All six English ‘founder members’ of the European Super League pulled out 48 hours after its creation. So is the ESL the worst idea in football history? Perhaps – but it isn’t alone. Let’s take a look at other examples of the ‘game gone mad’.
A plan that has rumbled away in the background for years, used as a bargaining tool whenever the big boys wanted their own way with UEFA or the Premier League, has crumbled within days.
It’s a staggering collapse and indicates the paucity of leadership, original thought and charisma among the select few who dreamed it up.
To underline that, we’ve picked out five short-lived football failures that still managed to last longer than the fiasco that exploded on to the global game before fizzling out like a damp squib.
Leeds United’s new badge
In January 2018, while Leeds United were still in the Championship, the club launched its redesigned badge.
The move was a disaster with fans, largely because the badge appeared as if it had been designed in Pro Evolution Soccer – much like the Super League, ironically.
Fan power was again at the forefront of the turnaround, with more than 50,000 supporters signing a petition urging the club to scrap the badge.
At the time, Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear said: “As we look at the feedback I think it’s clear the consultation process we embarked on – that we were very confident had delivered a result – wasn’t extensive enough.
“We need to reopen that consultation process very clearly.”
Within six days, Leeds had consigned the design to the dustbin and have retained the old design to this day.
Despite affecting only one club – unlike the Super League – it was a lesson in failing to consult fans before pressing ahead with an idea. And being totally unprepared for the backlash.
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Sam Allardyce as England manager
Sam Allardyce’s 67 days in charge of England look like War & Peace compared with the Super League’s shelf life.
‘Big Sam’ only managed one game in the Three Lions dugout, a last-gasp 1-0 win over Slovakia in September 2016.
An undercover report by the Daily Telegraph led to Allardyce being sacked, which ensured his reign is by far the shortest of any England boss – even Don Revie.
Succeeding Roy Hodgson was the pinnacle of Allardyce’s career. On the day of his appointment, he described it as a “dream”.
However, the move paved the way for Gareth Southgate to take over the team and deliver the unforgettable 2018 World Cup campaign.
Southgate has his detractors but is far better suited to coaching and motivating England’s new generation of technical, fearless players than Allardyce. Big Sam is staring relegation in the face at West Brom.
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Tottenham’s title challenge
On 16 December, a late Roberto Firmino winner saw Liverpool knock Tottenham off the top of the Premier League table with 13 games of the season played.
Jose Mourinho was defiant in his presser after the game, taking digs at opposite number Jurgen Klopp.
There were plenty who took this as a sign Mourinho believed he had a side capable of winning the league. However, Firmino’s goal was a precursor to Spurs’ dramatic slide down the league.
By the time he was sacked on Monday, Mourinho’s men were seventh, 24 points behind leaders Manchester City.
It might not be too late to salvage the season, though. Tottenham are outsiders to get into the top four and huge underdogs to beat City at Wembley on Sunday in the final of the EFL Cup. But stranger things have happened, right?
England’s 2014 World Cup campaign
It took just six days for England to be knocked out of the 2014 World Cup.
The games against Italy and Uruguay took the same pattern – concede first, equalise and then let in a winner.
A point against Uruguay would have kept England’s hopes alive but, as they poured forward in search of all three points, Luis Suarez broke their hearts with five minutes left.
Any mitigating factors? It was a group of death that looked tricky on paper. That said, Costa Rica got through so England should have been able to.
Roy Hodgson kept his job but Euro 2016 ended in more ignominy despite lasting longer – a humiliating 2-1 defeat to Iceland saw to that.
Speaking of Iceland…
Foden and Greenwood’s England call-ups
On 25 August 2020, Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood were handed their maiden England senior call-ups on the back of impressive seasons for Manchester City and Manchester United.
Both players have the quality to play 100 times for England and spearhead their clubs for the next decade.
By 7 September, however, their Three Lions dreams had turned into a nightmare, sent home from Iceland after breaching covid protocols.
Southgate has made great efforts to make tabloid scandals involving his players a thing of the past – but this was an old-fashioned, salacious pile-on.
Foden was reintegrated into the squad soon after and will expect to be named in Southgate’s 23-man party when it’s announced next month.
However, Greenwood has yet to play again for the senior side, although injury and loss of form early in the season has also played a part.
Perhaps if the Super League had progressed, both would have been banned from England duty by UEFA anyway?
But, thankfully, that’s no longer a concern because the brainchild of 12 of European football’s richest teams didn’t even last half as long as Leeds’ botched badge.