‘It was an attack on the principle of football’: Louis Saha shares his disgust with the failed European Super League breakaway and says plot ‘tarnished’ his passion – as former Man United and Everton man explains what must be done to ‘save’ the sport
- Louis Saha shared his frustration with the European Super League to Sportsmail
- The failed breakaway competition triggered waves of protests at several clubs
- Saha described the proposals as an ‘attack’ on football and said they were ‘crazy’
- Former Manchester United and Everton ace praised demands for mass change
- With the sport in chaos, Saha explained what must be done next to fix the mess
Louis Saha is not happy. It has been a difficult week. The last seven days or so have seen supporters turn against owners, players turn against clubs and the football pyramid from top to bottom thrown into chaos.
The sheer disgust felt in the sport after the attempted European Super League breakaway is likely to simmer away for quite some time yet, and the usually affable Saha, a man with a rich beam for a smile, is certainly angry.
‘My first thought was that it was an attack on the principle of football,’ Saha tells Sportsmail. ‘It was really hard to understand how they managed to take a decision like this.
Louis Saha shared his anger with the ill-fated European Super League proposals to Sportsmail
Mass protests have been held by supporters of many clubs after the breakaway was stopped
‘To take such a decision without the help of players or thinking about what the reaction of fans would be, I couldn’t believe it. I was really upset that they didn’t even consider people. They didn’t even consider; they just took the decision to save the world without asking anybody else. It was crazy.’
His bemusement is a common feeling at the moment. Even from the warm and comfortable confines of his home, there is frustration and bitterness coursing through Saha’s comments.
But beneath the passionate tirades about ownership and calls for fans to continue standing up, there is something else – a longing for us all to be better than this.
Real Madrid supremo Florentino Perez (pictured above) is the president of the Super League
Andrea Agnelli (L) and Joel Glazer (R) also played key roles in the controversial competition
How did this all happen? It’s a question sure to occupy the minds of many for years to come. Saha, though, is keen for us to remember the very basics – that sport is for the people, and the people only. He reckons it would be nowhere without them.
‘Everyone is a fan,’ he insists. ‘You do your sport as a fan first. The possibility to express my passion has been tarnished in some ways, it’s not the same. It was really important that everyone gelled together to actually fight against that. If you are alone, you are alone. You must be courageous enough to actually express it.’
Those who stand isolated in actual fact are the ‘big guns’, as Saha labels them, at the 12 founding members of the ill-fated Super League.
Their actions in joining the competition, and then rapidly backpedalling after being hit with a wave of condemnation, are the very antithesis of the principles that the former Everton and Manchester United man strives for.
Manchester United fans protested against the ownership of the Glazer family at Old Trafford
The much-maligned Avram (left) and Joel Glazer (right) are pictured at a game in August 2016
Saha witheringly described the Super League plans as an ‘attack on the principle of football’
‘There is a lack of respect from other clubs as well,’ Saha, who is working with 888sport, says. ‘There is no consultation and there is no kind of respect. It’s really about integrity.
‘I’m a big believer that this current ecosystem is not equipped for integrity or being ethical. They don’t think this way, they think commercially all the time. That is the way that some people are thinking, but they lack respect.’
So, after their failed plot, do they deserve to be punished? ‘This is where those who are in charge, in other clubs, in federations or unions, will need to decide. They need to be punished, fines, or whatever it is in their power, to make sure that these things don’t happen again.’
He is quick to raise a very valid point. The fact that players are so readily struck with suspensions for misconduct, without so much of a second chance or time to say sorry, is the perfect contrast to the malaise that had set in when it comes to taking action against unruly executives.
Former Manchester United ace Saha believes that punishments are needed for the 12 clubs
Saha, who also played for Everton, says that the breakaway was a ‘lack of respect’ from clubs
Thankfully, that seems to have now gone, but Saha doesn’t plan to stop there. ‘You can see that’s a different treatment,’ he argues. ‘I can tell you people deserve to be punished.’
Saha still works closely with a number of clubs for his commendable ventures after his retirement in 2013. As a result, he has more knowledge than most about how choices, no matter how divisive they may prove to be, are made at the top level.
‘It’s a decision of maybe one or a few individuals,’ he reveals, confirming the worst fears that have emerged from the Super League wreck. It is this out of balance and wacky power model at clubs that has led to widespread protests and calls for the Government to legislate a crackdown.
The voices of supporters are certainly being heard, but perhaps not in the right places, and Saha is fully supportive of their efforts.
In the wake of the Super League fiasco, Saha says football fans are more important than ever
‘I think it’s time to listen to the fans,’ Saha says. ‘It means a lot because normally you don’t hear about them. With all due respect to people making mistakes, everyone can be forgiven, but not at this extent.’
The owners of United, the Glazer family, aren’t exactly being thanked for their role in almost tearing the Premier League and the Champions League apart.
They have long since been the subject of criticism from the fanbase over their running of the club, and this latest saga has sparked the mass demands for them to sell up back to life.
It is not an easy topic to discuss for former Old Trafford players, naturely. You are unlikely to see too many of them outright call for the Glazers to leave, Gary Neville aside of course.
Irked Arsenal supporters took to the Emirates recently to protest against owner Stan Kroenke
But while Saha was reluctant to outright condemn them or reveal whether he sided with the backlash, his stance on an abuse of trust and power from those in charge at big teams was clear.
‘Because you own a club, it doesn’t mean that you own football,’ says Saha. ‘The fans make you an owner of the club, but they’re not in the discussion. They’re not invited. Nobody will listen to them, they need to be a million, or two or three million.
‘That’s why those people need to organise. We need to organise; we need to make sure that the players have organised. They need to be informed; they need to be together. They need to actually be equipped to change our understanding of what happened.’
He doesn’t hold back when describing the whole messy situation. ‘It was dumb. People can think that it’s dumb to think that way. Why have they taken these risks? These people are smart.
Saha has labelled the Super League situation as ‘dumb’ and says harsh lessons must be learned
The frustration from passionate fanbases of several clubs is certain to extend into the future
‘It needs to be explained. Everyone, the fans, the pundits, the players, the press and the sponsors, needs to understand. I think this ecosystem right now in the sports industry is working on its head.’
His firm belief that a repeat of this storm will only be avoided in the future by learning from what has happened will be crucial.
‘We need to understand what happened and those in a position to take decisions or sanctions can do it,’ he concludes. ‘We need to understand how it happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We need to save football.’
People like Saha, those who have the determination and steely adamance that the game will never be allowed to slip away from us again, may well do just that.
Louis Saha was speaking on behalf of 888sport. Head to 888sport for the latest Premier League odds.
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