BOSTON (CBS) — European soccer was turned upside-down over the weekend when 12 of the biggest clubs in the world announced the formation of the “Super League.” It’s a concept that’s not going over well with fans — and that is a mighty, might understatement.
While the landscape-shifting change doesn’t necessarily impact non-soccer fans in America, the story does hit home in Boston, as Liverpool supporters have expressed contempt with Fenway Sports Group and John Henry for the shocking decision.
Banners, flags, and signs now hang on the gates outside of Liverpool’s famous Anfield, displaying supporters’ outrage over a decision that is being labeled as one of greed.
Large Liverpool fan groups have requested to have their banners removed from inside Anfield, too, while releasing statements and urging the players and manager to join them in their fight against the club joining the new Super League. The group also shared an image of a sign on display near Fenway Park in Boston.
SHAME ON YOU FSG. pic.twitter.com/F2dAcP3I7w
— Spion Kop 1906 (@SpionKop1906) April 20, 2021
“The new format is a blatant plan for the beneficial clubs to seize even more power and revenue from an already lucrative business model,” Spion Kop 1906’s statement read. “Owners, clubs, management. Do you really care about the club’s best interests, or just the bank accounts? I think we already know the answer but now is time to think of years of tradition, and do the right thing.”
“This proposal threatens to destroy everything on which our club was built,” the Spirit Of Shankly statement read. “And the reason? Greed, pure and simple.”
For all of the fan outrage, Henry and FSG are also under fire from the media.
“For all his billions, John Henry is poorer than any of us imagined,” a headline reads in the Independent. The subhead: “Liverpool’s owner understands money but he will never fathom what makes the sport and his club so special.”
Liverpool Echo sports editor David Prentice wrote an open letter to the ownership group, calling upon them to back up their statements from five years ago which said that they value the beliefs of their supporters over profits.
“Tell the fans why you are planning to radically shake up a key part of the club’s heritage and tradition. And take their feelings on board,” Prentice urged. “Unless those words penned five years ago were just so much empty gestures and hypocrisy.”
What happens next with the proposed Super League is certainly hard to foresee. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin urged all of the team owners to rethink and reverse their decision.
“Come to your senses — not out of love for football, because I imagine some of you don’t have much of that,” Ceferin said Tuesday
Ceferin added: “Some will say it is greed, others disdain arrogance, flippancy or complete ignorance of England’s football culture. It does not matter. What does matter is that there is still time to change your mind. Everyone makes mistakes.”
Bans from international competition could be placed upon Super League participants, though it’s not yet known whether such bans can actually be put into place. FIFA president Gianni Infantino warned that there will be consequences to any Super League decisions.
“If some elect to go their own way then they must live with the consequences of their choice, they are responsible for their choice,” Infantino said. “Concretely this means either you are in or you are out. You cannot be half in and half out. This has to be absolutely clear.”
All of this may of course be complex for people who don’t follow European soccer, but the general idea is this: Liverpool — along with several other enormously famous clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Arsenal, AC Milan, and more — have created a new league to essentially replace the Champions League. It would not require qualification for the teams to partake in this league, thus guaranteeing the owners the profits associated with the international competition.
Fans, players, and managers don’t seem to be on board, thus leading to the reaction. The 14 Premier League clubs who are not part of the Super League plans unanimously oppose the move, and supporters of the teams in the Super League have expressed their clear disgust as well.
🗣️ "It is not sport if the relationship between the effort and reward doesn't exist."
🗣️ "It is not sport if it doesn't matter if you lose"
Pep Guardiola shares his thoughts on the European Super League pic.twitter.com/Qy7gJMYdUW
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) April 20, 2021
As far as Boston is concerned, the Red Sox are seemingly back on a winning track. But it seems as though John Henry’s next sports crisis will involve figuring out a way to resolve a significant issue of distrust and disappointment from fans in Liverpool, less than a year removed from the club’s first-ever Premier League championship.