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Opinion: Greed is destroying football

November 3, 2018

Lies, greed and secret plans for a European Super League: the latest round of Football Leaks reveal a new level of commercialization in football. DW's Joscha Weber says there's only one thing to do: turn off the TV!

Geldregen Geldscheine Mercedes-Benz Arena zur blauen Stunde
Image: picture-alliance/imageBROKER/M. Weber

On a regular match day in the year 2021, the Schmidt family from Munich are on their way to a Bayern Munich away game. The Hubers are time-served supporters of the German champions and follow Bayern home and away. Away days used to mean road trips to Stuttgart or Berlin. But today, it's off to the airport. Destination: Barcelona.

Flights, accommodation and scandalously expensive tickets are all booked. The trip costs about ten times what it used to. And that's just the start. Their Sky subscription is three times more expensive, the official jersey costs double and Bayern's in-house media have exclusive rights to all player interviews. Welcome to the new European Super League!

Money, money, money

This fan nightmare could easily become a reality. Bayern away at Barcelona, Manchester United in Madrid, PSG vs. Juventus. Week after week. The crème de la crème of European football in a league all of their own.

According to the latest round of Football Leaks, processed, evaluated and published by news magazine Der Spiegel, German broadcaster NDR and the European Investigative Collaborations group (EIC), the plans are already progressed.

The published documents and statements all tell the same story, namely that plans for Europe's top clubs to break away from their domestic leagues and form their own Super League for their own marketing needs are much more concrete than previously suspected.

But there's no need to worry! That was the message from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge anyway as the Bayern Munich boss rushed to respond to the new revelations. The Bavarian giants are "committed to their membership of the Bundesliga."

Weber Joscha Kommentarbild
DW's Joscha Weber

Well, if you say so. But the revelation that Bayern were investigating the legal feasibility of leaving the Bundesliga as early as two years ago suggests otherwise.

It's just one of many lies revealed by Football Leaks. Let's have a look at another one: Financial Fair Play. In bypassing the regulations, nouveau riche clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain were able to count upon the assistance of the very powers that are trusted to uphold them.

Specifically, the functionaries surrounding former general secretary and current FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Only with their help has the Qatari sheikh Nasser Al-Khelaifi been able to pump €1.89 billion ($2.15 billion) into the club from the French capital, including €222 million just for Neymar, and avoid punishment for distortion of the competition.

The common thread running through it all? Money. More and more money.

There's only one way out

Yet for some, it's still not enough. The commercialization of the game isn't occurring enough and it's time to turn on the turbo engine. It's name? A European Super League, which would guarantee its members even more money than the existing cash cow known as the Champions League.

"Total marketing" is the new buzzword. The complete, undivided retention of profit while still selling fans the fantasy of a romantic football world full of tradition, authenticity and "Echte Liebe" — true love. All so that the fan keeps on cheering. And, most importantly, paying.

Professional football is a multi-billion-dollar industry which has long since succumbed to the harsh reality of profit-making. The greed of the bosses for ever greater turnovers has now far outweighs that of the players for more titles.

It's a dangerous greed, a greed which will destroy football as we know it. A quick glance at the match-going experience in England's Premier League is enough to see what football as a luxury product looks like.

There's only one thing for it: turn off!

The Schmidt family, and others like them, need to turn off the television, cancel their subscriptions (or all three of them, as is now already the case), stop buying new kits and boycott the matches.

Empty stands and sinking broadcast and merchandise revenue: that's the only language the bosses understand. Maybe then they'll remember what football really is: a game, not a product.