FSG “cowboys” and fans told to “finish the job” as media assess Super League fallout

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The Super League is dead and the football world – bar 12 greedy businessmen – rejoices, with the focus now shifting to what comes next for Liverpool and supporters.

In a remarkable and swift turn of events on Tuesday evening, plans to form a breakaway Super League fell apart brilliantly.

Man City were the first to pull out, soon to be followed by the five other English clubs including Liverpool, while Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan are also believed to have withdrawn their support.

A lucrative venture for the already very rich, the Super League was opposed unanimously by fans, players, managers and the media, and its demise has been widely celebrated.

Here’s how the media has assessed the collapse of the Super League, and what happens now for both Liverpool and football in general.

 

For journalists on Merseyside, the hammer fell on John W. Henry and FSG…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, April 26, 2019: Liverpool's owner John W. Henry during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Huddersfield Town AFC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Paul Joyce, writing for the Times, described Henry’s position as “untenable,” though he also suggested that if “FSG reforms its ownership structure” there may be a way back:

“Henry, as principal owner, will have known his position is untenable even before the barrage of co-ordinated tweets from the first-team squad, led once more by captain Jordan Henderson. He can never set foot inside Anfield again, which leaves the Boston-based group with two choices.

“The first is that they sell up, although finding a buyer for a club now worth about £3 billion according to Forbes will not be easy. Not least because many of the other interlopers whose greed saw them lose sense of any morals might also be seeking an exit strategy today.

“The alternative is that FSG reforms its ownership structure — placing trust in the local expertise their statement said they only listened to after the damage was done — and seeks to somehow repair the credibility that is now shot to pieces after a dalliance with the devil.”

The Athletic‘s Simon Hughes joined Joyce in berating Henry in particular, describing him and Man United counterpart Joel Glazer as a “pair of cowboys”:

“Henry and his friend Glazer attempted to take hostage a game they have never really understood from a terrain they have evidently never bothered to learn much about and given how spectacularly they have failed in the resulting stand-off, it is fair to assume one of them came armed with a water pistol and the other, a broken bottle.

“The pair of cowboys.”

Ian Doyle of the Liverpool Echo criticised a “cack-handed, failed money grab,” and claimed “at least one head will roll” within FSG:

“FSG are supposed to be custodians of the club. So, after such a cack-handed, failed money grab, how can they be trusted ever again with handling something so precious to so many?

“Even if it was with good intentions – and, as a business, it’s not like they’d deliberately be trying to shoot themselves in the foot – FSG’s decision to go with the breakaway league was instantly wrong to everyone with even a semblance of football knowledge.

“It’s a sport. You need competition. And while Liverpool fans want to win, they’d sooner do it on merit rather than be bolstered by some self-anointed importance.

“In the short-term, a least one head will surely roll in the corridors of power at Anfield. Someone will be held accountable.”

 

The wider view was that the Super League’s collapse should spark a Premier League response…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, June 1, 2020: A general view of Anfield stadium from Stanley Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Telegraph‘s Sam Wallace described it as “a victory for the Premier League“:

“What is certain is that the wounds, already raw from Project Big Picture, will take a long time to heal.

“The most radical among the 14 would like the Premier League to have the kind of regulatory powers conferred on US leagues who can compel an owner to sell a franchise if they are determined to have taken action that contravenes the values and integrity of the competition.

“That day still seems a long way off, but what is certain is that this was a victory for the Premier League, for its 14-strong super majority, for the likes of Leicester City, Southampton and Crystal Palace.”

Alex Keble, in a column for Football365, argued that the Premier League should punish the six clubs who “dared to betray” them:

“The Premier League must also be strong, acting decisively to punish those clubs who dared to betray the rest of the industry.”

Miguel Delaney of the Independent believes “there might well be Premier League sanctions,” while proferring that “the breakaway 12 no longer have the same influence”:

“The financial cost for the 12 will be expensive, given the JP Morgan commitment fees. There might well be Premier League sanctions, since the six did break Rule L9, that prohibits members from entering unsanctioned competitions.

“The other 14 have meanwhile been emboldened, and also found common cause with the EFL and the wider football pyramid. At the top of it all, the breakaway 12 no longer have the same influence in the European Club Association, or Uefa.

“Positions have been resigned. Clout has been lost. Authority has been shattered.”

 

And the power of fans was lauded, with a further call to arms issued…

For Keble, “we must capitalise on this momentum,” with a reform of ownership laws one of the next priorities:

“We realise that these football clubs still belong to us; are too deeply woven through the hearts of our communities to be torn away.

“We must capitalise on this momentum. We must use this righteous anger to finish the job, turning our attention to legislative action both within football’s governing bodies and Westminster.

“Ministers have already pledged to investigate the possibility of emulating Germany’s fan-owned 50+1 model to hand power back to supporters, but now the immediate threat has diminished, appetite within government will likely weaken.

“We must not let that happen. We must harness this energy and continue to fight for lasting change through fan protest and media pressure, by marching on stadiums and demanding the press keep this story – this hideous betrayal, this obscene attempt to destroy European football – on the front pages.”

The Guardian‘s Barney Ronay agreed that “this is far from over,” and that “reform is absolutely vital”:

“If there is a lesson here, it is in the startling unity of feeling, the sheer anger at peering in through the stadium gate to see someone rolling up the pitch, and feeling not just enraged but empowered by the prospect.

“It is a feeling of shared force that must be preserved and kept safe for future deployment.

“This is far from over. The ESL may be postponed, may soldier on with different parties involved or be simply parked, a menacing satellite entity. But the concerns of those involved must also be heard.

“Your enemy’s enemy is not always your friend – and the clubs are also right in this: football’s governing bodies are self-serving and opaque. Reform is absolutely vital: better it comes from below than in this form again.”

Joyce even compared FSG’s current situation, at odds with supporters, to that which brought the downfall of Liverpool’s former owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett:

“If anything sums up the tawdry mess FSG created when signing up for the closed shop of a breakaway league, it is that they left themselves open to the same kind of tactics that helped remove their reviled predecessors from office.

“That is some achievement and at about 9pm the first email dropped. Tribus Watches, official global wristwatch and timing partner of Liverpool FC, withdrew from its partnership.

“For FSG to have got things so spectacularly wrong as to be completely out of sync with the club’s fans, the manager who has made them so successful, the players who have carried out Jurgen Klopp’s orders and the employees they left to feel a toxic backlash is no real surprise.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2020: Liverpool supporters on the Spion Kop sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Finally, and more importantly, the Independent‘s Melissa Reddy urged supporters, players and broadcasters to use the same force to tackle the issue of racism:

“There is an overflow of wrongs to get through, like football’s unhealthy relationship with betting companies.

“But above everything, the past 48 hours has shown us that football can indeed be more bullish with racism.

[…]

“Show us you really do care about the game, about its people, and not just the riches it generates.”

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