European Super League fiasco should lead to fans being given much greater say in football – Ian Murray MP
It’s been a very long year of Covid restrictions. We’re all saying, “the first thing I will do is…”
One of the things I’m desperate to do is get back to Tynecastle to watch Hearts as I’m fed-up moaning at the TV!
I have enjoyed the accessibility of televised football this season, but it is a bit stale, and you feel very divorced from the action.
One of the ingenuities has seen clubs covering their seats with advertising banners and slogans. Some clubs had cardboard cut outs of fans that has seen family pets, deceased relatives and even Osama bin Laden making an appearance.
One slogan in particular had most resonance this week, the famous “football is nothing without fans” quote from Manchester United legend Sir Matt Busby, which adorned the seats of Old Trafford to be seen by all.
The irony being the richest clubs in England, Spain and Italy proposed to disregard the fans and set up their own European Super League that would only contain invited clubs and not have relegation or promotion. The pyramid structure in any sport is critical to maintain fair competition and allow fans to dream of playing the best and lifting the most prized trophies.
The announcement united the entire football community with almost total condemnation and anger from players, managers, politicians, and, most importantly, fans. The governing bodies threatened to throw participating teams out of leagues and players out of national sides.
The fans, whose ancestors built these clubs to make them what they are today, saw greed before the community philosophy on which their favourites were built.
I have long said that football clubs are at the heart of communities. It doesn’t matter what club you support or where they are in the structure, they play a pivotal role in every community.
But there seems to be a growing problem in football that money talks to the detriment of fans. It was particularly enraging to announce this at a time when supporters have spent the past year caring for their communities, delivering food parcels, being there for one another.
The opposition from all quarters worked. One by one clubs said they would no longer be involved, and the idea collapsed.
The positive is that it has started a belated debate about football governance at all levels and a well-worn debate about how fans can have much more say.
The UK government has announced their long-promised fan-led review of football governance. I hope the Scottish government announce a similar review for the Scottish game that nurtures the grassroots, like the wonderful Edinburgh South FC, all the way to the Scotland national side.
Of course, Edinburgh knows all about fan involvement in the game. Hearts will be majority-owned by the fans and Hibs have a growing fan shareholding. Fan-owned clubs have fans representation in the boardroom. That allows decisions to be made that serve supporters.
If only we had more focus on the fans across the governance in Scotland and the UK. That way we would know the beautiful game is secured for future generations to enjoy those hopes and dreams of the big time.
Football is indeed nothing without fans. It’s time to treat us better or there will be none.
Ian Murray is Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South