Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The quick demise of the European Super League (for now, at least) has re-focussed the attentions of supporters on their club’s greedy owners, as we saw again on Sunday at Old Trafford.

So how much are you looking forward to the European Super League? It’s going to be great isn’t it?
Hold on a second? What do you mean it’s not happening?
My club (Arsenal) were one of the founding members. It will guarantee Arsenal the chance to play against the best teams in Europe….something we haven’t managed to do since 2017.
We’ll show them UEFA boys who are the real bosses of football in Europe. (Insert a hands over face emoji right here).
What a mess that was, from start to finish.
The thing that gets me is that people behind this are all very successful and many of them very wealthy people who haven’t got where they are without having something going for them. Some kind of business acumen or level of intelligence. But they must have left all that, and any cop-on they might have, at the door when they were dreaming up the European Super League.
I must admit my first thought when I heard of it on Sunday week last was – this is never going to work? Followed closely behind by – this is about money and nothing else. Greed was at the start, middle and end of this idea. Simple as that.
Within hours it was the only topic of conversation, for anybody with even the slightest interest in the ‘beautiful game’ at least. It was everywhere. WhatsApp groups were on the brink of melting down and at least everybody I had anything to do with on the subject, including on TV and social media, were of the same opinion – this is a very bad idea.
When you think about it, it was really obnoxious of the founding 12 clubs to pick themselves and then say there would be three more (picked by them) and then each year five more clubs could qualify. Who do they think they are?
It’s all well and good for the Man City and Barcelona and Real Madrid. But Arsenal, Spurs, Man United and AC Milan are certainly not champions league regulars these days (Spurs never were to be fair – I couldn’t resist), so what right have they to call the shots? Arrogance of the highest order.
Anyway the backlash was immediate and glorious and within 72 hours the whole thing was dead in the water, even if Senor Perez of Real Madrid says that it’s not dead, it’s just ‘on standby.’ It looks fairly shook to me Florentino.
Man City led the way and then one by one (all the English clubs first) they jumped from the sinking ship as fast as they could get their ‘heartfelt’ apology statements typed up and shoved out on social media. ‘We made a terrible mistake. Please forgive us. Please continue to spend outrageous amounts of money on our merchandise and when you can again please come back and pay massive sums of money to come and watch your team play live.” Or something like that.
So will this be the end of it? I doubt it. They’ll probably keep their chastised heads down for a bit but behind the scenes they’ll continue to look for ways to increase the ‘bang for their buck.’ The owners of these clubs (Americans in the case of Liverpool, United and Arsenal) are in it for the dollars and nothing else. They don’t care about the fans or the history or future of the game. They’re interested in balance sheets and healthy bank accounts.
The good things to come out of this whole debacle were it showed that the ordinary fan still has a voice and it seems to have reenergised the different fan groups to try and secure a better future for their clubs. But just how successful the Glazers and Kroenke Out campaigns remain to be seen. We can only cross our fingers and hope for the best.

BREEN IS THE MAN

Craig Breen is the man.

In this job I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of sports men and women over the years. People at the very top of their respective sports and I find them fascinating. The different personalities and traits that make them succeed.
One sports person that I’ve followed for many many years and someone who I’ve always been hugely impressed with is rally driver Craig Breen.
With a father like Ray, it was always going to be highly likely that Craig would become a rally driver but I don’t think anyone (probably bar Craig himself) could have imagined where he would go – and that is all the way to the very top.
What did you do at the weekend? Well Craig Breen was firing a Hydundai car around the roads of Croatia at ridiculous speeds in the World Rally Championship and getting paid for it. How cool is that?
What I like most about Craig is his steely determination. He is driven (excuse the pun) to succeed and he has succeeded and I’ve no doubt will continue to do so. That’s him. Every time I’ve met him or spoke to him you can’t help but be impressed with that drive that oozes out of him.
Of course it hasn’t been all plain sailing. Far from it. The lowest point for Craig, without doubt, was in 2012 when his co-driver, Welsh man Gareth Roberts was killed in a crash while the pair were competing in Sicily. I’m not sure how he overcame that and I know it took him a really long time to do so, he probably hasn’t yet gotten fully over it but as callous as it sounds you have to park things like that and move on. It’s a very dangerous sport and if you were to dwell on things like that then you wouldn’t get up in the morning.
After fighting his way up the ranks Craig made it when he was signed by the legendary Citroen World Rally Championship team but again his career hit a stumbling block when he was realised by the French giants in 2018.
Again other men, lesser men, would have just walked away and thrown their cap at it. But not Craig.
I’ll never forget a video message he sent, around that time, to the Park Hotel Sports Awards because he couldn’t be there on the night. He was in the snow in Andorra or somewhere and it was really raw. He was battling to resurrect his career and you could feel his pain. It’s something that has stayed with me to this day.
Again that determination saw him bounce back in style in getting back into the World Rally Championship with Hyundai and over the past couple of seasons he has impressed on his WRC appearances for them. I’m sure he would love more opportunities but he also knows, first hand, how difficult it is to get chances at this level. Eight in Croatia at the weekend wasn’t exactly what he would have been hoping for but he’ll move on, try and improve and be ready to take his chance the next time he gets the call. Above all he’s a wonderful ambassador for Waterford, his sport and Ireland. A top man and I wish him all the luck and success in the world.

Craig Breen in action in the WRC in Croatia recently. Photo: Craig Breen on Twitter.

THE DANGERS OF RACING
It’s another big week for National Hunt Racing, with the staging of the brilliant Punchestown Festival. I love Punchestown but of course it’s not going to be the same this year, without the crowds. That said the racing should still be fantastic with plenty of Cheltenham heroes attempting to cement their reputations and plenty of challengers trying to knock them off their perches. It should be great.
Sadly the darker side of racing was also on show over recent weeks with the awfully sad death of English jockey, Lorna Brooke, a number of weeks after she sustained terrible injuries in a fall at Taunton in the UK.
I happened to flick on the racing channel that evening and the minute I heard talk of racing being delayed while they waited for the air ambulance, a shiver went down my spine. I remember being at Tramore a few years ago when racing had to be delayed while the air ambulance came and it’s a terrible feeling for everyone, especially the jockey’s family and friends of course. Thankfully on that occasion there was a happy outcome but not on this occasion. It once again hammers home the fact that horse racing and National Hunt in particular is a very dangerous sport and that should never be taken for granted. May Lorna rest in peace.

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