All six English clubs dramatically abandoned plans to join a breakaway Super League today, threatening to implode the project by a group of elite English, Spanish and Italian clubs less than two days after it was announced.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham deserted the 12-team project amid an escalating backlash that saw the government warn of legislating to stop the breakaway competition.
Manchester City were the first club to withdraw from the proposed competition this morning. Hours later all of the six Premier League teams were out.
The Premier League leaders posted a statement.
“Manchester City Football Club can confirm that it has formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League,” the brief statement said.
Arsenal’s board released an open letter admitting they made a mistake to join the proposed league.
“The last few days have shown us yet again the depth of feeling our supporters around the world have for this great club and the game we love,” the statement said.
“We needed no reminding of this but the response from supporters in recent days has given us time for further reflection and deep thought.
“It was never our intention to cause such distress, however when the invitation to join the Super League came, while knowing there were no guarantees, we did not want to be left behind to ensure we protected Arsenal and its future.
“As a result of listening to you and the wider football community over recent days we are withdrawing from the proposed Super League. We made a mistake, and we apologise for it.”
They were all set to be part of the 15 team competition – a breakaway from the UEFA Champions League – which was revealed on Monday.
The remaining six clubs are Inter Milan, Juventus and AC Milan of Italy and Spain’s
Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Three clubs were yet to be named to join.
Chelsea fans formed outside home ground Stamford Bridge ahead of today’s Premier League draw with Brighton to protest the Super League move.
Liverpool players all posted on social media saying they are against the competition before the club officially withdrew.
Boris Johnson steps in
English opposition to the Super League intensified overnight when the Premier League threatened to sanction the six rebel clubs and Prime Minister Boris Johnson considered introducing laws to stop them forming a new European competition he called a “cartel.”
Divisions within the Super League clubs also grew with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola saying joining a largely closed competition away from UEFA’s existing Champions League could damage the integrity and values of sport. Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has also expressed concerns about the actions of his club’s owners.
The Premier League has already threatened the six Super League clubs with expulsion if they go it alone in Europe. The other 14 clubs met ovenight and “unanimously and vigorously” rejected the Super League plans.
“The Premier League is considering all actions available to prevent it from progressing, as well as holding those shareholders involved to account under its rules,” the English top division said in a statement.
The six clubs, driven by the American owners of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, have teamed up with three elite teams from both Spain and Italy to rip up the structures of the European game.
Tottenham is also part of the breakaway that would see the teams guaranteed entry each year into the Super League rather than having to qualify through the previous season’s Premier League placing.
“Sport is not a sport when the relationship between the effort and the success, the effort and reward doesn’t exist,” said Guardiola, whose Manchester City side leads the Premier League. “It’s not a sport. It’s not a sport when success is already guaranteed. It’s not a sport when it doesn’t matter when you lose.”
Premier League officials were also part of a meeting alongside representatives of fan groups led from Downing Street by Johnson, who told them the government would “drop a legislative bomb” on the Super League if necessary.
“I think it’s not in the interests of fans, it’s not in the interests of football,” Johnson said later in a news conference.
The government could adopt the 50-plus-1 rule from Germany that gives fans the majority of voting rights, nominally to protect clubs from being controlled by private investors. The Super League aims for 15 founding Super League clubs — three places are yet to be filled — and only five spots with more open access.
“How can it be right to have a situation in which you create a kind of cartel that stops clubs competing against each other, playing against each other properly, with all the hope and excitement that gives to the fans up and down the country?” Johnson said. “I think it offends against the basic principles of competition.”
Everton decried the “preposterous arrogance” of Super League clubs. Everton’s nine titles are the fourth most by a team in the history of the English top division, and the club from Merseyside was considered part of the country’s elite in the 1980s and early 1990s.
“The backlash is understandable and deserved — and has to be listened to,” Everton’s board of directors said in a statement. “This preposterous arrogance is not wanted anywhere in football outside of the clubs that have drafted this plan.”
Everton’s majority owner, British-Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri, has spent heavily in recent years in an effort to push the team, which is managed by Carlo Ancelotti, into the group stage of the Champions League for the first time.
West Ham is also pursuing a top-four finish to qualify for the Champions League for the first time. The east London club said the Super League was an “attack on sporting integrity, undermines competition.”
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