tom Reed

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