SINGAPORE: The move to join the proposed European Super League is a move which prioritises money and risks alienating fan bases, said local football fans.
This follows the announcement on Monday (Apr 19) that 12 of Europe's most powerful clubs have formed a breakaway European league.
Six Premier League teams - Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur - are involved in the European Super League, alongside Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan.
Organisers said in a statement that three more founding members would be announced, with a further five places up for grabs through a qualifying system each year, with the inaugural edition to start as "soon as practicable".
Speaking to CNA, fans of some of the Premier League clubs involved in the breakaway league criticised the move.
“It seems like the main objective is all about money. It definitely doesn’t sound very good from what we are hearing,” said Abdul Fattah Abdul Shaqur, who has supported Arsenal for 20 years.
“In a way, it does change a bit of my perception of the club. I grew up watching the club when Arsene Wenger was the manager. I always thought that as a club we would carry ourselves properly and stick to our values,” said Abdul Fattah.
“This is probably the biggest mistake the club has made so far (after Wenger left).”
Chelsea fan Khairul Anwar called the move a “disgrace”, questioning the need for the Blues to be part of the league when European heavyweights such as Bayern Munich are not even there.
“I was quite disappointed that even the statement that the clubs put out was a collective statement and not a club statement.
"It’s like they already expected this backlash, seems like they are just waiting for it to tide over and not putting a face behind the statement,” added Khairul, who is part of the Blues’ local fan club and has supported them for about two decades.
"They are disrupting the football pyramid, the ecosystem in England by breaking away from this system."
Speaking to CNA, Manchester City fan Jay Parmar called the move a “cash grab”. He said he would stop watching European football altogether, should the proposed league take place.
“I feel like for me personally, I have invested enough in the Asian game, the Southeast Asian game, that I can get my football fix from there. I love my local team, I love the Asian Champions League. I have no intention of following this cash grab,” he said.
“It’s disgusting, it sickens me to be honest.”
For one, Parmar noted that the move would alienate fans who might not be able afford supporting their teams at away games in Europe.
“For many people, I feel the love for this game stems maybe thirty per cent from the match on the pitch, and seventy percent from the day out itself … It’s all well and good supporting a foreign team but you should never be in favour of taking somebody’s local side away from them … Who can afford weekly trips to Madrid and Milan? It’s never going to happen,” he said.
“I’m a huge fan of a local football club as well and a huge part of that is a sense of community. I think that is what football is meant to be."
SPORT ABOUT ‘MERIT’
The 15 founding members of the league would be guaranteed qualification every season, with each of the clubs receiving a one-off payment of €3.5 billion (US$4.19 billion).
The clubs said they would all "continue to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game".
However, European football's governing body UEFA and the three countries' football authorities have threatened clubs with bans from their national leagues and the UEFA-run Champions League.
UEFA also warned that players from the participating clubs "could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams".
Local fans noted that it would be also disappointing if their teams were banned from competing in the Premier League.
Manchester United fan Haiqal Haffis noted that the competitiveness and unpredictability of the Premier League also adds an extra level of excitement for the fans.
“It (facing clubs in the European Super League) is exciting, but it is also exciting sometimes when you watch a small team beat a big team,” said the 29-year-old.
“For Chelsea not to play in the Premier League, it’s a huge blow. It’s not just about the (prize) money, it’s about the bragging rights, it’s also about the excitement of the Premier League … It’s about the passion of watching the team, the unexpected moments, the history it makes, the fans coming together to watch the games,” added Khairul.
He also noted that should the club only have the European Super League as its main focus, there could be less emphasis on youth development at the club.
“Once you’re in the Super League … there won’t be any opportunities for the youngsters. It will be definitely harder for the youths to break through … There won’t be any space for them to prove themselves,” he explained.
"I am not sure whether I’ll still be supporting them after this incident ... Essentially, it is moving away from what football is - it's for the community, it's for the fans."
Fans also noted that the rarity of big European match-ups are the reason why they look forward to such games in the Champions League. That however, could become a thing of the past with the new proposed league.
“One of the excitement of bigger games is that it happens rarely, so when it does happen - it becomes exciting,” said Haiqal.
“The reason why these games in the Champions League are so magical and so revered are because they are so rare. Look at City, we got to the Champions League semi-final for that first time in five or six years, and that’s why the upcoming game against PSG means so much. It wouldn’t mean anything if we played them every year,” added Parmar.
Questions have also been asked about the inclusion of Arsenal and Spurs in the league - with Spurs in seventh position and Arsenal currently ninth in the Premier League.
“It’s just a collection of the richest and most viable. AC Milan has had no titles since 2011, Inter since 2010, Arsenal since 2004, and don’t even get me started on Tottenham,” said Parmar, who has supported Manchester City since he was eight.
“They marketed this as fans being given the chance to watch the best teams compete more often, but what they don’t understand or have chosen to ignore is that no team will forever be among the best."
Arsenal fan Abdul Fattah touched on the value of merit in football.
“I enjoyed when Leicester won the league or (now) when West Ham (is trying to qualify) for Europe. Sports is about merit, so based on merit, we are not even one of the best six teams in England right now. Based on merit, we don’t deserve it. But, I guess what they go by is maybe by the money we generate and the fan base we have globally,” added Abdul Fattah.
“Ultimately, as a fan, I want to see Arsenal back in Europe and be successful, but this is not the way.”