Sun, 09 May 2021

English teams abruptly pull out of planned European Super League

Field Level Media
21 Apr 2021, 11:19 GMT+10

Within 48 hours after it was introduced to a storm of controversy and criticism, the European Super League appears to be unraveling.

All six teams from the English Premier League -- Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur -- announced Tuesday that they are pulling out of the proposed super league. The clubs' decisions came within two days of Sunday's news that the league planned to form, thereby breaking away from the UEFA Champions League.

Considering that four of the rebel 12 clubs are controlled by American owners, and those clubs would be immune to relegation was a major reason for the backlash, as the new league was widely seen as outsiders trying to change the culture of European football.

Former England and Manchester United star player Gary Neville, who is now a commentator and a co-owner of fourth-division English club Salford, described the six Premier League clubs involved as "imposters."

"They're breaking away to a competition they can't be relegated from? It's an absolute disgrace," Neville said on Sky Sports. "We have to wrestle back power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league.

"And that includes my club," Neville said, referring to American-owned Manchester United.

The Super League expected to include at least 12 of the top teams in Europe. Besides the six teams from England, the league announced it would include Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid from Spain as well as AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus from Italy.

The new league issued a statement Monday night saying it would reconsider its next steps in light of the reaction, and as other major clubs in Europe -- including Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain -- indicated they would not be joining.

"The European Super League is convinced that the current status quo of European football needs to change," the statement began. "We are proposing a new European competition because the existing system does not work. Our proposal is aimed at allowing the sport to evolve while generating resources and stability for the full football pyramid, including helping to overcome the financial difficulties experienced by the entire football community as a result of the pandemic."

Fans quickly criticized the proposed changes in England, and at least some players and coaches on affected teams went to ownership saying they were opposed to the move, according to a report from ESPN.

By Tuesday, protests at stadiums grew as fans demanded that their teams withdraw. On Tuesday evening, reports emerged out of Chelsea that the fan backlash had prompted owners to rethink the plan.

Manchester City became the first to announce that they "formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group," and the other English teams followed suit.

Moreover, news emerged Tuesday night that Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward would step down at the end of the season.

Arsenal apologized to its fans in a statement, saying, "We made a mistake and we apologize for it. ... 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."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin issued a statement after the sudden reversal by the English teams.

"I am delighted to welcome (them) back to the European football family," Ceferin said Tuesday, just hours after issuing warnings that players participating in the startup league could be banned from future World Cups and European Championships. "They have shown great intelligence in listening to the many voices -- most notably their fans."

John Henry and the Fenway Sports Group, owners of the Boston Red Sox, also own Liverpool FC. Stan Kroenke and his family own the Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids and Arsenal FC. The Glazer family owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United. Elliott Management Corporation, a New York-based investment management firm, controls more than 99 percent of AC Milan.

--Field Level Media

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