EVER since I was a young boy in Boston, Massachusetts, my favorite sports league was what has been known since 1992 as the Premier League.
Not only was I a huge fan of football – which is called “Soccer” over here in the States while the name “Football” is claimed by a sport which rarely touches a ball with a foot – but especially a fan of the teams within the United Kingdom.
Chelsea fans protest outside Stamford Bridge after the club attempted to join the European Super LeagueCredit: AP
In the Boston of that time, very few children cared about football with basically zero ever having heard of the then “Football League.”
For them, it was all about imagining playing for either the Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball, or the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association.
Flash ahead to today and ironically, you have the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox — John Henry — as one of the ignorant and entitled elites behind the creation of what was laughingly called the “European Super League.”
Henry was behind it because he also happens to be the principal owner of Liverpool in the Premier League.
Apparently, being wealthy and entitled means you never have to ask your fan base, your players, or local or government officials how they feel about a new league which would not only compete with the Champions League, but adopt a more “American” format while surely inflicting great damage upon domestic competition.
As the new “Super League” collapsed before the eyes of the world, it was most amusing to watch out-of-touch elitists such as Henry and JP Morgan Chase chairman Jamie Dimon (who intended to fund this failure) backpedal as fast as humanly possible once they realized what a massive unforced-error they had created.
An error made all because they did not check with the true fan-base and did not respect the history of the game.
Gary Neville, a former defender for Manchester United may have put it best when he described the greed which was being put before history, tradition, and sacrifice.
Said the also commentator for Sky Sports: “They have nothing to do with football in this country. There are 100-odd years of history in this country from fans that have lived and loved these clubs and they need protecting.”
Neville especially gave voice to the feelings of the “working-class communities” which have long and loyally supported the clubs.
A sentiment which spoke most loudly to me. As that child in Boston, I grew up in abject poverty, was homeless often, and literally lived in cars.
During that time, a beloved uncle gave me a “football” and I quickly turned every alley or parking lot into a pitch where I could practice alone for hours at a time for…free.
Which is also part of the point here. Football has long been the most popular sport in the world precisely because it can be played by the world’s poorest populations. Which, if any of the billionaire elites behind the “European Super League” care to check, represent the majority of the people on the planet.
Arsenal fans protest against owner Stan Kroenke after the failed launch of a European Super LeagueCredit: Reuters
The European Super League collapsed as out-of-touch elitists did not respect the history of football, writes Douglas MacKinnonCredit: Getty
Who speaks for them? Who gives them a voice?
Years after my childhood and years after working in the White House and the Pentagon, I finally got to fulfill my dream of attending a Premier League game in person.
It exceeded every expectation I had and then some.
That first game I attended was between Crystal Palace and Manchester United played at Selhurst Park (Glad All Over!) While I remain a fan of all the teams in the Premier League, because of their incredibly loyal working-class fan base, I adopted Crystal Palace as “My Team.”
So much so, that I featured the team in a Christmas novel I published in the United States titled: The North Pole Project: In Search of the True Meaning of Christmas.
Soon after it was published, I reached out to the office of Steve Parish, the Chairman of the club, and sent him a copy. I never heard back, but remain a very loyal fan.
More than a fan of one team, to Gary Neville’s critically important point, I remain a fan of the history, tradition, and sacrifice of the sport of football as a whole. A sport which for over a century, has lifted the hopes and spirits of fans during the darkest of times.
Now, as the world continues to battle a pandemic and its brutal aftereffects, is no time for the rich to attempt to get richer at the expense of that history or a people who have given all to support the sport.
Even…when they had nothing to give.
- Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and an author.
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