Talk of a European Super League has gathered momentum for a while now and now worried executives from the Premier League’s elite, sweating at the prospect of dipping profit margins and angry shareholders, are ready to push things forward.
Representatives from Arsenal, Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea gathered at a London hotel this week, where they were believed to have discussed the possibility of a reformed European competition guaranteeing entry year on year for a select group of clubs.
Leading the discussions were representatives of American billionaire Stephen Ross, the owner of Miami Dolphins.
Ross also helped develop the hugely successful International Champions Cup pre-season tournament – which in hindsight very much looks like a dry run for a European Super League.
The format is very familiar to sports fans in America, where there is no promotion and relegation in the elite sporting divisions such as the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS. While the franchise system also means teams can switch from state to state if deemed unprofitable (though in practice this does not happen too often).
But the sporting structure in Europe is very different, which is why these plans have caused such outrage.
The clubs involved have denied discussing a complete breakaway league, but did admit they discussed possible changes to the current structure of European football
The very idea of formulating a European tournament that has the same teams each year and requires no qualification to enter would destroy football as a contest across the continent.
The likes of Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool have gorged themselves on Champions League riches for so long they have become ignorant of their roots in the English game.
All was fine when they were in the competition year-on-year, with the huge financial benefits allowing them to bully smaller, poorer rivals for their best players in order to maintain the status quo.
But now the tap has been switched off and the playing field, for so long tipped hugely in their favour, is starting level off.
The new TV deal has swollen the coffers of so-called smaller clubs, allowing them to make big signings of their own and hold onto their key stars.
The result is a more competitive league, shown by the rise of Leicester and Tottenham this season (who, unsurprisingly, were not invited to the clandestine meeting at the Dorchester Hotel).
But the top clubs aren’t interested in competition anymore, in reality they haven’t for a long time, it was just cleverly hidden because they kept winning anyway.
This is the inevitable consequence of football clubs selling their soul to business executives and shareholders.
They are now there to make profit, nothing more. The easiest way to do that is success on the pitch.
If that fails, the next best way to do it is by altering the rules and exerting influence to maintain cash flow and profit margins.
Instead of addressing their own failures to stay near the top of the table, they are instead threatening pick up their ball and storm off home unless the rules are changed to guarantee that they win every year.
It’s sad, pathetic and embarrassing. They should play by the rules like everyone else does, rules that for so long were skewed in their favour anyway.
As an Everton fan it is perhaps easy to be accused of being jealous and maybe even of hypocrisy. Everton, after all, were one of the ‘big five’ who pushed for the formation of the Premier League in 1992. Everton are as responsible as everyone for the creation of the Premier League monster.
But the handful of Liverpool and Man Utd fans I have spoken to so far are also shocked at the idea and see it as the final nail in football’s coffin.
Take this thrilling season for example. How ridiculous would it be for Man Utd to finish fifth, Chelsea eighth and Liverpool 11th (their current positions in the Premier League) yet still qualify for Europe’s elite competition?
What about Leicester and Tottenham? Would they be allowed in if they win the Premier League?
Take this scenario – next season Spurs and Leicester will be juggling European and domestic competition in an attempt to be successful in both.
Chelsea meanwhile know that if they have a poor start to the Premier League (like they did this year) it is of no consequence.
They could just write off their domestic campaign and play weakened teams in order to concentrate on Europe, knowing they will be in the competition regardless of success or failure next season.
It would create a two-tiered league with a select group of clubs playing by a different set of rules.
It would prove toxic to the very essence of competition and the only outcome to restore its credibility would be for those teams to breakaway completely and allow the rest of us to compete in a manner that’s fair.
If that was the case then good riddance, it may bring back a semblance of sanity to English football (hey, we may even win something).
Would we be poorer without them? In one sense most definitely; as much as we say we hate Liverpool the season would not be the same without Merseyside derbies.
But if those at the top are not interested in competition why should they be allowed to ‘compete’ in our league?
Let them leave, and when the superficial veneer on their cash-fuelled farce of a competition wears off and they want to come back, make them start from the very bottom like everybody else.