The first and only thought in my head as I awoke (Asia Time) to news of Liverpool FC finally pulling the plug on the European Super League. A terse 47-word statement was all that remained of the owners’ 48-hour love affair with a closed-off 20 team Super League.
Fenway Sports Group has had many missteps over the years. A planned ticket price raise led to a walkout from the fans. There was the plans for club staff to be furloughed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. And not too long ago, there was “Project Big Picture”, another elitist proposal with strong “this will be good for you!” vibes.
Each of those plans have been walked back each time (save for PBP, which was rejected pretty soundly). This time however, there is no such option. The announcement of the European Super League has effectively taken the veil off from FSG and now, even the fans who haven’t been paying attention know what they’re all about. And what about the players and the manager who were blindsided completely by the announcement, and left to answer questions about something they had no involvement in?
The role of Jürgen Klopp in particular will be one to watch. The boss has denied reports that he’ll be stepping down from his position... but how long can that working arrangement continue? Klopp has long been the bridge between ownership and the fanbase - constantly urging calmness and understanding in the face of unpopular transfer decisions.
As he spoke on Monday night, it really did feel like it was the first time that he was biting his tongue, caught between a rock and a hard place. After management were all too eager to remain quiet while Klopp and the players had to show up and face the music for actions they had nothing to do with, just how do we see that continuing? How can the club reckon with their entire squad all posting the same image on their individual social media profiles saying no to a decision they made?
FSG will probably want to walk this back and leave this proposal in the rear-view mirror as quickly as possible. Their attempt to strongarm the rest of football into what they wanted was greedy, and also comically inept in terms of execution. However, this time, everything feels different. The damage has already been done. There will be no more business as usual. There is no undo button.
For the fans, this was the owners swapping their “dodgy out-of-touch rich guy” mask for one of a full-on greed monster that’s happy to invoke Shankly and Paisley whenever they have something to sell you, but not in any department of affairs that doesn’t concern merchandise. The owners will now have to deal with a newly opened Pandora’s box of a seemingly never-ending groundswell of mistrust that has sprouted in the wake of this.
It seems like a potentially untenable ownership situation - given Liverpool’s history of fan protests and forcing of ownership changes just a mere decade or so ago. But just like with every other bad decision made by ownership in recent history, it is everyone else - the extended community of fans, players and staff, who will have to do most of the reckoning about the rot from within their own club, and their evolving relationship with the entity.