The Newcastle United takeover dream lives on after demise of the European Super League
It’s a distant dream, but European football, at least, is still a dream.
The multi-billion pound European Super League (ESL) project is in ruins following a backlash that forced the six English clubs involved to withdraw less than 48 hours after the plan, drawn up in private and seemingly without thought for the likely reaction, was made public.
Liverpool owner John Henry said the club had listened to the views of supporters in a video message, while other teams issued statements.
It’s over. Rightly, there will be no self-serving closed shop at the top of the European game.
The ESL, as proposed, would have ruined the Premier League – and left 14 clubs with nothing to fight for but survival.
Driven by greed, it would driven an even bigger wedge between the haves and the have-nots of English football’s top flight.
European football isn’t on the agenda at Newcastle United. It hasn’t been for a long time, but it should be. And it could again compete on the continent – if new owners get things right on the pitch.
And that’s the thing. It must come down to that – getting things right on the pitch.
Last season, amid protests about his appointment as head coach at Newcastle, Steve Bruce asked what would win fans over. He was told to target the cups – and that European football must be the aim for the club.
The club has a proud European history – Bob Moncur famously led the team to victory in the Fairs Cup in 1969, and the club has had some unforgettable nights in the Champions League – but Mike Ashley has shown little enthusiasm for European football.
United’s owner showed almost no interest when the club qualified for the Europa League in 2012, and a lack of recruitment that summer – the club only signed one player, Vurnon Anita, after finishing fifth in the Premier League – left then-manager Alan Pardew with a squad ill-equipped to fight on two fronts.
European football must be the aim.
The club still reached the quarter-finals – but Ashley wasn’t at the Estadio da Luz.
Thousands of Newcastle’s fans were there to see their team take on Benfica on a beautiful night in Lisbon.
The end of the ESL project has been welcomed by the club’s ambitious would-be owners.
PCP Capital Partners director Mehrdad Ghodoussi tweeted: “A huge lesson learnt over the last 48hrs. Its a tough job owning a club, no doubt about it, mistakes will be made. Run your clubs well, make money, increase the value of your investment, but never forget what it’s really all about.”
It’s about sporting achievement. It’s about getting it right on the pitch for the fans more than the financiers.
There’s a lot wrong about the Premier League, but there’s also a lot right about it. Each club has an equal stake in it, and the distribution of TV and other income is done as equitably as possible.
And, of course, more of the riches at the top of the game must be redistributed to the rest of the pyramid.
But the end of the ESL means that Newcastle supporters can dream of a post-Ashley era where European football is again on the agenda.