The Super League lasted less than 48 hours before it went the way of so many fake tough guys who can push their luck with those around them but back down the first time they run into serious resistance. If you’ve grown up in Glasgow, you can spot them a mile away.
I have never believed, not for one second, that these people would succeed in their shameless and greedy aim to steal European football out from under the rest of us.
They only got away with this act of theirs for as long as they did because they were dealing with people who mistook their preening and strutting for actual strength.
For a long time, UEFA treated these posturing tough guys as though they were a serious threat, and it gave away too much in an effort to satisfy them.
It never ceases to amaze me the number of people in high places who have not learned from history that appeasement never works and only leads to further demands. These people could, and should, have put back in their box 20 years ago.
Instead they were indulged and feted and flattered and bribed, and every time they came back for more and the “rulers” of the game kept feeding their egos.
I was amused on Sunday to read that they had finally gone over the top of the trench. I knew they wouldn’t get far before their bravado left them.
It happened the second they realised they were in a free fire zone where all their arrogance was worthless and all their imagined power was challenged by those who held – indeed, who have always held – a bigger stick.
So much of it was ill-thought out, like the actions of an angry drunk. That it collapsed so quickly should have come as no surprise any more than it should surprise us that they ever thought they could get away with it. They have been pandered to at every step of the way, for years; the real question is why they wouldn’t have thought they could get away with it?
But a mighty combination of pressures came to bear, and too much was out of their control. The teams who refused to take part were telling for a start; the German super-clubs, Paris St Germain, the likes of Porto. Ajax may have been approached; they would have declined. It was clearly a project based on greed and nothing more. Attempts to dress it up as something in the best interests of the sport were scorned by all who were subjected to them.
From the outside, it looked to many of us like a fool’s errand from the start. With hindsight, everyone now sees that’s exactly what it was. How, some will ask, could they ever have been this stupid? But from the inside it all would have made sense, because every time they pushed those entrusted with protecting the sport backed off and gave up another foot of ground.
This was mistaken for weakness but it wasn’t the kind of weakness that matters … true strength can only be measured when battle is joined. To assume it before then is stupidity.
A strong man may not want to fight a smaller, more aggressive, man, and that gives the smaller man the edge. But if the strong man is left without a choice, if he’s forced into a corner where he has to come out swinging, then the balance of power shifts dramatically and in that changed landscape I know who my money would be on every time.
However the showdown finally came about, there was no way that UEFA could afford to lose here, not one battle, and in the end not one inch.
From the moment those tanks crossed the border the enemy had to be crushed.
If they’d been given the slightest concession, far less the total victory, UEFA itself would have been finished, utterly ruined and all its authority wiped away.
UEFA had all the power they needed, right from the start … it was the will to use it that was lacking here, but the Super League announcement finally removed whatever element of restraint or doubt that had held them back all these years.
It was, finally a case of “we win or we die” and there was never any doubt, once battle was joined, as to which side would emerge victorious at the end of all this.
Even if the Super League had thought of resorting to the courts, the EU and the UK would simply have written the laws they needed to stop it … the moment national governments swung against the project – and there was never any question that they would – this was not over-reach as much as it resembled one of those comedy moments where a character insults a stranger, only for the stranger to stand up and reveal himself to be six-five and capable of snapping his neck like a breadstick.
And so today, one of the threats that has hung around European football for 20 years or more has been ruthlessly purged off the landscape.
Its leaders have fled like frightened rabbits.
The clubs from England have grovelled and apologised and in time they will be forgiven for their egotism but their little stunt will not be forgotten, and nor will the manner in which they capitulated, nor how long it took to turn their icy confidence to piss water down their legs.
The “threat” of a breakaway league, which has driven every single negative development in the game in the last couple of decades, has been exposed for the sham, for the busted flush, for the empty bluff that it always was.
Faced with fan fury of a level they never expected, the scorn of those who saw through the sham and finally, in the end, with the heavy hammer that always was there, but which UEFA and the national associations foolishly kept in the drawer through years of this nonsense, they have given way and I cannot see how this threat will ever be taken seriously again.
With it finally off the table, we at Celtic and those other clubs from the “smaller nations” can finally go on the offensive and start putting together the grand coalition that is long overdue and which is necessary to turn the tide in the direction of fairness and a more equitable European footballing model.
It helps us too that all who have stood on the side of the angels here have talked about the need for those things; this is the time to hold them to that.
Some of them might not mean a word they say, but we have them on the hook right now, and we should ignore their wriggling and fetch them into our net without delay.
More than that, the fans realise that things have to change, even the fans of England’s “big six” who just got the shock of their lives … but realised, in time, their own importance.
So there has never been a better moment for pushing for reforms on the European stage. The nuclear option that “the big clubs” were said to wield has fizzled out. They couldn’t oppose real reform right now if they tried, and I don’t think they’ll muster the will to even bother.
Today the talk is of how the Super League clubs from England are not finished yet, and how their latest barmy idea might be a British League of some kind. This is supposed to get us salivating at the prospect; instead it turns my blood cold.
Their disloyalty to the rest of the teams in their present division is clear and stark. As I will write later, they are the last people on Earth I want us climbing into bed with.