Sky Sports became a rolling news channel on Sunday when the game between Man United and Liverpool at Old Trafford was abandoned as fans who had been protesting against the Glazer family and the aborted bid to establish a European Super League broke through a cordon and onto the pitch.
One police officer had his face slashed by a bottle and another was injured in what was clearly a dangerous situation. Politicians weighed in to ‘understand the fans frustration’ but to condemn this form of protest.’
Clearly, the vast majority of those fans who would have felt the Super League was a step too far would stop a long way short of slashing a face but to many looking from the outside, the whole premise of the protest was hard to really understand.
The Premier League of 2021 is a long way from where it is in the nostalgic mind’s eye of some with clubs now putting tens of millions of pounds into the purchase of whatever the next young superstar is to emerge onto their radar.
The fans who protested against the Glazers on Sunday will be back again protesting if they do not make money available to their manager in the summer to keep up the mad merry go round of massive expenditure to keep tabs on all the other clubs around them.
It does not require a degree in economics to understand that individuals or corporations who did not grow up on the Stretford End, the Kop or at Maine Road will be investing their money in order to get a return.
The fans demand is that only half of the equation is OK, that of spending to ensure they can cheer a win.
Stand in the Shoes of Others
If they followed through on their expressed dissatisfaction with how investors have torn apart their club, then they should be happy to stand in the shoes of others like Preston North End, Huddersfield Town, Derby County, Nottingham Forest or Sunderland, all of whom are previous Champions of English football but none of whom are now bestowed with the glittering riches of billionaire investment funds.
Would Manchester United fans be satisfied to get by on loan signings and the occasional lucky strike coming through their footballing academy? And even if in some parallel universe, it were possible to roll things back to a modern pastiche of Reeling in the Years from the 1950s, what would their reaction be if Manchester City and Liverpool still worked out of the pockets of a benefactor but they did not.
There would be protests then too, but perhaps with a different aim.
Sport has always adapted and changed. 200 years ago it did not exist in any organised format. 131 years ago Preston North End became the first-ever Champions. 29 years ago Leeds United won the last of the old First Division, managed by Howard Wilkinson, the last English born manager of an English Champion side. Twelve months later Man United won their first title in 25 years, of the newly formed Premier League.
There were no protests then despite that being the first step on an inevitable path towards a changed game.
The older you get the more you look at the past through rose-tinted glasses. But progress happens and that is part of the contract of being human. Imagine the rewinding of the clocks if you want. Cut off the funding that has created an oligarchy at the top of club football, and settle for an occasional win in Europe or heaven forbid being relegated to play in a lower league, like Man United were in 1974, and bouncing back.
That is an absolute best-case scenario for the fans of most football teams. They will have looked wryly on the protests against the money by those who had celebrated its rewards for the past 30 years.
They will have thought if you never saw this coming, you have been living in a blinkered universe, one where ‘us beating them’ was the only thing that mattered, and never mind the how.
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