The European Super League, which was suddenly announced like a secret attack on Sunday evening in Europe, collapsed in a heaping wreck yesterday, less than 48 hours later. By nightfall, all six of the English Premier League teams (Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur) had withdrawn, along with their continental co-conspirators Atlético Madrid. The other remaining clubs, Juventus, Internazionale Milano, AC Milan, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid were silent, but the ESL announced Monday evening that it was not moving forward. The attempt to establish a breakaway closed-league had failed, to the delight of most of the football world and its fans.
What seemed like an inevitable force had been stopped in its tracks.
The sheer arrogance of the project was enormous. Instead of preaching its values to fans in an attempt to win hearts and minds, all we had was sheer silence from the likes of John Henry, Joel Glazer and his co-conspirators. Sure, Florentino Pérez gave some interviews on Spanish media, but they could only be described as self-serving. “We will fix football,” he said. What he meant to say was we will fix football so that the 12 rebel clubs would never again have to be concerned about how they performed in their domestic leagues, while at the same time always being assured a place in the Super League. The ultimate antipathy of sporting merit. Oh, and we’ll let a few clubs compete in our league just to say it is “open,” and we’ll send some money (never explaining how it would be distributed) to UEFA.
Clubs around Europe expressed their disgust and opposition to the ESL. Sure, reforms are needed in European football to keep it competitive. But who are these clubs to take it upon themselves without consulting with the rest of their colleagues what will be done?
Everton FC, English football’s fourth most successful club, released this statement:
The project came about through a confluence of different factors and interests, primarily driven by American owners wanting US franchise style with no relegation; JPMorgan Chase investment and expectations of high profits, the lure of increased revenues for all, direct broadcasting rights and tapping into the Asian and other expanding markets.
Extract below, courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd. (Open License)
Less than 48 hours after its revelation, the Premier League’s Big Six clubs were forced into humiliating U-turns after a day of intrigue and outrage to leave the proposal of a European Super League in tatters. Chelsea were the first to brief their withdrawal and, after Manchester City announced they were following suit, the final four – Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham – read the final rites over the breakaway competition just before 11pm with statements that ranged from the terse to the shame-faced.
There was a broad acknowledgement that the rebels had listened to their fans or, in Liverpool’s case “key stakeholders, both internally and externally”, although only Arsenal actually apologised for behaviour that, collectively, has been widely condemned as brazenly self-serving. The Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, did “regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal”.
In England, opposition came from the royal family and government downwards, taking in the Premier League’s “Other 14” clubs, with fans mobilising in numbers, particularly across social media, to decry the scheme.
The Football Association took key stand earlier on Tuesday when it warned that any club involved would be banned from the Premier League and all domestic competitions. Before Liverpool’s statement, to which nobody at the owner, Fenway Sports Group, put their name, two key figures from the club had voiced their opposition to the plan.
The captain, Jordan Henderson, said on behalf of the squad: “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen. This is our collective position,” while Kenny Dalglish, a club legend and nonexecutive director, urged the owners to “do the right thing”.
The FA’s chief executive, Mark Bullingham articulated the FA’s stance in a meeting with Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, league officials, and the division’s other 14 clubs. The FA has the power to grant or remove clubs’ licenses to compete.
He told the meeting the FA would refuse to grant governing body endorsements – essentially work permits – for overseas players at clubs that participated in the Super League.
Pep Guardiola launched a scathing attack, even though City were due to play in it each season.
“It is not a sport where the relation between the effort and the success, the effort and the reward, does not exist,” City’s manager said. “It is not a sport where success is already guaranteed or it is not a sport when it doesn’t matter where you lose. [Even if] the people say: ‘No, no, maybe four or five teams can go up and play this competition,’ [then] what happens to the 14 or 15 not playing a good season and every time will be there? So this is not sport.”
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Cover Photo: Leeds United players warmed up Monday in shirts bearing a slogan opposing the proposed European Super League. Other clubs left out of the plan soon did the same.Credit…Lee Smith/Agence France-Presse, via Pool/Afp Via Getty Images