Marcelo Bielsa's warning rings louder as Leeds United welcome millions of new fans ahead of clash with European Super League Liverpool

As if these weren't strange enough times, Leeds United will be cheered on by millions of supporters from traditional rivals when they take on one of the Greedy Six tonight.

Monday, 19th April 2021, 9:26 am
Updated Monday, 19th April 2021, 9:28 am
BIG CLASH - Leeds United take on European Super League member Liverpool tonight at Elland Road with the chance to strike a blow for football. Pic: Getty

Last night the Whites made their feelings known on the European Greed League, at least on social media, with owner Andrea Radrizzani Tweeting his approval of Gary Neville's disgust and the Leeds United account retweeting it.

Tonight the Whites face Liverpool and if the chance to move within four points of the Premier League champions wasn't incentive enough, they can also strike a symbolic blow against one of the clubs behind this new monstrosity, on behalf of football itself. They will be willed on by fans, real fans of real football, across the globe.

Leeds fans can breathe a sigh of relief that the man running their club is not part of this mess. The atmosphere in the Elland Road directors box tonight will be fascinating. The sound of Victor Orta booing every Liverpool touch for 90 minutes would be a soundtrack welcomed by even those who have grown up hating everything Leeds United stand for. The sight of Bielsa's team getting one over on a club who have lost touch entirely with their roots, would be celebrated far and wide.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Regardless of the result, however, those with any connection to the sport's grassroots or the matchday experience, will have already condemned the plans that were officially unveiled last night.

It would be nice if Leeds and the rest of English football struck a blow before kick-off at Elland Road, with a joint statement not only making clear their disapproval but vowing never to accept invitation to the EGL. They could go one further and refuse, as one, to do any transfer business with the Ugly Six.

Radrizzani has already shown a measure of leadership in echoing Neville's sentiments and as the owner of one of the country's traditional big clubs, a club with a worldwide following, is well placed to lead a revolt that would gain instant backing of supporters everywhere.

Fans of the Shameful Six should play their part too and bombard their club with emails of complaint and dissent. And if they value the game itself at all, it might just be the only time when defecting could be considered. Everyone has a local non league club who can give them their fix.

The press and media cannot simply load the bullets, however. Serious thought has to be given to the nature of the coverage given to EGL games played by the Treacherous Six. TV companies could deep six the plans from the outset. If a billionaire-owned football club plays a game in a stadium and no one is around to watch it or read about it, does the EGL have a point or even a future? Benefitting from pay per view or page views, having carried all manner of comment and opinion slating the competition would reek of hypocrisy.

Our game is already full of hypocrisy, however. If an owner with pockets containing the kind of cash Manchester City have been able to throw around came sniffing around our club, would we protest at all or would it be gifs of Mbappé and photos of HMS P*** the League?

Ultimately by allowing our clubs to be owned by those with no apparent love of the actual game, by allowing our top league to dwarf everyone below in size, profile and revenue, we may have forfeited any say in what happens from here on in.

It hasn't felt, for a long time, that the top clubs value the supporter who actually sits in the stadium as highly as they should.

Marcelo Bielsa's warning, from June of last year, rings a little more alarming today than it did back then.

"What I wish is that the business of football doesn’t discover that it can play without fans," he said.

"How technology has progressed a lot to unexpected places, maybe one possibility is that the fan leaves his place to virtual fans. That could be better in the economic point of view for football. I don’t want that. The best thing is trying not to imagine this scenario, I wouldn’t like that to happen."

And yet here we stand, today, with the Arsenal Supporters' Trust condemning a plot 'forcing more meaningless games on fans' and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust agreeing, calling it the 'opportunistic pursuit of greed.'

The match-going fan has apparently not been consulted, nor considered by ninth-placed Arsenal or seventh-placed Tottenham.

As anyone who has enjoyed games at the very base of the English pyramid or even at EFL level, in some pretty rustic grounds, will tell you - this is still our game. We have ceded control at the very top but football remains nothing without fans. The only hope is that the owners involved in the EGL will be reminded of that, loudly and clearly, each and every day until such a time as they see sense or their cash-grab falls apart around them.