The Super League trade-off: Money in exchange for friends, family and community

Britain’s Prince William is no stranger to family breakdowns.

But at least today wasn’t about Harry and Meghan.

In his role as president of the English Football Association, William provided a statement this morning on the proposal by 12 top European clubs to form a breakaway competition.

The long-term damage to football caused by Super League is uncertain.

Will fans value a Super League as much as a Premier League or Serie A title? Will viewers still tune into the Champions League? Will players lose the best years of their careers playing in competitions full of asterisks?

Only time will tell, but some damage has already been done: hatred, distrust and vendettas unleashed between the people of the game.

For UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin, the Super League betrayal is personal.(

Reuters: Yves Herman/File photo 


Andrea Agnelli is president of Italian club Juventus and now a vice-chairman of the breakaway competition.

Aleksander Ceferin is head of UEFA, European football’s governing body.

Two years ago, Agnelli invited Ceferin to be godfather to his daughter.

Ceferin today says the Super League idea — the project of his goddaughter’s father — is “a spit in the face for all football lovers and our society”.

And of Agnelli, Ceferin said: “He is probably the biggest disappointment of all.”

Personal feuds emerge

The dynamics of the announcement have already triggered divides between those who would otherwise be allies.

Jürgen Klopp’s energy and verve, his teams’ energetic and irresistible style of play, and his role as saviour of Anfield all align him more closely with football’s fans than its owners.

So too do his previous public statements condemning the prospect of a breakaway league.

But as his side took on Leeds this morning, the Liverpool boss was forced in front of the cameras.

“I know some things will change in the future in football, I know some things will have to change in football, where the power is and stuff like this is not right,” he said, seemingly trying to reconcile his own views with those of his owners.


But he also took aim at former Manchester United player and now Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville for invoking Liverpool’s ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone anthem in his opposition to the new league.

“His owners have thrown him under a bus,” Neville fired back.

“And I can.”

The personal toll of 1995

European soccer’s turmoil echoes the personal toll of rugby league’s savage Super League war of 1995.

Back then, Canterbury Bulldogs players had signed with Super League as a bloc.

But four of them — Jarrod McCracken, Dean Pay, Jim Dymock and Jason Smith — sought to void their Super League contracts, claiming they were signed under duress. They had also been offered lucrative ARL contracts with rivals Parramatta.

Dean Pay speaks to the media in front of a black background
Dean Pay returned to Canterbury as coach, but left the club again in 2020.(

AAP: Dan Himbrechts


Recounting the period in his autobiography, McCracken shared his surprise after his then-teammate Simon Gillies made public his hurt and disgust on ABC radio.

“We said we’d stick together,” Gillies was quoted, “because that’s what mates do, and the people that signed [with the ARL] haven’t done that.”

McCracken’s difficulties during that period led to him being banished to reserve grade.

He even got in a fight with Super League-aligned Kiwi teammate Matthew Ridge after a match against France.

“Ridge attempted to belittle me in front of my brother Brett and a few mates at Auckland’s Water Front Nightclub,” McCracken wrote.

“Good old ‘Ridgey’ kept pushing until — BANG! — he was forced to leave the club.”

The players weren’t the only ones to suffer.

Former rugby league administrator John Quayle reportedly still can’t stand being in the same room as Super League executive John Ribot.

Kerry Bousted felt compelled to walk out on the North Queensland Cowboys; the club he worked tirelessly to establish, a community he helped build.

And the ARL’s Ken Arthurson’s decades-long friendship with Canterbury’s pro-Super League Peter “Bullfrog” Moore broke down at the height of the war.

“For a time there was some awkwardness between Peter Moore and I,” Arthurson wrote in his 1997 autobiography, “but we kept the dialogue going”.

The relationship survived — Arthurson reporting in his book they met once or twice a year — but Moore died just three years later, in 2000.

Arthurson gave the eulogy at the funeral, fighting back tears as he recalled receiving the phone call with the news of Moore’s death.

“I got to think about all the great times we’d had together — the trips we’d had away, the passion we had for rugby league and the things we’d confided in each other.”

The 12 clubs behind the European Super League are reportedly set to receive billions of pounds for breaking away.

It’s a lot of money. But fans know there may be something more valuable.

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