Hardly a day goes by when I don’t hear one complaint or another about how “the game’s gone” and how a few super clubs are ruining everything by having the nerve to buy up the very best players. All this, it seems, is against some sort of mystical “spirit of the game” that the complainers assure themselves they alone understand. Many of this same sort then profit from the extensive industry that comes from writing about these super clubs, commenting on these huge players, and giving their two pence on the latest outlandish transfer rumour.
Cards on the table
It is all silly, really. I suggest that the person who is genuinely against the dominance of super clubs, both financially and competitively is exceedingly rare. Most of the complaints about the dominant forces in our game simply come from those whose own clubs have failed to achieve that success.
Before going any further, I will put my cards on the table, I am a Real Madrid fan, and have been for 16 years now. In all that time, my club has been among the biggest in the world, and, in recent years, Real has achieved a level of European dominance scarcely matched in their 116-year history.
So many of you would say “of course you support super clubs, you are a fan of one” and that is absolutely true, but it makes my point. If your own club were Real Madrid, you would agree with me. Put more specifically, if your club became Real Madrid, you would support super clubs. If you were a Manchester City or Chelsea fan all through the years and suddenly a massive group or singular billionaire bought your club and transformed them into a world marvel you would be elated. You would think this was great news, you would no longer complain about big clubs and understand what they bring to the game.
Every club on earth wants to be as successful as Real Madrid on the pitch; every club on earth wants to have the business success of Manchester United or the financial might of PSG. That’s the goal. If your club doesn’t want to be that, it is wasting your time.
None of this is contradictory to the desire to see grassroots footballs succeed. Strictly speaking, where I live I do not have a ‘local’ club. The closest football club to me is two hours away and plays in the second division here in America, where we have no promotion or relegation. I have written articles in other venues about that club and I watch as many of their games as I can, and I want to see them successful, even if they do not get the MLS expansion franchise they so richly deserve.
But small ‘local’ clubs benefit from the likes of Real Madrid and others, just like all the clubs here in America do. Currently a handful of the biggest clubs in the world are playing their preseasons in America, and more Americans than ever are excited about the English Premier League starting here soon. Nearly every fan of my local club has a European club they follow, and that helped introduce them to the sport. They now attend games here in the States because the super clubs around the world grabbed their attention.
To disdain the dominance of these super clubs is to disdain this local growth. The two need one another. Even in a football mad country like England, Germany, or Spain, the national FA’s benefit richly from their top clubs and spread that (in various degrees of honor or success) to their smaller members. The local game grows because of the national and international one.
The business of entertainment
Football is a vehicle for many things. Its fans use it for social change, for bringing together communities, and for enriching our lives. That vehicle is powered by the business of entertainment, and the richest stores of that power are the big clubs, the big competitions, and their dominance in world football. Dynasties are good for sports, it gives us reason to hate those clubs more successful than our own, aspire to be at their level, and if we are neutrals, it allows us to see the game played at its very best.
El Clasico is not the biggest regular season club game because of the fans in the rivalry, nor simply the history of the clubs involved. It is the biggest game because the sides are absolutely loaded. In a world without super clubs, we would never see that much talent on the field at once, and therefore we would never see the game played at the very highest level, and that would be a loss for us all.
So, the next time someone tells you that it is an evil to the sport that Salford City is paying players wages that will advance them through the ranks, tell them they are jealous and pathetic. Nothing is harmed in the sport by clubs being successful, even if they are so.