Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have been the two leading former players and current pundits who have severely criticized the concept of the Super League, the executives whose brainchild this is and the teams involved, including their former clubs.
But, in a moment of self-realisation perhaps, Carragher who is employed by Sky Sports (as is Neville) reminded viewers that Sky itself was involved in the breakaway of the top-division teams back in 1992 which resulted in the formation of the Premier League as we know it now. The six words that rang long in everyone’s ears was “are we hypocrites, are we wrong?”
Jamie Carragher actually coming with some truth here- “Let’s not forget we work for a company who were involved in a breakaway in 1992, Sky took football away from threshold TV to a subscription service. The ESL is worse, but are we being hypocritical?”
— Kendall Rowan (@kendallrowanx) April 19, 2021
So, how is the present situation similar or dissimilar to events of 27 years ago? Let’s look at it side by side.
At the conclusion of the 1991/92 Football League Division One as it was then known, where Leeds pipped Manchester United to the title, the whole culture of “watching football” was very different from what we are accustomed to in this day and age. There were no special programs, in-depth analysis and pundits’ opinions.
Even TV broadcasters were not much into showing live games as only a handful was shown across the season. Moreover, the revenue earned from broadcasting rights and other avenues had to be shared amongst all the 92 professional teams.
In circumstances eerily similar to the present scenario, the so-called ‘big five’ of those times- Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham- decided to break away from this system and form a new top-flight league (this time it’s 12 clubs from across the globe). They were joined by 19 other teams (eight this time, as we are hearing) bringing the total to 24, which was trimmed to 20 over the next few seasons.
This is where Sky (respective clubs owners in 2021) came in, as the broadcasting rights of the newly minted Premier League with their fancy satellite boxes. Having won the bid to showcase live matches by beating existing sponsor ITV, with a deal valued at £191 million pounds, Sky began changing the whole landscape of what was considered as “football programming.”
In came flashy presenters, catchy adverts, and the whole basis of ‘paid subscription-based’ watching as well as the immensely successful ‘Super Sunday’ and ‘Monday Night Football’ (MNF) programs along with many others. Sky took over the broadcasting scene as the whole match weekends used to be filled with discussions of one kind or the other, all centered on football.
#OnThisDay in 1992, the Premier League was born ⚽️
Who can forget *that* advert which kicked it all off 😍 pic.twitter.com/M1BYT5GuSG
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) August 15, 2020
The essence of it all was this all amounted to huge earnings across the board for all the clubs involved, and obviously the boom in revenue also resulted in the league being able to pull the top talents from various corners of the world which would in turn result in huge droves of fans becoming supporters of more and more top English clubs.
This is the kind of the hypocrisy that Carragher had referred to as a Sky analyst disapproving the European Super League which many fear will have the same impact on the participating teams’ respective leagues and on existing European system. A whole new structure as it with the Super League teams expected to earn in multiple billions.
HOW THINGS ARE DIFFERENT THIS TIME AROUND
In 2021 though, things are not quite so easy to predict. The very structure which helped kick off the success of the Premier League is now in direct confrontation with the Super League proposals, joined by leagues in Spain, Italy, the Football Association, the players’ unions, UEFA, FIFA, numerous clubs and managers as well as Boris Johnson himself.
This kind of opposition was unheard of in 1992 as the culture around the game had not gotten hold of the public so strongly so the chairmen of the clubs faced minimal pressure. Many people credit Sky with bringing football to the masses through its widespread reach and appeal to all fans across the spectrum.
Here's a clue as to why 12 clubs have signed up for a European Super League:
They lost a combined £1.2 billion in 2019/20 before player sales*
And that was for a season where only the last 3 months were impacted by COVID…
*Liverpool have not yet published their accounts pic.twitter.com/7o1ubiDX6z
— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) April 18, 2021
Secondly, what Carragher further said during the MNF program, that the revenue earned has been put “back into players’ wages, facilities, training grounds, into stadiums, so let’s not forget we’re involved with Sky.”
Again, another new dimension where it’s also very clear that the mounting losses incurred by the participating clubs have forced their hands into kind of creating this league which they hope will fill that void. The age old conflict between money and ethics has surfaced in epic proportions.
Reasons for the European Super League, part 2: the 12 clubs have £5.6 bln of debt, per UEFA’s definition of financial debt (£3.5 bln) and transfer debt (£2.1 bln). Moreover, almost all of the financial debt has come from banks (£3.3 bln), compared to only £0.2 bln from owners. pic.twitter.com/Ck6YUp0Fbg
— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) April 19, 2021
So, we see how the entrenched system of football will not back down in protecting what it rightfully considers as its own and the fight over the future will only intensify. Carragher was one of the select few who actually confronted this paradox of staying in the culture itself but criticizing the supposed new world order as it were.