Why Christians should care about a European Super League

(Photo: Reuters)

Yesterday I spoke in the House of Commons ... about football because this is a week where sport has moved from the back page of the paper to well and truly being on the front page.

The plans for a European Super League in football have caused huge controversy.

But does it really matter? Should it matter to Christians?

Well, football has a long association with Christianity in this country: English clubs such as Manchester City, Everton, Fulham and Southampton were all founded by churches, bringing communities together socially as well as physically.

Today football combines competition and community. The hooliganism that blighted the game in the seventies and eighties has been largely stamped out, it's a much more family-oriented affair today and it's a sport that more than at any other time transcends politics and class.

So why all the fuss about the European Super League? Well, the proposal is that six English clubs will break away to set up their own league alongside other European elite teams. None of these teams will ever face relegation from the new league and other teams will only be invited to join temporarily if they have won their own domestic league. So this is a closed shop. You only get to be in the league if you have the money to buy your way in and you can never be relegated.

The point of the league is to garner huge amounts of TV and sponsorship cash for the dozen or so clubs that belong to it. There is of course only so much money to go around, so this will be at the expense of domestic leagues including the lower leagues and non-league clubs. It's robbing the poor to help the rich. These big clubs have lost billions between them during Covid whilst they continue to pay each of their star players more per week than the average fan will earn in a decade. Put bluntly, these clubs are both wealthy and desperate.

Some will say that football is a business, that there's always been money involved - but this is quite different: in one sweep it undermines the community and supporter aspect of the game and puts it entirely on a commercial, money-making level. It's the elite few ruining the people's game without a thought for the fans, and entirely for money.

In my humble view, it utterly stinks.

But why should Christians care? You may not think this is an area where you need to hold an opinion unless you are a big football fan, or that it's just too trivial for Christians to muster a view about.

But the Super League exposes issues of corruption, concentration of power, community cohesion, aspiration and character-building for young people right down to the level of the local non-league or school club. It's about fun and taking pleasure in simple things.

The Bible tells us to seek the welfare of the place where we live. Football captures our imaginations, defines us, unites us, levels us and dramatically affects our morale and mood – it clearly contributes to our national welfare. So given the importance of football at all levels to our life as a country, we should surely want to see godly values expressed in how the game is run. To do damage to a game loved by millions in order to generate millions for a few sounds unequivocally wrong to me and we should say so.

One of the Bible verses that moves me the most is Luke 12v7 or Matthew 10v30 'even the very hairs on your head are all numbered'. I love this because it speaks of a God who knows and loves me intimately, forensically, and cares for every aspect of my existence not just the big life and death stuff, but other apparently more trival things that nevertheless capture my imagination ... including football. So, if people care about what's happening to football then you can be sure that God cares too.

Tim Farron has been the Member of Parliament for Westmorland and Lonsdale since 2005, and served as the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party from 2015 to 2017. Tim is also the host of 'A Mucky Business' podcast, which unpacks the murky world of politics and encourages believers around the UK to engage prayerfully. You can find it on your chosen podcast provider.