The dust had barely settled on another exhilarating night of Premier League action when the foundations of English football were given another worrying jolt. The evening of Tuesday 1 March encapsulated everything great about the top division, with late goals, drama, intrigue and entertainment littering five crucial games – yet a move from the country's top clubs threatened to undo all of that good work. You could have been forgiven for thinking the story had come exactly one month too early.
Following the quintet of fixtures, the league was hit with an apparent bombshell; the looming threat of a European Super League that would distract the biggest sides and set in motion the transformation of English football into rubble. The introduction of a closed shop competition exclusively for the continent's elite clubs would release a virus into the lower reaches of the football pyramid, to which there would be no antidote.
The reasons behind the meeting between Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, Liverpool's Ian Ayre, Manchester City chief Ferran Soriano, executive vice chairman of Manchester United Ed Woodward and Relevent Sports – representing Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross – has since been clarified as a discussion over the International Champions Cup, a pre-season tournament that last summer expanded to three different countries.
All clubs concerned are understood to be content with the current structure of the game, however the mere mention of the possibility of elite teams being seduced by the riches of a super league is a shot across the bows for English football and its prized asset; the Premier League. The reports are nevertheless timely, given recent suggestions from Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu that wildcards should be introduced for clubs who fail to qualify for the Champions League.
Bayern Munich and Juventus have both been vocal in their endorsement of a 20-team competition including Europe's biggest sides, so it would only be natural for England's finest to be at least intrigued by the possibility of a giant payday and a acrimonious split, particularly with the teams in question 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, and 11th in the top flight. A Prexit, it you will.
Such a competition would have prospectively take place on weekends, shafting domestic competitions and taking centre stage in the football club calendar. That reality would work to devalue current competitions, with the Premier League becoming an increasing afterthought and surely lead to the dismantling of the world's oldest knock-out competition; the FA Cup.
If the Premier League did indeed become secondary for the top clubs, that would potentially trigger a series of events that would hurt clubs further down the pyramid. Broadcasters would be less attracted to a competition that was not taken seriously, and should television contracts be reduced that would have a knock-on effect on players' wages, transfer fees and parachute payments, which trickle down the divisions. Slowly but surely the landscape of English football would dramatically alter due to the greed of others.
The five clubs who attended the meeting in London were asked about the current make-up of the European season, but were without complaints. Suggestions, albeit unfounded on this occasion, that clubs may contemplate a breakaway should be a warning to the governors of the game. The power of the clubs has become too vast, the schedule – at least in England – is extreme and the influence of bankrollers, TV companies and sponsors is too prevailing. Time for change.