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When, over 20 years ago, as a local councillor and fan I campaigned against Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB bid to take over Manchester United, it opened my eyes to how powerful and globally organised financial interests were increasingly infecting football with values entirely at odds with their community-based fans.
Though that bid was eventually blocked by a combination of supporter lobbying, a now defunct Monopolies and Mergers Commission and a trade secretary, Stephen Byers, who happened to share those same values, it didn’t stop the trend or introduce the kind of reforms that might have prevented these “big six” clubs from joining this Super League or owners loading debt from empty shopping malls onto the books of world famous clubs located thousands of miles away.
With their grip on television coverage and income, these six English clubs, in combination with the other six European clubs, would be in position to distort competition, fix transfer and ticketing pricing and deplete the wider British and European professional and amateur football of vital investment. This risks bankrupting many of the smaller clubs, already financially stressed by the pandemic, and transforming a game that, as Gary Neville said, was “born out of workers” into an elitist sport run by avaricious bankers.
I never would have imagined that it would be through football that the population at large would finally be brought to a realisation that when the rich of the world conspire to further increase their wealth the only thing that trickles down to the ordinary man, woman and football club is effluent.
The Premier League’s “top six” clubs clearly have financial problems but so do many clubs down to and beyond the fifth tier National League. However, the top six plan gives the English league system the opportunity for a historic shake-up.
The Football Association can reassign these six clubs to the National League from which can be promoted a further six clubs and so on, bringing six more clubs into the Premier League. While top six players can continue to play in their national teams, this shake-up would bring forward more players eligible to represent England. Many clubs would also benefit financially.
Keir Starmer laments the plans for the development of a new European Super League, arguing that the proposals reduce fans to “mere spectators and consumers”. If football fans aren’t spectators and consumers, what are they?
Politics has become a business opportunity
It is rapidly becoming evident that, for the current cabinet, being in government is not about public service but is merely a personal business opportunity. They are happy to wave the union jack at every opportunity to show their patriotism and to capitalise on the current sentimentality of the red wall voters on the issue.
However, as Jess Phillips’s article (‘Integrity and a good product isn’t enough in this country, apparently – you need Matt Hancock’s number, too’, 18 April) shows, they display no patriotism in the real sense of supporting British businesses and the British people they employ. They would rather give contracts to their friends who generally do not make anything but import the cheapest and try to sell at a massive profit.
Even if the ministers do not benefit personally, and I’m not convinced that they don’t, the party gains from donations from these people. This is their view of free trade outside the EU: how can I make a quick buck?
The question is how can we rid ourselves of this graft? I cannot believe that all Tory MPs are this venal, or Labour members for that matter. Backbench Tories remaining quiet on this issue out of misguided loyalty to their party does nothing to help democracy. All MPs, in government or opposition, have a duty to hold ministers to account.
C C Elshaw
Headley Down, East Hampshire
I relate to Jade Bremner’s article on medical misogyny (‘The women trying to stop doctors using “outdated” terminology,’ 18 April). I still remember the shock 37 years ago of being referred to as an “elderly multigravida” when I was expecting my fourth child. I was 34...
Vaccine passports can be effective
At last! A sane and reasonable argument in favour of a national ID system. Thank you, Anir Chowdhury (‘Vaccine passports will create more freedom, not less – I know from experience’, 17 April). Good luck with your work and I’ll continue to look forward to the day when we can have simple, more efficient and inclusive citizen benefits with such a system rather than just mindlessly donating all my data to a few American digital behemoths.