Super League idea may be dead for now - but Sheffield United and Wednesday fans agree now is the time for change

The monstrosity that is, or was, football’s European Super League appears to be over for now – but there is a growing feeling within the game that this is only the end of the beginning, rather than the beginning of the end for such greedy cash-grabs.

By Danny Hall
Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 12:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 12:52 pm
Football supporters demonstrate against the proposed European Super League outside of Stamford Bridge (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Football supporters demonstrate against the proposed European Super League outside of Stamford Bridge (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

That certainly seems to be a view shared by football fans in Sheffield, the birthplace of the game and where the world’s first club, Sheffield FC, described the ESL plans as “going against everything that football stands for” in a statement earlier this week.

The collective outrage throughout the country, from fans, pundits and other clubs that forced an embarrassing U-turn from clubs and ultimately the collapse of the idea, was enough to head the idea off at the pass. For now.

But there is too much cash involved for it not to rear its ugly ahead. And although fans of the two professional Sheffield clubs disagree on much, both sides of the Steel City agree on one thing – that something needs to change.

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“Fans have seen the true colours of football's elite,” Sam Parry, of Sheffield United fanzine Dem Blades, said.

“But the owners of the English clubs will need not beg forgiveness for too long because fans are fans, and we all pay to watch our clubs. Whilst that will not change, the collective action of supporters has already shouted down this league of greed. So what is next?

“We must continue to sing in concert. Now we have evidence that fans can effect change, shift the zeitgeist, and force the hands of governments.

“Our small actions count for something - a tweet, an email, signing a petition. In some ways, the ESL has been a gift. Previously, football's elite had little to offer us but 22 men on a pitch and their disdain.

Brighton & Hove Albion players warmed up wearing t-shirts with a message in protest against the European Super League before playing Chelsea (Photo by Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images)

“Now they have willingly opened Pandora's Box and invited all fans to act against their greed.

“As football supporters from Sheffield, we can do our bit by adding our voice - the voice of the home of football - to the campaigns seeking to improve governance and reset the agenda in the interest of the masses, not the bosses.”

The outpouring of emotion that greeted news of the Super League plans forced abrupt about-turns from clubs, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea all confirming they had withdrawn from the league.

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, one of the key players in the plans, admitted on Wednesday that the league could not progress after so many club withdrawls.

A taxi gets stuck as fans protest against Chelsea's involvement in the new European Super League: Ian West/PA Wire

But the Super League remained defiant in its own statement on Wednesday morning, adding it is "convinced that the current status quo of European football needs to change".

Steve Walmsley is a board member of the Sheffield Wednesday Supporters Trust, and liaises with the Football Supporters’ Association.

“The war is far from being won,” he said, after the Super League plans collapsed.

“The club owners who were driving force behind the greed and hunger for power are still there. They have previously forced the PL to re-organise money distribution in their favour, they have forced UEFA to make concessions in the running of the Champions League that are in their favour.

Empty stands on matchdays at Bramall Lane and Hillsborough

“At this point those club owners are weak and exposed. Now is the time for UEFA, the FA, the Premier League, the Government and football fans to maintain pressure for major change in the way that football is governed and financed.

“The fan-led review of football governance launched this week presents an opportunity to deliver change. But the governing bodies have it in their powers too, and importantly so do the other 14 clubs in the Premier League. They must act now whilst the tide of opinion is favour of change.

“The city of Sheffield is the home of football. Sheffield football fans can play their part in seeking to do the best for the good of the game as whole by doing what they can to support the campaign for better football governance and the better use of resources in the interests of the whole of the game, not just the elite few clubs.”

United, whose relegation was confirmed at the weekend with six Premier League games remaining, were encouraged to play their part in a discussion between the 14 other top-flight clubs not involved in the Super League earlier this week.

It is understood that those clubs are split as to whether the so-called ‘big six’ should face sanctions for breaking the Premier League rule that requires prior written permission to enter a new competition. Some are urging tough sanctions to quash the threat of a future breakaway, but others are thought to be concerned that punishments would affect managers, players and fans – in other words, those who had no involvement or say in joining the new league.

“This ‘super league’, which was far from super, threatened to obliterate 150 years of football heritage,” said Wayne Shortland, of Sheffield United Independent Supporters Association.

“At this time of national crises, clubs should be working together collaboratively and with supporters… instead, these clubs have been secretly conspiring and colluding.

“With one aim in mind; to destroy everything we hold dear.

“It’s abundantly clear that the owners of the so called big six saw dollar signs…why else would they have tried to create a league which they could not be relegated from?

“We need to be clear that this is about six sets of club owners, not the clubs or supporters. We know that no supporter organisations were consulted, and it looks like the managers and players of the six clubs weren’t either.

“The super league looks to be over, but the greed of the big clubs is going nowhere.

“The pressure must remain on the English governing bodies, in football and Government, for systemic change.

“We need to look at the German model of ownership in football to move forward.

“It’s time fans had a say in how their club and this game is run.”