Stand Up If You Hate Your Club.
Updated: Feb 10
In May 1957, The World ended.
In a smoke-filled room, The New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers were granted permission by a cabal of sports team owners to up sticks and leave the Big Apple to set up shop in spacious, sunny and thoroughly modern California.
The Manhattan Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field in the city of Brooklyn were sold on the cheap and working class New Yorkers were left heartbroken.
This seems unfathomable to UK soccer fans, unable to comprehend how a United or an Albion or a Villa could move cities and be taken seriously. Only in America. But this weekend's news that the European Super League is born suddenly makes this possible.
The creation of ESL has shaken the very foundations upon which the world's favorite game is built.
And while the arguments continue to rage about which sides will compete and what the domestic consequences are, the real shift which threatens the future of the game has already occurred.
In English football, the ownership of clubs has historically been a somewhat comical affair.
From former player and toilet paper mogul Franny Lee's brief ownership of Manchester City, Delia Smith's drunken rants, dodgy Thai politicians and the ball juggling circus act of Michael Knighton's close call with Manchester United, characters have been in the boardroom of England's top tier clubs for ever - attracting the adoration and abhorrance of fans in equal measure.
But a quick look at the new owners of the clubs currently signed up to the ESL, shows a new worrying trait. England's 'Big Six' are in the fold of Fenway Sports Group, City Football Group, Kroenke Sports Enterprises and Roman Abramovic's armslength Millhouse Capital hedge fund, Joe Lewis' ENIC and the Glazer Family's Red Football.
This makes the future of these clubs clear, like The Dodgers and The Giants - they are franchises.
These famous sporting brands are no longer at the heart of their communities, they are instead at the core of global sports portfolios and with global TV rights funding the exhorbitant salary demands of their latest superstars - Erling Haaland the latest precocious talent (so far untested in the top leagues) is demanding $40m a year to ply his trade elsewhere before an adoring world audience.
And global audiences are where the games future, and possible demise, lies.
With a TV viewing audience numbering in the billions across South East Asia, India, China, Latin America and the United States it is easy to see how the feelings of the season ticket holding denizens of SW6, M16 and L4 can be overlooked.
Fixtures have already been moved and kick off times altered to catch the largest number of TV viewers in far flung corners of the globe, and the new ESL seems set to take that further.
While UK fans may be passively content to watch Burnley vs Palace at lunchtime in the pub before going to their own team's game later that afternoon, fickle fans around the world are less enthralled. They want stars and celebrities not Dyche vs Hodgson's XI.
The reality is the global soccer audience is only really interested in the fixtures of a handful of clubs - Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool - and the Spanish powerhouses of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Even the Milan clubs, Juventus, Bayern Munich, PSG don't register, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham are simply makeweights.
So if, like the transit of the shells of The Dodgers and The Giants, you have any trace of soul vacuumed out of the clubs, what is left?
Gone are the Merseyside derbies and Leeds vs Man Utd, West Ham vs Chelsea clashes. The schedule is filled with guaranteed meetings of Liverpool vs Real Madrid and a similar roster of Man United or Chelsea vs Barcelona providing a saleable and marketable event on a grand scale.
This is exhibition football.
It is an event but it has little meaning. Grown men weep when they lose a Wembley final or see their side beaten to the title with the last kick of the last fixture. No-one has ever shed a tear over meaningless friendlies.
And the format has already been tested over recent years in the fringe International Champions Trophy organised and financed by Relevant Sports Media - a group many believe are entwined in this latest proposal along with JP Morgan's $5bn investment.
While these souless encounters are shunned by supporters, they have huge attraction in places where football is a TV show not a feral social clash baked into the generations. With an online broadcaster lined up, a dozen clubs signed up and tens of million of dollars earmarked for salaries of players with the right agents and social media profiles, you can see the ultimate end game.
Howlong before a pointy headed TV scheduler asks: Why does the club have to be in the depressing rain-soaked Northwest of England to play in this TV extravaganza? Why not move the product closer to the audience, at least in timezone terms?
How long before the ESL meet in a vape-filled room to sanction the relocation of Liverpool and Man United to Singapore and Shanghai.
The Singapore Red Socks vs Shanghai Red Devils is coming to your iphone and game consol soon.
Martin Liptrot is a British football fan, currently sheltering on the northwest Florida coast.
(image from Marca.com)