Football in England Is Broken and Something Needs To Change

I support the creation of a European “Super League”. There, I said it.

This is not a popular viewpoint, I know. But I’ve thought about this for a long time and I’m in favour. The current system is broken and I can’t see how it can ever be fixed. Not without a major shake-up, anyway, comparable to that which took place when the Premier League broke away from the rest of the pyramid.

Before I get into why I feel this way, allow me to lay my cards on the table. I’m a Sheffield United supporter of 33 years. Even though I left for the Philippines in 2016, I still manage to get to around five to ten games a season, home and away.

I realise everyone will now claim “sour grapes” because, at the moment, we’re shit. But I can assure you, I came to this conclusion last season, during one of my most enjoyable seasons as a supporter. I was able to watch a generational talent, the best I’ve ever seen pull on the red and white strips, as we brushed aside pretty much every team in the league with ease. 

When I Were a Lad…

I don’t want to sound like a boring old man, even though I am a boring old man, and claim that “things were better in my day”. But they were. Big teams like Liverpool had a stranglehold on the title, but many other teams were still in with a shout. The year I was born, Liverpool won the league, but Watford – Watford – finished second. Spurs won the FA Cup, beating QPR in the final. 

The first season I attended a game, Arsenal won the title, but Crystal Palace finished third. Coventry and Wimbledon lifted the FA Cup in 1987 and 1988. In my first campaign as a fully-fledged fan, the unmentionables from across the city finished third and qualified for Europe. Blackburn won the league in 1995.

What’s my point here? Well, none of those teams I’ve mentioned can even dream of cracking the top six these days. It’s literally impossible.

The Impossible Dream

I know someone will mention Leicester, but let’s be real. A billionaire bought them, they had one season of glory and now they’re in the Championship, despite banking Champions League moolah. So how sustainable was that? Yeah, it wasn’t. And that’s the absolute best you can hope for nowadays.

I don’t enjoy Premier League football any longer. I really don’t. Some of this might be due to my age. I’m 41 now, so you could rightly say that maybe I should have grown out of supporting a football team by now. But at the moment, it all just feels like “what’s the point?”

We all want our teams to go as far as possible and win every game. Of course I’ll be cheering every kick next season in the Championship, hoping we can win the league. But I would love it, Kevin Keegan-style, if we could win the league and then say “no thanks, we’ll stay here and defend our title”. 

I don’t want to be back in that joyless, uncompetitive league where, even if we spent one billion pounds, we’d still be unable to challenge Manchester City. Or even Tottenham. 

Real Football

Football in the Championship still gives me that buzz. I love going to games, reconnecting with my old mates, having a beer with my dad and all of the social stuff. You can still celebrate a goal earnestly, without fear of the pedants at Stockley Park getting their microscopes out and engineering a way to piss on your chips. That’s what football should really be about, and I love all of that.

But in the Premier League, it’s just crap. It’s sterile, it’s joyless and it’s a product that’s designed for Kwame in Accra, Faisal in Qatar and Ahmad in Kuala Lumpur. VAR is awful, there’s an undeniable bias towards the bigger teams and the best you can hope for upon promotion is to become the next Crystal Palace, finishing 10th every season. Whoop-de-doo.

This season, everyone is waxing lyrical about plucky old Luton. And you know what, I have no beef with Luton, I quite like them. The entire team there is doing an incredible job and I hope they stay up. But they won’t. And they’ve won five games. Five. From a total of 29. That’s crap. I’m sick of everyone going on about how “competitive” they’ve been, when they haven’t.

And don’t get me started on Burnley. For all this talk of “Sheffield United are the worst team ever”, media darling Vincent Kompany has earned a massive haul of 17 points. That’s three more than the Blades, who’ve played a game less. It’s laughable. 

Haves and Have-Nots

Anyway, back to my point, which is not to fight with Burnley and Luton. We’re all in the same boat. We all came up together, and we’ll go back down together. Last season, Leicester, Leeds and Southampton went down, and there’s a really, really good chance that all three go straight back up. Leeds and Leicester are currently joint-top of the Championship table, with Southampton comfortably in the play-off spots.

The gap between the Premier League and the second tier is as wide as it’s ever been, and it’s only heading in one direction. All three sides that win promotion this season will target survival. None of them will be anywhere near the top six, which is a league within a league. Why? Because there’s too much money at the summit, plus the rules are stacked in favour of the big boys.

Financial “Fair” Play

Nottingham Forest went up and spent a fortune just to stay up. Their reward for that was a points deduction, for breaching the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR). Yet we have Manchester City facing over a hundred charges from years ago and nothing is done. 

How is a team ever supposed to compete if it’s not allowed to spend money upon promotion? Especially while others flagrantly flaunt the league’s own laws with impunity. The whole system is broken, rigged in favour of the biggest teams, and clubs like Sheffield United have no way of ever breaking in. 

Which is why I say let them go. Get rid of them.

Go On Now Go

If Sheffield United won the FA Cup, would that experience be tarnished knowing that Manchester City and Liverpool didn’t take part? Absolutely not. I’d celebrate wildly, finally getting to see my team lift a major trophy. I’d be on the first flight over to London to make sure I was part of the occasion.

I think it would be great if the big teams got what they wanted. Let them go off to their boring little European Super League to play Barcelona four times a season so the armchair fans around the world can spaff in their pants about Haaland and Mbappe. But wouldn’t there be less money for the Premier League? Almost certainly, and I think that would be wonderful.

Maybe we’d see Watford finishing second again, with QPR in a cup final. I’d love it, honestly. Return football to the real supporters and take it out of the hands of the suits. Give it back to the families who pay thousands of pounds every year for season tickets and associated travel costs. 

What’s the Alternative?

I don’t see any other way to get a handle on the finances which are spiralling out of control. You can’t impose a salary cap, because the best players would leave for other leagues. You’d have to apply it to the whole of Europe, which will never happen. But even then, they’d all bugger off to Saudi Arabia.

You can’t have any sort of a draft system, like in US sports, since academies just don’t work like that. There’s no way to implement a transfer limit, because then you wouldn’t have a free market. We all know how well-run communist economies are, amirite? 

So what’s the answer? How do you stop teams owned by insanely wealthy individuals and, in some cases, Emirates — essentially small countries — from spending billions and rendering the league uncompetitive? I honestly don’t think there is one. And the Premier League, and therefore the English football pyramid, is suffering as a result.

If You Love Them, Let Them Go

Let them go. Seriously, let them have their Super League. If they do it properly, with some sort of promotion and relegation system, it could work really well. But even if it’s a closed shop, I honestly don’t care. 

If West Ham win the inaugural Premier League MKII title, do you think they’ll be sad they didn’t get to be battered 6-0 by Arsenal along the way? Do me a favour.