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Relegation would be apt sanction for deluded Super League owners

As a result, Premier League would become genuinely competitive for the first time in decades

Have the warring factions of England's football fans ever been so unified in cause or voice? It has been a week of powerful solidarity among the people, a show of sustained disgust and anger which left the European Super League in tatters.

So what now? A light punishment and then back to the business of the elite teams furiously spending to pursue further success?

The true supporters of the big six of English football have been wonderful this week. So have several managers and players. But are they prepared to accept – or even embrace – the fact that the only adequate medicine for this attempted secession by their owners is relegation from next season’s Premier League?

If football is indeed the people's game and if the people are serious about saving the soul of the game, then Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal should play in the Championship – or the old second division – next season.


Would Pep or Jurgen agree to a winter of touring the boroughs of the second tier? (Maybe. Yes.)

The clubs currently in the bottom three places of the Premier League should not be relegated. On current standings, the six vacancies would be filled by Norwich, Watford, Bournemouth, Swansea, Brentford and Barnsley.

Consequently, for the first time in decades, the Premier League would become unpredictable and democratic: a real competition featuring England’s bread-and-butter clubs, evenly matched in terms of resources and limitations.

The fall-out for the punished would, of course, be catastrophic.

Would Pep or Jurgen agree to a winter of touring the boroughs of the second tier? (Maybe. Yes.) Would the top talents – Salah or De Bruyne or Pogba – discuss with their agent the wisdom of a Friday night fixture at Millwall or Bristol or look for a sharp exit? Well, who cares?

The financial implications would be enormous for the six clubs. Because only three teams would be promoted at the end of the 2022 season, then three would spend at least two seasons in the second tier. The absence of the glamour clubs from the Premier League would render it instantly less attractive to its audience. But so what?

The truth is that the presence of the big six in the Championship would immediately make it more marketable as an inter-continental television spectacle with an audience of hundreds of millions. After all, the Manchester derby would still take place. The London derbies would still take place. Does it really matter whether the yeomanry clubs they habitually spank in between those mega-games are of Premiership or Championship stock?

When the Glazer family were completing their leveraged buy-out of Manchester United in 2005, saddling a supremely profitable club with the loan debt they used for the purchase, one banner stood out in the public protests. A fan held a sign with the outraged assertion: Man Utd Is Not For Sale.

It was unintentionally funny and also symbolic of the speed and stealth with which remote billionaires could assume control of these social institutions which were, for over a century, the actual lifeblood of the cities and people who supported them.

Even the sanction of relegation would be met with frightening legal threats from these same owners – further evidence that they have hijacked the game and besmirched its traditions

The Premier League rules require a two-thirds majority – at least 14 clubs – to support a motion. They could, in theory, vote this sanction into being. It would be hugely admirable if the big six also voted to relegate themselves – but it’s unlikely they would do.

Leeds and Glasgow Rangers were relegated and forced to painstakingly rebuild after their financial mismanagement fiascos. So shouldn't England's six most powerful clubs be similarly punished for attempting to destroy the last vestiges of fair play?

Alan Shearer is arguably the greatest post-war striker England has produced and has settled into a post-football life as a pundit not known for rattling fences.

“Ban them,” was Shearer’s instinctive seething response to this. “Ban them immediately if you can.”

It’s from the gut. But a ban would be impossible. Even the sanction of relegation would be met with frightening legal threats from these same owners – further evidence that they have hijacked the game and besmirched its traditions.

However, if this extraordinary week is to mean anything, it must be the first step in the people, the fans, taking back ownership of their clubs. For the truth is that behind the truly wonderful story and history of clubs like Liverpool and City and United, a monster lurks. The game was bought decades ago.

Privately the kingmakers of European football will treat this as a setback to their ambition

Spurs were the first club to go with flotation, in 1983, and the rest followed suit when the television money changed everything. The Premier League is no longer a genuine competition; it’s a dazzling television show in which only an elite few can win the jackpot.

The raw passion and adoration of the fans is what gives it its authenticity. The pandemic has given us a surreal glimpse into the reality of elite sport without the people, without the crowds. As Eric Cantona noted in a personal condemnation during the week, the season "was so boring and it is still so boring – because the fans are not there".

The collective outrage this week has temporarily spooked the owners. In the chorus of voices, the events of this week were spoken of as the gravest event in the history of football. It wasn’t that: the tragedies at Hillsborough, Bradford and Ibrox were in a different realm of gravity.

This is just a series of billionaires about whom the world would care less and know nothing of but for their association with beloved sports teams. It’s about their pathological want for more – which is why they sign the transfer fees for the next must-have superstar or manager.

Privately the kingmakers of European football will treat this as a setback to their ambition. But humbling the owners of England’s biggest clubs by booting their teams out of the elite tier would serve as an education. Let them see, for the first time, the true soul of English football. And let the fans catch a glimpse of what has been lost.

In 1975, for instance, Derby County won the league title. Liverpool finished second. Ipswich were third, Stoke fifth, QPR 10th. The ‘big six’ were scattered throughout the table (Chelsea were relegated). Reading that table now, it looks so egalitarian and promising; a proper league, with all clubs in with a fair shout.

The treachery and greed and the breathtaking ignorance displayed over the past week has given the custodians of English football an unexpected and glorious chance to restore that old order, at least for a couple of seasons.

And it’s up for grabs now!

But have they got the bottle?