Watching the humiliation of a team assembled for enormous sums of money is a spectacle in ways that watching Norwich getting destroyed can never be. The fact that such defeats are generally at the hands of other big budget sides shouldn’t detract from the fun. For example, Spurs’ thrashing at City, and Arsenal’s mauling at Anfield – without caring about the outcome, it was compelling to see teams that should do so much better completely fail in their task. For the same reason, there is entertainment to be had in seeing Premier League dreams thwarted in Europe. But, not everyone agrees:
So many dancing on the exit of another English team from #UCL. Well done.
— Ian McGarry (@garbosj) March 12, 2014
This tweet reminded me of some exchanges I’ve had with fans who claim to support the English teams in Europe “because it’s good for English football.” Of course, there are practical reasons for some clubs to want others to do well. The UEFA coefficient points system means the total number of places in the Champions and Europa League tournaments allocated is based on the overall performance of English clubs. But, England’s European places are not under threat, and in any case, the Champions League places are dominated by an elite set of clubs with little room for newcomers.
As a rule of thumb it’s usually fans of smaller clubs without a sniff of European competition that will lean towards rooting for the English representatives. It’s the same nationalist pride that you find flourishing among fans of the smaller clubs in England, hence the displays of Aldershot, Yeovil and Peterborough flags at England matches. But, at least in the case of the national team there is genuinely a sense of shared identity. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a lot more tangible than the ludicrous suggestion that every Englishman has a stake in the success of English clubs in Europe.
The notion of supporting English clubs in Europe makes no sense at all. Given the chance, any of the Premier League’s elite clubs would screw the rest over to ensure their total dominance of English football. The clubs that qualify for Europe have already proved themselves to be the best in their respective league; European success confirms their status, bringing greater wealth and prestige, and massively inflating a club’s sense of importance. Maybe the well wishers believe there will be benefits for all if one club succeeds – football’s equivalent of trickle down economics. Good luck with that.
The situation isn’t exclusive to England. The big clubs from Europe’s big leagues have reached such a position of total dominance that decent clubs from inferior domestic competition have seen their chances of European glory throttled at birth. Porto put up a good fight, but that victory under Mourinho was a freak season, and no Portuguese club is likely to get close for a long time. Ajax and PSV, all used to be clubs to fear, and now serve as filler the group stage, if they’re lucky.
Despite all this, the Champions League still intrigues as a competition. How can it not, when it’s the only place these mutated clubs get to face each other. But, don’t tell us it’s good for English football to see English clubs doing well. It’s good for the people running English football – the owners, the corporate sponsors, and Richard Scudamore, who is already so sure he’s got the best ‘product’. As if these people need more success. No, they need failure. It’s good for them, it keeps them grounded.
Go on Galatasary.