The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth collapsed because it operated the purest form of democracy there has ever been. That’s one way of looking at it anyway.
Another way to look at it is that it collapsed because its political system wasn’t democracy at all, but that it was a bizarre form of tyranny, the tyranny of one.
Their political system operated with what was known as the “liberum veto.”
It gave any legislator the power to halt any piece of legislation that was going through the parliament simply by crying out, aloud, “Sisto activitatem!”; I halt the activity or “Nie pozwalam!”; I do not allow.
This, of course, was a recipe for chaos.
I think of the liberum veto often when I think about fan involvement at the top of football clubs. How would decisions really be made around the boardroom table if fans had a voice there? Would the supporters hold tyrannical power, the ability to block any decision they didn’t like, or would they be just another voice, trying to be heard?
It sounds in some ways like a recipe for disaster. Except that such a view is grossly at odds with the reality. Fans are not stupid. Fans, in the main, are not prone to snap judgements.
Fans, most fans, understand the limits on what their clubs can do and if sensible people around the table communicate clearly and openly with fans about key decisions I have no doubt that football supporters in the main are more than capable of seeing things in a sensible way.
I know this from events last night and this morning; football fans have never been in direr need of finding their voices and using what power they have available to them to work in the interests both of the sport and of the clubs they care about.
The Super League fiasco – a tournament which I predict will never play a single match – is a warning to all of us about what happens when football clubs no longer care what the views of the fans are, and start to believe that the current owners and stakeholders are the only ones whose opinions matter.
The Super League proposal is despicable, but what is more despicable is that these greedy owners have not only tarnished the histories and reputations of the clubs themselves but they’ve imperilled their futures by setting those clubs on a win-or-die collision course with the governing bodies at national and continental level and governments too … and they have done so without consulting the supporters about it in any way, shape or form.
What would supporters have said? They’d have been opposed, almost overwhelmingly. These boards, focussed only on money, don’t care about that, but the supporters are right this time.
Football isn’t about money, although its values have been skewed by it.
The competition is a proscribed sham, based on greed instead of merit … it has no legitimacy and it would have no legitimacy even if UEFA and others were willing to give it official sanction.
A football tournament based on invites instead of a qualification system is a sham, it’s a Mickey Mouse competition, a glamourized series of big money friendlies.
Creating this without the fans having a say-so is bad enough, but all of these clubs are now in existential peril.
The EPL is talking about expelling them. UEFA has said that they will be ineligible for its competitions, and although you wonder if the EPL will blink because of how devalued their own competition would be without their six clubs UEFA simply can’t, because if UEFA blinks first then UEFA is finished as a credible organisation.
What comes across most looking at the reactions of Liverpool, Manchester United, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City supporters today is not their opposition to this, but their helplessness in the face of it. These people are powerless. They have been let down over and over again by a football association which is too in thrall to power and money.
Many years ago, on this site, I pondered the question of what it feels like to be a Manchester City fan, knowing that your input into your club and what’s happening there has been rendered meaningless by the wealth of an oligarchy.
I wondered, is a club run by an oil fund really still your club? Is there that same feeling that you play a role in it really as strong as that which Celtic fans get when they buy season tickets? We don’t have a mammoth TV deal or a sheik finding money from a bottomless pit in the desert somewhere. When we spend money, that matters.
Yes, they’ve been successful.
Yes, they are now part of the global footballing elite.
But there was always a price tag attached to that and the rent has come due. The season ticket money no longer funds the operation. The Manchester City support itself makes up a mere fraction of the TV audience that the club’s games command … that link between the community and the club has not been broken as much as shattered.
It’s gone for good, barring a dramatic turn of events which I can’t personally foresee. Manchester City is now what it was always in danger of becoming; a hollowed out commercial shell, a plaything of rich men, who are acting now as owners will with their property … that’s what one of the proudest clubs in England is now. A soulless corporate asset.
And we are mugs to pretend that couldn’t happen to us, because we already have a board that has demonstrated its utter contempt for us repeatedly over the course of this campaign and they are still doing it. Let’s not kid ourselves on here, I reckon Desmond and his board would have us join this sham “league” in two seconds flat if the invite were extended to us and they wouldn’t give a damn what any of us thought about it, or what the consequences would be.
And yes, the idea is laughable because we’re a shambles from top to bottom right now, with no signs of life and a sense of mounting chaos at every level of the club, and what’s worse is that the club would have you believe that much of this was planned … that they actually wanted it this way, and to unleash an entire summer of chaos and upheaval.
We know, too, who charted that course, because in a way, our own club is already a tyranny of one although that was exactly what Fergus McCann was determined to stop us from becoming. We are, though, with no say in events and no voice inside Celtic Park.
Those fans banging on the locked doors of their clubs in England and elsewhere today have learned, to their cost, just how unappreciated and unvalued they are. They have learned how helpless they are in the face of the corporatist machine.
It is no coincidence that the three biggest clubs in Europe who have already ruled themselves out of joining this competition play their football in Germany. Dortmund and Munich are clubs with great histories and may have resisted anyway on sporting grounds and because they value the meritocracy, but Red Bull Leipzig are, of course, a corporate construct … and their rejection of the move is important because it lies in the ownership structures of the clubs there.
In German football, club licensing operates on what’s known as the 50+1 principle; that’s the ownership stake in German clubs which has to be held by supporters trusts or membership schemes. It is there to prevent precisely the scenario which has befallen these other clubs, whose owners have taken them to the brink without consulting the ordinary fans.
And that’s what the English FA and the EPL should have done a decade ago, and which the SFA has never even considered. It’s where football needs to get to – where it should have gotten to decades ago and thus prevented the rampant greed at its heart.
Celtic fans desperately need to come together in the next few months, to force our club in the direction of greater openness, transparency and most importantly accountability. Fearing that the likes of Desmond would railroad us into this kind of competition without a seconds thought is just one part of what concerns me here.
Even outside of a ghastly betrayal of our values like this Super League, we’ve already seen how the rampant egotism inside Celtic Park has led us to the sorry pass we’re at right now, and we cannot continue like this, run by an absentee landlord who’s only goal for us is to get us where the money is, and who doesn’t care whether we earn our seat or not.
What a shambles these men have made of our club … and I am not comforted by their way they are going about trying to correct these monumental errors. I’m afraid of what stupidity they might inflict on us next, without even consulting us first.