Leeds United fuelled by ABBA and money taunts on the right side of history amid European Super League failure - Daniel Chapman
Daniel Chapman has co-edited Leeds United fanzine and podcast The Square Ball since 2011, taking it through this season’s 30th anniversary, and seven nominations for the Football Supporters’ Federation Fanzine of the Year award, winning twice. He’s the author of a new history book about the club, ‘100 Years of Leeds United, 1919-2019’, and is on Twitter as MoscowhiteTSB.
While I was writing this column last week, the details of the Super League proposal were still as dim as the wits of the people proposing it.
There was more hope than expectation of it eventually being defeated, and certainly not that ‘eventually’ was coming within 48 hours.
On that Monday morning, the loudest voice against was still the solo Mancunian honk of Gary Neville, that either had to multiply like crushing that crate of rubber geese to make them all scream, or be joined by more tolerable vowel sounds.
By that night Pat Bamford had added the high notes, and James Milner came in with his earthy Yorkshire baritone: “I don’t like it.” Speak as tha’ find, Jim.
Then the melody, a lone saxophonist drilling Abba’s ‘Money, Money, Money’ deep into Jurgen Klopp’s skull, outside Liverpool’s hotel and outside Elland Road all through the game, obliterating every sensible thought inside the Liverpool manager’s head.
By the weekend, Klopp still wasn’t over it, as if the true crime of the Super League was haunting his dreams with Frida’s penetrating side-eye from beneath the brim of her flapper’s hat.
Ain’t it sad?
“It was not Liverpool Football Club,” trying to make a Super League happen, he insisted. “It was representatives of Liverpool Football Club.
“We have to make the difference, that’s really very important.”
Club, apparently, doesn’t apply when one part of it does something the other doesn’t like – you never walk alone, unless you’re trying to sign up to a hopeful league of debt relief, in which case you can get out there in the wind and the rain and leave Jurgen and his players out of it.
“We are just the face of the club,” he said, and presumably had the league gone ahead Fenway Sports Group founder John W. Henry was taking over from Klopp, a new team was being built from among the staff at Octagon, the marketing company who created the ‘This Means More’ slogan emblazoned on Liverpool’s team bus.
Meanwhile, in West Yorkshire, Leeds United’s hierarchy seem to have been rather enjoying themselves, Angus Kinnear drumming Abba hits on his desk with a pen while composing his programme notes, flicking between Google Image searches, trying to decide between a Benny beard or a Björn mullet for the next Premier League execs’ Zoom call.
The sartorial selection for Manchester United’s visit was a white rose all round for Beeston’s top brass, an easy choice but, after the initial Super League shockwave, it’s been a week of easy choices at Elland Road.
“What are the ‘big six’ doing? Right. Don’t do any of that, then.”
The only question was how far to go opposing the Super League, and the answer was all the way.
The t-shirts, the banners, the programme notes: ‘Deeply cynical ... seditious ... betrayal ... astonishing ingordigiousness’.
You can picture Kinnear slamming his dictionary shut, emailing his piece over to the programme editor: let’s hear Benny and Björn come up with a rhyme for that one.
Leeds can afford to be relaxed.
For one thing, it wasn’t only the fans and Gary Neville opposing this: while Juventus and Real Madrid were trying to tear European football apart, Paris Saint-Germain’s president and Andrea Radrizzani’s very good friend, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, was quietly taking Andrea Agnelli’s old chair in charge of the European Club Association.
But there’s more than political allegiances in Leeds’ favour.
It needn’t have taken 16 years, but Leeds are finally feeling the benefit of the harsh relegations and financial resets the Super League clubs are frantically trying to avoid.
Their breakaway was a desperate act, trying to service self-inflicted debts – don’t buy the Covid-19 excuses – with even larger loans against even more imaginary broadcast deals.
The stance of the others, in the Premier League at least, made clear that relatively well-run clubs are not about to share the impact when Liverpool miss the Champions League and their balloon bursts, whether the nitrous oxide means more laughter, or less.
Not only did the 12 red balloons of the Super League lose JP Morgan’s financial leverage, they lost even more power and status to the clubs Kinnear’s notes name as their main threat: Aston Villa, Leicester, West Ham, Everton, and yes, Leeds.
Not doing what the big clubs have been doing is becoming the wisest strategy as they not only lose cash, but their cash loses its value.
Does £72m for Kai Havertz make sense for Chelsea in a world of £17m for Raphinha? But, as Erling Haaland is dragged to market this summer like a young bull, will that stop any of them?
No, because the bemusing egos at the top of European football could only think of solving their debts with different debts, proving they can’t learn.
And Jurgen Klopp will keep insisting none of this is to do with him, as players appear and disappear in his £450m squad as if by magic.
‘The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself’ – there’s another gift from Abba, via Leeds, to keep Klopp awake at night.