PASSIONATE North-East football fans have expressed their dismay over the formation of a European Super League that could change the face of the game for all clubs.
There has been widespread anger at the revelation that an initial group of 12 top European clubs - including six of England’s richest clubs - are seeking to establish a new 20-team continental league.
The 15 founding clubs would never be relegated from the league, prompting many fans to slam it as a global money-making exercise far removed from genuine competition and clubs' local fans.
Pundits, players and fans have overwhelmingly criticised the move, claiming the wealthy founding clubs would reap billions in television and sponsorship deals that would not filter down to lower league and grass roots clubs.
Christopher Joseph, founder of Middlesbrough Supporters Forum, was ahead of the curve when he wrote to the president of UEFA, Aleksander Ceferin, in 2019 seeking reassurance that such a league would not be supported by the association.
President of UEFA, Aleksander Ceferin Picture: PA
He wrote: “We are deeply concerned that the ever-present threat of a European Super League would only benefit the richest clubs at the expense of the poorest.”
To his surprise, Mr Cerefin responded within days, saying that UEFA - the governing body of European football - would never sanction a competition ‘reserved to a handful of powerful clubs selected on the basis of their history/brand/renown, cutting themselves off the rest of the system’.
Mr Joseph, a lifelong Middlesbrough fan, believes that the league would turn frustrated fans away from the sport.
He said: “I think it will make people walk away from the game, I think people are already alarmed by the riches in the game for a select few and I think a lot of people will walk away.
“I think football has to be very careful at the moment with Covid and the gap there’s been (in crowd attendance), to be honest I think the interest in the game has gone down, it has waned and I think people have found other things to do and other ways to occupy themselves.”
The Middlesbrough Supporters Forum letter was translated into Sloveneian for UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin
He added: “The big clubs might get their zillions of pounds from people watching on TV in China or wherever and they might sell millions of shirts around the world, but whether that will positively impact down the pyramid of football, I don’t think so.
“It is about branding and money, it isn’t about competition and it should always be about competition.”
Shaun Campbell, a Darlington football campaigner, described the concept of a Super League as ‘a kick in the teeth’ for fans.
He said that the extra costs incurred by Super League clubs playing in Europe and having to create bigger squads would be borne by fans.
He said: “Who bears the brunt? We do, the common people.”
He added: “What it is about is a total destruction of grass roots football.
“Can you imagine how hard it will be for players to come through the lower ranks to play in a league like that?”