I couldn’t help but chuckle at the death of the European Super League, a mere 48 hours after its birth. For those of you not up on your European soccer, here is the skinny.
The top soccer teams in Europe (like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Barcelona) decided they didn’t want to play against the other “Tier 2” teams in Europe. They wanted to create a league for only the top 15 teams, where they would only play against each other. Basically they were turning their backs on the rest of the soccer world.
So why do this? It’s all about the money, honey. The top clubs figured that their fans would be overjoyed to only watch them play against superstar-laden squads, to not have to worry every year about having to qualify for major championships like the Champions League. They figured the TV rights and ticket sales could be split 15 ways, instead of having to support the hundreds of Tier 2 teams across Europe in the various national leagues.
But this idea only lasted two days. Why? Because the fans, the people who actually pay to watch the sport, saw this idea for what it was—a cynical cash and power grab. Football fans are among the most passionate in the world, and they were in the streets this week protesting this turd of an idea. And not only the fans of the “Tier 2” clubs; fans of the six proposed English clubs, including Chelsea and Liverpool, were among the most vocal.
And their protests worked. Most of the teams have pulled out following the fan backlash.
Amazingly, fans respect the history of the game, and they like that the big clubs have to support the smaller ones. The fans enjoy the competition, and the potential for an underdog team to win it all despite overwhelming odds—like Leicester City a few years ago. The fans like that the World Cup, where the athletes play for their country, not their clubs, is still the ultimate soccer event on the planet (despite a number of issues with residency rules).
What soccer suddenly realized this week is that the game is bigger than just the top teams.
You might have been able to read from my not-so-subtle telling of this story that this situation might just be pertinent to curling, and worth remembering as we constantly discuss changing the Brier and Scotties.
Of course, curling attracts one-millionth the money and attention of European football, but I still think there are lessons to be learned.
Some pundits have suggested that like the proposed Super League, the Brier should limit provincial representation, and turn the national championship into an invitation-only event for the top-ranked teams. “Forget about the Tier 2 provincial teams, nobody wants to pay to watch them play anyway.”
What became obvious this week in Europe was that the top teams and players often have no idea what actually makes the average fan watch a sport. The Cristiano Ronaldos and Manchester Uniteds of the world inevitably think it’s about them; that fans pay to watch the best players because they are the best players.
For sure this is a part of it, but history and competition play a key role in what makes true fans stick with a sport as well.
Fans like unpredictability. Fans like underdog stories that no one saw coming. Fans like feeling an attachment to their teams as they struggle to prove themselves.
And as much as the soccer in the new European Super League would have been spectacular, the fans realized that the same teams playing each other over and over again would get BORING.
Let’s hope the curling powers that be remember this when deciding how to evolve the Brier and Scotties in the coming years.
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So, a little over a month has passed since I checked out of the Calgary curling bubble, and it feels like a year ago. I miss curling.
I only got to play eight curling games this season, and I really miss it. I miss big cashspiels. I miss the fun, end-of season party/charity spiels. I miss having my knees ache from playing a three-game day. I miss sleeping in sketchy AirBNBs on squeaky mattresses. I miss long car rides home from losing a C-qualifier on last rock. I miss the irreplaceable taste of a rye-and coke after a hard-earned win. I miss having to draw wide against three in the first end on a fresh path. I miss peeling the other team out of rocks. I miss staring at the draw sheet, trying to figure out who we play in our next game. I miss practicing.
I miss it all.
Here’s hoping the vaccines and the summer wind finally blow this damn virus back to the depths of hell.
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One of the casualties of the pandemic this year is once again one of my favorite events to support: Kurling for Kids, an annual charity bonspiel that raises money for the Montreal Children’s and St-Justine Hospitals. This is the 23rd year of this event and it’s raised an astonishing $4 million over the years. Of course the pandemic has cut the legs out of the curling part of the event , but if you would still like to help you can go to the Kurling for Kids website; they have a number of virtual events like trivia nights and poker tournaments to help you pass the time and help out.
More importantly, if you liked my writing at all this year, it is time to PAY UP, buster! Donate a couple of bucks to the K4K cause at my page here.