The soccer of the overlords is going away and taking its coffers with it, already full of gold. The plan is to give life to a European Super League, with soccer turned into spectacle at the highest level with all-star matches every week, all paid for by dizzying sums in television rights. If the project goes ahead, the consequences will be disastrous on an economic and social level, and the highest price will be paid by the soccer played by provincial teams, which today keeps everyone together in the same championship. Sometimes those small teams and their fans dream big, and on some occasions that dream becomes reality, like for Benevento, which defeated Juventus by 1-0 at home in the Stadium in Turin on March 21.
“It is an outrageous decision. Sporting merit is cancelled in the name of profit,” said Renzo Ulivieri, president of the Italian Soccer Coaches Association (AIAC). “In a moment like this one, in all of Europe, we need to bring people to the stadiums and bring them closer to soccer. The obtuse vision of a few people, who have made calculations around a table for their own interests, makes them deaf to any talk about social aspects, and the consequence will be the destruction of the current soccer system, which is based on a mutualistic principle. The world of amateur soccer has already suffered serious damage from the suspension of the championships because of Covid, and the professional one of the C league as well, and after this decision, it will be the turn of the B league teams and the provincial ones of the A league to suffer.”
Recent deals on television rights between Dazn and the Soccer League have led to TIM, for the Italian championship, and Amazon, for the Champions League matches, becoming co-protagonists of a process that will lead to the public sitting more and more in their chairs in front of the TV, ready to consume the show of European soccer on the NBA model, while the big stadiums, today among the few places of social communion, will be emptied, and those who just want to get out of the house will have to settle for a lower level of soccer, without the great champions.
Is it an inevitable process that the “factory owners” of soccer teams are going to decide on an all-star super league, where there will be no more relegations and promotions? “At a time like this, when the pandemic has taken revenue away from clubs, if the presidents of the big Italian and European clubs wanted to, they could put a cap on the salaries of the big players,” Ulivieri said. “It would be a way to support the soccer of the teams that belong to the weakest economic groups. We have asked the coaches who are members of AIAC to give up a few months of their salary in the name of saving soccer. I believe it is essential that in the face of the senseless decision to create a championship for the big European teams, a protest movement must arise to oppose this process.”
Ulivieri continues: “Both UEFA and the individual federations have the instruments to oppose it. Soccer cannot think only of profit, it also has a social value, we need to stay together, especially after a period like this. The people who bring the stadiums to life will be stuck in front of the TV. If the trend is not reversed, we will face social decay, made worse by the dissolution of the world of youth soccer. The birth of a European Super League will erase the principle of sporting merit and snuff out the dream of the fans of Bologna, Fiorentina, Atalanta, Pontedera and other teams. Since the beginning of soccer, there has always been the possibility that a provincial team could win against the big ones.”
What actions should Italian soccer take as it finds itself in the position of looking on as the rich leave on their own?
“They’re accusing me of having a vision of soccer that belongs to the twentieth century, when I speak of equality, justice and a fair distribution of income,” he said. “In a historical moment like ours, marked by the upheavals of the pandemic, those who have more must help those who have less. This is part of the history of our country, it is not a leftist conception but a common sense one. The Italian Soccer Players’ Association and the Italian Soccer Federation also share this vision. Soccer is not only Juventus, Milan, Inter, but also Spezia, which fought to save itself and remain in Serie A.”
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