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Union's Zingler on future of football

Super League & Champions League Reforms:

Sat, 24. April 2021
Union's Zingler on future of football

This morning, the Berliner Zeitung newspaper have published an editorial under the name "Insatiable greed: The Monster must die," authored by 1. FC Union Berlin president Dirk Zingler.

If a ghost moves around Europe, it's known to bring great horror- This is what we've witnessed in recent days: the much-feared European Super League of the football elite emerged and haunted the public. Lots of commotion, angry supporters, spontaneous protests and sharp exchanges of words on all sides. What now? The alliance of the twelve, under the name of the greatest clubs on the continent, something which was not hastily arranged last Sunday. has disintegrated before it has even started. Well, it's lucky that went well, some say - but this is wrong.

While the fanfare was going around the greatest form of excess, the UEFA Champions League reforms were silently passed, indeed almost unnoticed. This came with the approval of Germany's representative on UEFA's Executive Committee, DFB Vice-President Dr. Rainer Koch. It was a previously a subject of much criticism, yet now deemed as a sensible solution. How can that be?

The lesser of evil stays: one that is so obvious, you have to wonder if anyone seriously believes that nobody noticed it. And whether this evil is so much smaller than the European Super League is highly questionable. After all, the reform of the Champions League, under the direction of UEFA, follows the same principle as the Super League, which may have failed at least for the time being: more, more more.

This insatiable greed was exemplified by UEFA, the major clubs in Europe and the European Club Association (ECA), who always need more of everything: more games, more sponsors, and most importantly, more money. The new Champions League provides this, and as a little bonus, it leverages sporting competition by handing out bonus prizes for past success and allowing them to sit at the table. If football – inconveniently – has a semblance of unpredictability, then it must not be at the expense of the European elite. That is the logic here.

As such, it's no surprise that the elite is no longer just content with a seat at the table, but prefer to open their own restaurant, to use a metaphor. UEFA and some of Europe's uninvited top clubs will be close to getting exactly what they wanted: dishonesty, greed, excess. No, UEFA's General Secretary Aleksander Ceferin, who was heavily outraged at the start of the week, did not save European football for the fans. His indignation is genuine, its motive is pure egotism. He simply didn't expect to be in such danger of being beaten at his own game.

A word about the voting behaviour of Germany's representatives at UEFA. Rarely has been it so easy to show your position. There was no need for compromise, certainly not a lazy one like this Champions League reform, to prevent a Super League. After all, no German club was succumbed to by the Super League. This deserves respect and thanks, especially since clubs first and foremost have to look after their own interests. The German FA, on the other hand, which is supposed to represent all of football in Germany, missed the opportunity to do this task justice by agreeing to the Champions League reforms. It may be that a majority decision was necessary, but a simple "no" would have been enough to show fans in Germany. We listen to you and we respect you, because without you, we are nothing. Was that really too difficult? Too much to ask?

That's easy for him to say, some will argue. None of this even concerns 1. FC Union Berlin, it's easy to do without something that isn't being offered to you.

The second part may be accurate, but the first part is not. Union has been playing in the Bundesliga for the last two seasons and has so far spent around 30 million euros per season on the first-team. In each of the last two seasons, there was only one club who spent less. Others spend four, five or eight times as much. Bayern Munich spends ten times as much and this year, they will be the champions of Germany for the ninth year in a row. The financial gap to the runner-up is already so high that another championship winner is hardly conceivable. A title for Borussia Mönchengladbach or Eintracht Frankfurt seems a utopian dream; a title for Mainz, Freiburg or even Union not even a tired joke. We play the same sport, but we haven't played the same game for a long time.

You shouldn't worry: I don't want to start a debate about jealousy. Good work and sporting success should always be rewarded. The question is how far the gap between the participants can form without harming everyone. Football is no different from the society, of which it is a part. If we fail to strike an appropriate balance, we run the risk of turning cohesion issues into open confrontation. Football inspires, repels, and polarises - and it could show our society the way to find social balance, justice and fair competition.

The instruments to achieve this are long known and we can summarise it quite succinctly: put a lid on it! Transfer fees, player salaries, agent fees - caps on spending can help us escape the deadly growth spiral. We can remove the basis for the pursuit of new revenues by setting ourselves sensible rules. The legal challenge should not prevent us from tackling it. If we want to, we will find solutions. Football used to be the sport of the so-called "small people", a popular sport in the best sense of the word and easily accessible to everyone. Organised by clubs, supported by members. Many of these clubs have been put into the hands of private owners, mainly in the hope of gaining the next advantage in the race for millions. German football has one last barrier to at least make difficult the extensive privatisation of the most popular sport. The 50+1 rule prevents the unlimited influence of shareholders and is an asset worth protecting it if you think of organising football for the people. The growing pressure to abolish it is due to the need for more, more and more, money.If we get a grip of it by curbing financial financial flows of money, we will save our football.

Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid, also believes he can save football, which he sees in a more dramatic fashion. "By 2024, we will all be dead," says Perez, referring to the very clubs that have taken growth to such astronomical heights that they are now in danger of perishing. Dear Mr. Perez, don't be afraid. The football monsters, who can only be saved with 3.5 billion euros from a Super League must die before they completely devour the most beautiful sport in the world.

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arsenal and all the other great clubs – they will survive. They will belong to the passionate people who would do anything for their club. They will play football for the people who love the sport.