The First Past the Post Super League: if it matters in football, it must in politics too

Federico Scolari, Former Student Placement

Posted on the 22nd April 2021

On Sunday night, the owners of 12 elite European football clubs – the big 6 in England, plus 3 top teams from each Italy and Spain – announced the creation of a new tournament, the European Super League. The Super League would be financed by JPMorgan with €4 billion (£3.45 billion) with the money spit amongst the competing clubs.

The founding clubs would be awarded permanent membership irrespective of merits and performance, effectively creating a closed elite for the wealthiest clubs that disregards the very principles of fair competition and reward in football.

As grass pitches defrosted on Monday morning, football fans across the world awoke in disgust. “Football is for the fans” and “created by the poor, stolen by the rich”, read the slogans across social platforms. Reactions from pundits, journalists, governments and institutions flooded the internet in a matter of minutes.

Boris Johnson was amongst the first politicians to comment on the new plans saying, “We’re going to look at everything that we can do to make sure this doesn’t go ahead in the way it is proposed.”

“Football is one of the great glories of this country’s cultural heritage” he added, “How can it be right when you have a situation where you create a kind of cartel that stops clubs competing against each other?” He further stated that the League went “against the basic principles of competition”.

The House of Commons Super League

He was right in many aspects. Competition and equality are to be cherished, in football and in politics. But there is an irony that many of those same politicians who stood up for a fair and equitable system in football have repeatedly failed to do it in politics.

In fact many of the issues with the European Super League are already features in our own political system – the same system so many in our politics are resistant to change.

Our First Past the Post has created a Parliamentary Super League dominated by two large parties – shutting our smaller parties and making it hard for new ones to gain representation.

Instead of a 12-clubs elite that can’t be relegated by popular will or merit, the Commons have hundreds of safe seats that MPs know, even when their party fails to win nationally, and the public decide their performance is just not up to scratch, their own place is still secure.

Think of Liverpool Walton constituency, one of the safest seats in England and home of Everton Football Club. With First Past the Post, we almost forget that smaller parties exist in the area, existing in Labour’s shadow. Had the Super League gone ahead we may have seen Everton fall behind Liverpool FC, excluded from the elitist circle and held back by the new system.

While the government has been promptly transparent in announcing its position against the Super League, it has time and time again refused to take action against a disproportional voting system that further hinder competition, fairness, and equality in our politics.

And that’s because, in our very own Westminster Super League, the two main parties are already at the top.

Football matters massively to this country. It’s the sunny Sundays with your family, the memories you create, the rivalry, the tradition, the pint down the pub with your close ones. It’s Leicester winning the Premier League, Forest’s back-to-back European Cups, and Sunderland’s 1973 FA Cup. It’s David vs Goliath, rich and poor alike, from any walk of life, united under history and tradition. When emotions get in the way, any result is possible.

But our Democracy matters even more, but it is much less considered when similarly disregarded by those in power.

Yet, democracy is stunningly similar to football. They’re both about equality, representation, fairness, unity, and participation. They both belong to all people indistinctively. And sometimes they can both be rigged, but not for that any less important. The beauty of it all is that things can change if people want them to, which is the heart of both democracy and football.

The Super League was cancelled in a matter of 48 hours. First Past the Post, which promotes the same, toxic traits, has been around far longer.

But we’ve seen what can happen when we all come together against unfairness, against the imposition of a rigged system.

If the Super League can be scrapped, so can our disproportionate voting system – and in its place a fair system where every vote counts.

Federico Scolari is a Communications Placement Student at the ERS from the University of Nottingham. 

Photo by Lars Bo Nielsen on Unsplash

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