A EUROPEAN Super League is coming. It will arrive by stealth,
facilitated by Financial Fair Play (FFP), Michel Platini's attempt to
impose fiscal sanity on the game. The effect of the Uefa president's
plan will be anything but equitable, and the big clubs will grow and
suck in trophies.
Real Madrid are already planning
for it, with help from Middle East investments. They announced last week
a US$1 billion (S$1.26 billion) theme park on a man-made island in the
United Arab Emirates, featuring a marina, luxury hotels, villas, an
amusement park, a club museum and a 10,000-seater stadium, all to open
Money generated by tourism under Real's
trademark will give them extra spending power. Those with big arenas and
sponsorships will clean up under FFP, which wants clubs to spend only
what they earn.
The era of the superclub is at hand.
The rest will be left behind and, within a
decade, the superclubs may see no point in playing any one other than
each other. Why should minnows benefit from their global appeal?
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has
already posed that question, claiming that barely a soul in East Asia
would pay to watch any team in the Premier League other than Liverpool,
Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.
Bolton were the example of the unwatchables
that Ayre invoked. Wigan are an even better illustration. The same Wigan
who won 2-1 at Anfield on Saturday, which meant that the Reds have won
just five of their 15 home games in the Premier League this season -
their worst home record since 1953.
Ayre also recently confirmed that 17 months
after its takeover, owner Fenway Sports Group (FSG) had not come up with
a strategy to build a new stadium. And Liverpool cannot compete without
a new ground.
The lack of direction behind the scenes
threatens the long-term health of the club. But manager Kenny Dalglish
deserves scrutiny, too. The £100 million (S$200 million)
spending spree of 2010 has proved to be a shambles. The aim was to buy
English players with top-flight experience. Andy Carroll, Jordan
Henderson and Stewart Downing have added little to the team.
Carroll was a panic buy. Flush with the
Fernando Torres £50 million, and concerned about a fan backlash
over the the striker's sale to Chelsea, the new owner sanctioned a deal
that stretches credulity. Spending £35 million on a player
worth £15 million was madness.
Henderson is young and may come good, but Downing is lucky that Carroll distracts the critics.
Dalglish's detractors say that he is not a top-class manager. That is arguable.
But it is beyond dispute that this is no
longer a top-class club. It could get worse. Platini's reforms will
change football in favour of the richer. The likes of United, Arsenal
and Real have prepared for the new era. Liverpool have not. On or off