Sir Bobby Robson once said “What is a club in any case?…It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up the stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him, and without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”
Unfortunately due to COVID-19 the above experiences have been put on hold for the foreseeable future, but if you thought that it would hinder football fans across the country making an impact on their teams, the league and indeed the future of the sports…you may need to rethink that stance.
Sir Bobby’s quote was about the power that football fans truly have as we recently saw with the backlash and stances against the proposed European Super League, which caused huge controversy within the community.
To give a bit of context, owners from the six ‘biggest’ clubs in the English Premier League, the country’s top-tier league, banded together with other major clubs across Europe to propose a new ‘Super League’ in which they would receive £350million to just play each other.
While this may not seem a big issue and even a good idea to many, others saw it as an attack on the sport as there would be no danger of relegation and other teams could only compete via invite only, taking away the competitive edge from the sport, which was when people took to social media to voice their opinions.
The response was swift, Gary Neville, the former Manchester United footballer and England Coach, lit the match with an impassioned rant about how the idea would destroy the football pyramid that is currently in place. Neville’s rant was placed on the Sky Sports’ Twitter and has been seen over 7.5 million times, and gave disgruntled fans a place to voice their opinions…and that they did.
As much as Sky Sports and traditional media would like to consider themselves the catalyst for the demise of the idea, the truth is that the real downfall was the fans and social media was the true x-factor for the destruction of the Super League fantasy.
The first real cracks in the wall was when the players from the clubs started to disagree with their upper management. Players like Luke Shaw, Jordan Henderson, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes were crucial in voicing their opinions and guessing where they did it…social media.
Social media has fast become the go-to place for sports stars to get their messages to their fans, the instantaneous nature and direct communication are hugely beneficial given that it’s much harder for their words to be misconstrued by a journalist or middle person.
In any business, you can have as great of a product as you think you have but if the reception from the stakeholders is poor then you’re heading in the wrong direction and it was Manchester City and Chelsea, two clubs who have had a lot of success over the past 15 years, that seemed to listen to their audiences and employees first and announced their withdrawals from the competition.
Once the first couple of dominos fell, the remaining clubs tumbled too with Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal announcing their intentions to no longer compete in the proposed league. We’ll give you one guess how they announced it…you got it, social media. Having that instant platform to connect with fans was a huge saving grace and helped them salvage some of their reputations, although the damage was undeniable.
Social media is so powerful, while it can turn an idea into a phenomenon, it also has the ability to tear an idea down. Would the European Super League have happened without the online rally of the fans? Who can say?
But one thing is for sure, with the power the supporters possess in modern times through these unique platforms, the idea was a non-starter.
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