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A week to show football needs change

April 24, 2021

Bayern Munich not winning the Bundesliga title the week the Super League tried and failed to change football is a reminder of why we watch sport. DW's Jonathan Harding believes the real work starts here though.

A banner at Union Berlin reads 'Give sport back to children and amateurs'
It's been a tumultuous week for football: A banner at Union Berlin reads 'Give sport back to children and amateurs'Image: Nordphoto/imago images

Bayern Munich not winning a ninth Bundesliga title this weekend was a reminder of why we watch sport. You watch sport because the result is always unknown, but this week there was a reminder that some people want to change those odds.

The Super League was a bold and brazen move by people who care about money. It was a natural result of a sport that favors exponential growth over everything, and while its swift death is a victory football should enjoy, the sport remains more broken than ever. 

The battle for the Super League might be over, but the war for football has just begun.

A revamped Champions League featuring more games and more spots for elite teams that failed to qualify is not the answer. The competition is a Super League lite, the "lesser of two evils" as Manchester City's Ilkay Gündogan called it this week.

UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) must recognize this and act accordingly. Reform is fine and reform is needed -— but not the kind that rewards the rich, burdens the players and reduces the quality of the sport.

Serial winners are doing the same. Bayern Munich might not have won the title this weekend, but they surely will before the season is over. It would be their ninth in a row, and the lack of competition is as concerning as ever.

Granted, Inter Milan are on the verge of breaking Juventus' monopoly in Italy, but PSG have fought back against Lille in France and Real Madrid and Barcelona are still very much in the title race in Spain.

In England, such dominance has only been avoided thanks to the sort of unbridled investment and rampant commercialism which spawned the idea of a breakaway Super League in the first place.

DW's Jonathan Harding
DW's Jonathan HardingImage: DW/P.Henriksen

Why we watch football

Why should we watch if we know the same teams will always win? It is time football started not just asking some bigger, existential questions, but also looked for ways to answer them.

There was uproar about the idea of a Super League and rightly so, but what about ownership models linked to questionable financial sources, human rights abuses and sportswashing?

What about the disregard for grassroots football, human care and fan loyalty? Are World Cups in Qatar something we should even be watching, knowing how many people have died just to make it happen?

And we've not even got to the impunity with which anonymous social media users can hurl racist abuse at players without having to fear backlash on the scale of that which greeted the Super League.

More games, more money, more exposure does not a quality sport make. This week has shown that football can change its course and it's time to seize on this momentum and get the sport back under control.

Not through plans like the new Champions League, but through ones that don't include people in the price.

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