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‘Disgraceful’, ‘pricing out the working class’ – What Man United and Man City fans are saying on the streets of Manchester about Super League plans


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There’s not a lot that will bring football fans of all persuasions together in one united front.

Until now.

When Manchester United and Manchester City added their names to the European Super League plans, to become two of the 12 founding members of a 20-team league, all clubs involved received widespread criticism.

It’s the biggest move in the hierarchy of European football for a generation, and one that could define the future of the Premier League, Champions League and even the World Cup.

United have lifted European silverware on five occasions, and could add a sixth trophy this season, while City are bidding for a first Champions League title this year to go with their 1970 European Cup Winner’s Cup. This new Super League would remove the requirement for both clubs to qualify for elite European competition each season, as all clubs have to now.

As City and United fans have moved to condemn the plans, we headed out onto the sunny streets of Manchester city centre to see what the average supporter feels about the monumental changes their clubs are trying to implement.

“It’s disgraceful, it’s only for money,” says David Pendleton, a United fan of 60 years.

“You’ll pay more for the same players in the same stadium while wages and transfer fees will rise. They’re losing contact with ordinary people.

“Prices will go sky high, football isn’t about entertainment any more, but only about how much money through the turnstiles. I feel sorry for working guys, they’re priced out of going to a game. It’s £200-300 for a family to go to one game these days, where will parents get the money? They’re trying to make more money out of people who can’t afford it.

“The game is losing all identity. It’s been an awful year and this is their priority. All over the news today is this greedy Super League and not the thousands of people who’ve died or lost their jobs this year. It’s what they do, the Super League will kill it all – everybody’s now stopping and thinking ‘what’s happening?’ It’s making a mockery of what football is about.”

David isn’t the only fan concerned with the integrity of the game, and the knock-on effects the plans could have on the pockets of City and United fans.

Karl Smith has supported City for 35 years, and has similar reservations.

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Karl Smith

© Vincent Cole 19 04 2021
Karl Smith

He says: “It’s sad to be honest. They’re pricing the working class out. Gary Neville said it’s about greed and he was right, and I don’t normally agree with him! I’m not happy, Bayern Munich and Dortmund have said no to the proposals, so why haven’t we?

“I probably would watch the games on TV but I wouldn’t go, the season tickets would be a lot more. City have been making a song and dance about winning the Champions League and then they’re turning their back on it.”

City’s relationship with the Champions League comes up in a conversation with Tom Young, one of the younger generations of Blues’ supporter who has seen the current ownership prioritise a European trophy as much as any other.

He starts: “I’m mad. What hurts is that United fans would probably expect it of their owners, it wouldn’t be a shock as a United fan. But our owners always put the club and fans first, they regenerated East Manchester, set up the academy. Every decision was with the future of the club in mind.

a man standing on a sidewalk: Tom Young

© Vincent Cole 19 04 2021
Tom Young

“They’ve always put the Champions League as their focus but this is just a quick cash grab over the what the fans feel. It’s heartbreaking and hard to swallow. City have always had a big fanbase, it’s not about that, they’ve shown their true colours by choosing the Super League over the Champions League.

“I would never support another club, but I couldn’t support City the same way I have done. I couldn’t go, I don’t agree with the competition. How can I invest money and time if I don’t agree?

“It’s little things, I’ve had my season ticket for years but got a letter saying I have to move because they’re getting rid of my seat to put new electric advertising signs in. The signs are more important than loyal fans.

“I hope Pep says he’s leaving. If he did or any of the staff or players did, we’d send him off with best wishes. It’s a farce. Arsenal are 11th, it doesn’t matter where they finish, so why compete if there’s nothing to compete for?”

Jules and Sharon are friends who have different views on which team to support – but the same feelings on the Super League plans.

Jules, a United fan, says: “We’ve got such a proud history in Europe and we’ve done it by earning our place. It doesn’t feel right, owners not looking after the interests of supporters. I don’t know if I’d go, I love the club and want them to win and be the best in the world, but it wouldn’t feel the same.”

Sharon, who’s a City supporter, feels similar: “The timing stinks, I’ll still support them but I feel let down. It’s not what we should stand for. If it was introduced 15 years ago we’d be locked out of the new league. The fans aren’t happy and the club need to listen to them.”

And it’s not just United and City fans up in arms about the seismic proposals.

Martin Bell is a Burnley fan who lives in Manchester, who is another describing the plans as ‘disgraceful.’

“It’s a disgrace,” he says. “We won’t know the full effects for weeks and months to sort out, there will be court cases, claims and counter claims. If it happens there will be lawsuits from teams like Burnley whose income is affected. I don’t know the solution, even the revised Champions League proposals were verging on these kind of arrangements, it would let you qualify but if your ranking and history is above a level you qualify anyway. That was creeping into that.

a man wearing sunglasses: Martin Bell

© Vincent Cole 19 04 2021
Martin Bell

“It’s like a glorified insurance scheme, qualifying even if you’re not good enough you can still get millions. It’s fundamentally not fair.

“I feel sorry for United and City supporters because I’m sure 95 per cent of their fans will be shocked and disgusted as I am. The initial Premier League was pulling up the drawbridge when Burnley were in the fourth division but we’re a great example of the meritocracy of the football pyramid in that we were one game from going out of business and we were in the Europa League two years ago.

“Any club can dream about making it but this is pulling up the ladder. All they’re trying to do is crush the competition, make barriers of entry into the market and ensure their longevity. It would be unlikely I’d go back on principle if Burnley were in it.”

Similarly, Denis White is a Newcastle fan, and is not pleased with the ‘Big Six’ Premier League clubs.

“It prevents us from reaching top notch. They’re protecting their own interests for themselves. That’s what most football fans see. Leicester and West Ham deserve to qualify for Europe next season but could be excluded from this competition. It’s a disgraceful, closed shop.

“Throw them out of the Premier League, it’ll be a better, more competitive league for it. If Newcastle signed up I’d boycott and I’d cancel my season ticket of 38 years.

“It was great seeing Gary Neville, United are his club but he said what needed to be said. Hopefully the fans join together and say something. Football without fans is nothing. These clubs are forgetting that the novelty of playing these big games every week will wear thin. What about away fans, you won’t have packed away ends that create all the atmosphere.”

However, while all fans we spoke to condemned the plans for reducing the competition of the football pyramid, City fan James Pollitt had a slightly different view that stems back to City’s difficult relationship with UEFA.

“I’m happy we’re out of UEFA competitions if we don’t get kicked out anyway, happy to be leaving their confines,” he said.

“If we leave all the Financial Fair Play drama behind and there’s a replacement for the Champions League then it could be good, but it’s not worth sacrificing the highs and lows and prestige of the Premier League. It ruins football if it does. I can appreciate that the Champions League is the competition but there will have been the same when the Champions League replaced the European Cup.

“If they kicked us out of the league or docked us points, whoever won the league instead would always have an asterisk next to their title. Everyone knows we’ve won it this year. If they kick us out of the Champions League then fair play. The Super League clubs have done this on purpose to make it look awful if they kick us out of the Premier League or Champions League.”

One thing is for sure, whatever your colours, there is certainly anger and confusion on the streets of Manchester at a plan designed to shake up football as we know it – led by the two clubs that so often shine a positive light on the city.


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