Joe Roberto’s view on the ESL

Joe Roberto

I spoke to Evertonian Joe Roberto about his thoughts on the European Super League and what he values the most about football and his club. He believes that the club’s involved in the ESL need to be heavily punished and that the people in charge of clubs and organisations need to do more to improve their relationship with supporters.

What football team do you support and how long have you been interested in football?

‘I support Everton and have been interested in the game since I can remember. I went to my first game in 2004 and still regularly go to games’.

What were your thoughts on the proposals and how did you feel for the 14 clubs who weren’t involved?

‘Luckily, Everton weren’t involved with these proposals. I felt disgusted that the owners of the club’s involved thought they could secretly conspire to ditch the other 14 clubs for personal gain’.

Obviously, we would all like our teams to be successful, but would you mind if the values of the sport were adjusted for personal gain?

‘While winning silverware is something you will always want your club to do, supporting a club with decent values is massive for me. While I’m not oblivious to the fact Everton are a well-established Premier League club and who are very wealthy, we do a lot of work off the pitch. The club’s ongoing support for the Fans Supporting Food Banks campaign, Everton Free School and Everton in the Community are things I’m very proud of’.

‘I take a lot of interest in the German club St Pauli who are a club that are built on principles that tackles problems such discrimination, homophobia and racism. If more clubs were willing to follow their path, then football would be miles better’.

What were your thoughts on the ESL proposals? Did you see any positives about the League? Can you see it working one day? Do you think it, or something similar, will happen one day regardless of the fans viewpoint?

‘From what I have read, I can’t see anything I can agree on. I don’t think this will be the end of it though. Depending on punishments, more ideas will be floated and when they do happen, I hope fans remember this situation and once again use their power to stop it’.

The proposals went against rule L9 in the Premier League handbook, saying that clubs shouldn’t play for anything outside the stated competitions. There were rumours circulating that the Premier League would kick them out if they went against their wishes, do you think that they would’ve actually kicked them out and what do you think the league would’ve been like without the six clubs?

‘I don’t think they’ll be kicked out. While the Premier League’s image would be given a boost as they would be seen to be tackling these clubs, they would be losing a lot of money in the long-term which they can’t afford to do’.

‘This can be seen when one of the ‘big six’ play each other, there’s a lot of fanfare pre-match and TV revenue is sky high. If you compare this to a game against two mid-table teams, the same attention isn’t there’.

‘While you have to admit that the teams who proposed this league are the best clubs in the Premier League, the league still has plenty of quality. Leicester are starting to cement themselves as regularly challenging for Europe, West Ham have been great this season and Everton are showing glimpses of being able to challenge anyone on their day. While the quality would drop in parts, the drop wouldn’t be that massive’.

What were your thoughts on Florentino Perez’s comments? Perez is the director of Real Madrid and was going to be the chairman of the proposed ESL, he said that ‘football needed to change and that 16–24-year-olds had lost all interest’.

‘Funnily enough, I think that football needs to change, but my reasons for this are completely different to Perez’s. The greed of the big clubs – including Perez’s Real Madrid – is disgusting. Just look at the amount of wealth they have and compare it to teams in their league, never mind lower leagues, and you’ll realise something has to change.

He was quoted in an interview saying that: “Young people say the game is too long. If young people don’t watch an entire game, it is because it is not interesting enough, we will have to shorten the games.” I don’t know about you but I’ve never heard that view before. If he wants shorter games then he should try and bring back masters football!

While there will always be a massive demand for youngsters playing football, look at how many are involved in grassroots, I think some youngers have lost interest. But like before, not for Perez’s reasons.

Due to the rise in ticket prices, some younger fans can’t go to games because it isn’t financially possible, they have to depend on streams to watch their games. While it is still watching the game, it will never give you the same experience as being at the game, they see the game as a weekly TV show. When you look at it like that, I think it’s pretty obvious to see why some have lost interest’.

Do you like the English game, at the moment, and the values of the English pyramid? For me, anything can happen and that is what makes the game loved by so many.

‘I think most of my love for the game comes from stuff off the pitch. There’s a lot of fan activism which is great to see such as clubs like FC United of Manchester, fans helping out with charities and how Shrewsbury Town fought to get a safe standing area – I love that type of stuff.

But there’s good stuff on the pitch. I think the Premier League is very entertaining and has some of the best players in the world playing in it. The Championship is very unpredictive, which from a natural point of view is great, and League One and League Two teams always have the odd cup shock in them.

But I know that many fans of clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two fans aren’t happy with how the English Football League is run which is something that needs to be changed’.

What were your initial reactions to the EFL’s statement about the ESL proposals? 

‘I think the statement was strong and made a lot of sense. A strong pyramid based on promotion, relegation and ultimately European qualification, is fundamental to our game’s continued success.

I also hope the ESL club’s view of the League Cup changes. While many see it as a burden, which I completely understand why, it provides vital income to many EFL Clubs’.

Ultimately, they were overturned and John W.Henry gave a speech to Liverpool fans. Did you think that the owners/people involved with withdrawing did pay an interest to the fans reaction? Also, I’d like to see them punished still so it doesn’t happen again. Do you think they should be punished?

‘I feel like the reaction from fans played a massive part in clubs withdrawing from it. While I knew this was always going to be the reaction, if fans didn’t kick up a fuss, I’m confident it would’ve happened.

Just look at the reaction to ‘Project Big Picture’ a few months ago. While that proposal was welcomed by a lot more than the ESL, the overall view was against it. So why did they think this would be any different?

A points deduction and a one season European ban has to be seriously considered. The authorities have to make a strong statement and make sure the clubs know that what they did was wrong and can’t happen again. If they are too lenient in their punishments, I fear the conspirators will be able to learn from their mistakes and try this again.

I understand fans of the club’s who took part in this proposal will argue that a points deduction or a European ban will be seen as punishing the fans – but something has to be done. It’s been repeated many times across social media for the past 48 hours, but fans of Sheffield Wednesday, Macclesfield and Leeds weren’t taken into consideration when they had points taken off them and the general consensus was that the right thing had been done. What’s the difference now? Is it because it’s the ‘big six’ involved? It has to be.

If the fans can be rewarded when the owners make ‘good’ decisions then obviously the opposite has to be true’.

People are now saying that the fans have ‘won’. However, I don’t agree with this as there are still so many problems within the game. What are three of the biggest subject topics that you want tackling within the sport?

‘While it’s great that fans were able to throw their allegiances out the window to unite, the game is far from ‘won’. The list of topics that have to change is endless. But my three main issues are the ever-increasing ticket prices that are pricing fans out of the game, crazy kick-off times that stop fans from going to games and sorting out the sport’s relationship with the gambling industry’.

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