Liverpool Football Club confirmed yesterday they are joining up with Europe’s “leading clubs” to start a Super League.
The other founding clubs of this breakaway league are AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur.
The 12 founders announced that they will form a new Super League to be played in midweek and will be governed by themselves.
For Liverpool, this move is a far cry from the values on which the club is often (ironically) sold. There have been reports that some of those involved in this breakaway league are referring to the supporters who defined them and contributed greatly to what they are today as “legacy fans”, while they are now targeting “fans of the future” — ie a larger base and potentially more money.
Even if Liverpool are not one of the clubs to have used such language to refer to their fans, their mere involvement in such a racket is effectively sending the same message.
The Merseyside club are built on the socialist foundations laid by their legendary manager Bill Shankly.
Such a platform saw his successor, Bob Paisley, go on to be one of the most successful managers in the history of the game, and gave the club the huge fanbase it retained even through its relatively barren years in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Paisley won six league titles and three European Cups during his tenure, and the success he brought shone a light on the left-leaning fan culture of this predominantly left-wing city.
“I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day,” goes Shankly’s often paraphrased quote.
“That might be asking a lot, but it’s the way I see football and the way I see life.”
These values are something the club has been sold on since, but the idea of a closed shop Super League goes against this, despite claims in their statement that it is “for the benefit of the entire European football pyramid.”
There have been promises before of money trickling down the pyramid, but it is always just a trickle if it arrives at all. Such a Super League will only increase the gap between the richest clubs and the rest, not least because they are governing themselves and guaranteeing themselves this place in this league regardless of sporting performance.
The league will allow entry to five new teams each season who are deemed worthy enough based on sporting performance—something which doesn’t apply to the founders.
This very limited way for other teams to enter is likely to have been introduced solely for legal reasons as “universal principles of sporting merit, solidarity, promotion and relegation,” are enshrined in FIFA statues.
The courting of a more global fanbase at the expense of those who give each club its unique identity (which include some overseas as well as local fans) has been in the works for some time at Liverpool and many other clubs, but the creation of this new league feels like the most brazen example yet and could be the final straw for many of those who have now been dubbed “legacy fans”.
In 2019 Liverpool’s then CEO, Peter Moore, referred explicitly to the club’s socialist values in an interview with Spanish outlet El Pais where he discussed the “This Means More” slogan the club use in their marketing.
“We had this historical figure, Bill Shankly, a Scottish socialist, who built the foundations,” he said.
“Today too, when we speak about business questions, we ask ourselves: ‘what would Shankly have done? what would Bill have said in this situation?’
“He was a true socialist who believed that football consisted of working together. We sat down and said let’s put it down in words and that was the conclusion.
“That Liverpool means more. More than winning or losing. More than going to football, going to the pub and then going home.”
It’s ironic that they used Shankly’s socialism as a marketing tool in itself, but they now abandon those values to pursue a hyper-capitalist Super League.
Moore left the club in August 2020. Perhaps he had gotten wind of the seriousness of these plans and wanted no part of it.
Liverpool and the other founding clubs will lose many fans if this Super League goes ahead (and even if it doesn’t), but it appears they have ruthlessly factored this into their decision and believe they can make this loss up in the global market.
In the long run, though, this could lead to these clubs losing their identity as they become identikit global brands defined by capital rather than people. It could be argued that this has already happened, and the Super League merely confirms it.