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Reading, The European Super League And The Impossible Dream

What does the European Super League have to do with Reading? On the face of it, nothing, but in reality, everything. Sim explains why.

Reading v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

On the face of it, the European Super League has nothing to do with Reading Football Club whatsoever. The elite level of the continental game is a world away from a team that’s generally been at Championship level in the last two decades, and has only once come vaguely close to qualification for the Champions League: the Royals finished 13 points off the top four in 2007.

Since then it’s been relegation to the Championship, getting back into the Premier League, being relegated again, getting perilously close to being relegated into League One a few times, and a couple of flirtations with promotion through the play-offs. It’s been more down than up; success has been fleeting, not sustained.

So knowing that, even if we do buck the trend and return to the top flight we’ll likely not stay there for long, and the best we can realistically hope for is to establish ourselves in mid-table for a few years, should be pretty galling. Simple realism dictates that Reading Football Club is destined to achieve nothing of significance, win no major trophies and remain “tinpot and irrelevant” - as rival fans frequently mention on Twitter.

And yet, the hope always remains that we can be something more. That hope is an intangible, abstract feeling, and one that’s much more remote to supporters low down the pyramid than it is to those at the top of it, but it’s still there. It’s the idea that, whatever you’re striving to achieve, and however unlikely that achievement is, you just might do it.

Football is about what may happen, not what should happen. So the attempt to enforce outcomes before they’ve been decided on merit is an outrage not just to the elite level of the game, but to every level.

Much has been said and written elsewhere about the very real, immediate challenge to fairness that a closed European Super League would present. For example, Leicester City and West Ham United, in third and fourth respectively, have performed better this season than Chelsea (fifth), Liverpool (sixth), Tottenham Hotspur (seventh) and Arsenal (ninth), but they’d both be barred entry to the ESL.

But there’s a wider issue here too that affects Reading - just as it affects every club in the country. From Manchester United to Maidenhead, Chelsea to Caversham United, there’s a clear link that says you can - based on performance - rise from the very bottom to the very top and vice versa. Likelihood is irrelevant - the crucial point is that you can.

If anyone’s demonstrated that to Reading, it’s Leicester City and West Ham United. Both have been in the Championship within the last decade (in fact, Reading did the double over both the last time we won the league), but have performed well enough on the field as to give themselves a shot at playing elite-level European football. Of course, the Foxes did so a few years ago after winning the Premier League.

The idea of a ‘European Super League’ is not just to wall off the top level of the game to Leicester and West Ham, but to say to clubs across the country - Reading certainly included - that our hopes are irrelevant.