Football News

What the Super League’s ‘Founding Clubs’ have said so far and reaction as breakaway competition collapses

By Chris Smith

Published: 18:08, 21 April 2021

The monumental collapse of the proposed breakaway Super League truly was a sight to behold.

Less than 48 hours after a group of 12 of Europe’s supposed ‘Super Clubs’ announced their intention to form a breakaway league, the house of cards came tumbling down. In the face of widespread and united anger from fans, English clubs Manchester City and Chelsea were the first to go, followed quickly by the rest of their Premier League counterparts.

As time went on, Atletico Madrid and the two Milan clubs also backed out, while Juventus admitted the project wasn’t feasible in the current climate. Real Madrid and Barcelona are the only remaining sides left in Florentino Perez and Co’s brainchild, though the likelihood of those two playing each other week after week is as unlikely as it is unsavoury.

Though the ESL plans have crumbled, that is certainly not enough for some. Many believe the cold, corporate way in which their clubs have backed out shows a lack of connection or understanding with fans of these great clubs, while others are worried that the oligarchs at the top have still got what they wanted with the Champions League reform.

But as the dominoes continue to fall, let’s take a look at what each of the ‘Founding Clubs’ have said about their decision to abandon the Super League so far.

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Arsenal

Official club statement

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.

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.

We know it will take time to restore your faith in what we are trying to achieve here at Arsenal but let us be clear that the decision to be part of the Super League was driven by our desire to protect Arsenal, the club you love, and to support the game you love through greater solidarity and financial stability.

Stability is essential for the game to prosper and we will continue to strive to bring the security the game needs to move forward.

The system needs to be fixed. We must work together to find solutions which protect the future of the game and harness the extraordinary power football has to get us on the edge of our seats.

Finally, we know this has been hugely unsettling at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all. 

Our aim is always to make the right decisions for this great football club, to protect it for the future and to take us forward. We didn’t make the right decision here, which we fully accept.

We have heard you.

The Arsenal Board

The reaction

In fairness to Arsenal, they are the only club to withdraw from the Super League so far to issue an apology within their initial statement. But that hasn’t appeased club legend Ian Wright, who continues to use social media to put pressure on owner Stan Kroenke to leave the club.

Wright had condemned the Super League plans as “shameful” from the start, while he said the Premier League clubs involved were “English in name only”.

Chelsea

Official club statement

As reported earlier this evening, Chelsea Football Club can confirm that it has begun the formal procedures for withdrawal from the group developing plans for a European Super League.

Having joined the group late last week, we have now had time to consider the matter fully and have decided that our continued participation in these plans would not be in the best interests of the Club, our supporters or the wider football community.

The reaction

While Arsenal at least offered a lengthy apology, their London rivals, Chelsea, retracted their intention to join the Super League with a cold, 73-word statement.

“Having spoken extensively to fans and stakeholders, we have always worked with the community and we’re not going to do anything that goes against them,” a spokesperson for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich told the Telegraph afterwards. “We listened and we heard.”

Though they weren’t the first English side to officially pull out, the Blues were the first rumoured to be performing a U-turn, with huge pressure put on the club by fan protests outside Stamford Bridge ahead of their Premier League tie with Brighton. Technical/performance advisor and legendary goalkeeper Petr Cech even had to step into the breach to try and calm supporters.

Iconic former captain John Terry had already criticised the Super League venture with an Instagram post captioned: “What has happened to our beautiful game… “

Following the statement released by Chelsea on Tuesday evening, Terry’s former teammate Florent Malouda praised the club’s fans for uniting and standing their ground.

Liverpool

Official club statement

Liverpool Football Club can confirm that our involvement in proposed plans to form a European Super League has been discontinued.

In recent days, the club has received representations from various key stakeholders, both internally and externally, and we would like to thank them for their valuable contributions.

The reaction

Like Chelsea, Liverpool’s announcement was incredibly cold, though owner John Henry did apologise to the club’s supporters, Jurgen Klopp and the players via a video message on Wednesday morning, saying he alone takes full responsibility. Meanwhile, club captain Jordan Henderson played a key role in rallying his teammates and other Premier League players against the plans.

Prior to the ESL collapse, Reds hero Kenny Dalglish called on the club’s owners to “do the right thing”, while afterwards, he expressed his relief of Liverpool’s decision to pull out of the plans.

But fellow Liverpool legend John Barnes is less appeased. The former winger criticised Henry’s apology for being “scripted” before going on to suggest nothing has changed in that the wealthy elite will continue to exploit football and its fans.

“What’s happening is there’s been a power struggle between elite groups who control football and exploit the fans, that’s all it was,” Barnes told TalkSPORT.

“It’s just a question of who’s going to exploit them. Now that the ESL is not going to exploit them, it will be the same old guard – FIFA, UEFA, the Premier League and the big clubs.”

Ex-Liverpool centre-back Jamie Carragher believes Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have no future at Anfield in light of recent revelations.

“I actually think the situation with Liverpool’s owners is that l don’t see how they can continue,” Carragher told Sky Sports just before Liverpool backed out.

“They can’t just leave the club, obviously, the business is worth a lot of money. But I don’t see a future for the ownership of FSG at Liverpool on the back of this.”

Manchester City

Official club 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 reaction

At just 25 words long, Man City’s statement — the first to be released — was the shortest.

Earlier on Tuesday, manager Pep Guardiola had criticised the Super League plans. “It is not a sport where the relation between the effort and the success, the effort and the reward, does not exist,” he 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.”

Former City defender Micah Richards, who had branded the Super League plans as “disgusting” as the news broke live on Sky Sports on Sunday, took to Twitter to praise the club for seeing sense and the fans who made their feelings known.

Manchester United

Official club statement

Manchester United will not be participating in the European Super League.

We have listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders.

We remain committed to working with others across the football community to come up with sustainable solutions to the long-term challenges facing the game.

The reaction

One of the main Super League ring leaders, Manchester United have arguably had the most tumultuous time of all 12 clubs over the past few days, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward also announcing his plans to stand down from his position at the end of 2021.

Following their extremely short statement, ex-United right-back and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville — who has been front and centre of Super League criticism in England — was quick to blast his former club’s poor communication.

“I’ve read this 3-4 times now,” he wrote of United’s statement on Twitter. “Quite possibly the worst communication I’ve ever seen in my life.”

On Wednesday afternoon, United owner Joel Glazer penned an open letter to the club’s supporters, admitting his fault for pursuing the Super League project, apologising, and affirming his commitment to putting things right.

“In seeking to create a more stable foundation for the game, we failed to show enough respect for its deep-rooted traditions –promotion, relegation, the pyramid – and for that we are sorry,” part of the statement read.

“This is the world’s greatest football club and we apologise unreservedly for the unrest caused during these past few days.”

Prior to the release of the open letter, Neville said the Glazers have “no place in Manchester”.

Tottenham Hotspur

Official club statement

We can confirm that we have formally commenced procedures to withdraw from the group developing proposals for a European Super League (ESL).

Chairman Daniel Levy said: “We regret the anxiety and upset caused by the ESL proposal. We felt it was important that our club participated in the development of a possible new structure that sought to better ensure financial fair play and financial sustainability whilst delivering significantly increased support for the wider football pyramid.

“We believe that we should never stand still and that the sport should constantly review competitions and governance to ensure the game we all love continues to evolve and excite fans around the world.

“We should like to thank all those supporters who presented their considered opinions.”

The reaction

With all the drama and backlash, the fact that Spurs sacked manager Jose Mourinho and replaced him with former midfielder Ryan Mason on an interim basis almost went under the radar.

Although it was Daniel Levy who expressed Tottenham’s “regret and anxiety” — but not sorrow — by the Super League proposal, it was club owner Joe Lewis who found himself in the crosshairs of former manager Harry Redknapp prior to Spurs backing out. Redknapp accused Lewis of being more interested in cashing in on the club rather than the football itself.

 “The club belongs to Joe Lewis, he’s the main shareholder,” he said. “Joe doesn’t go to watch Tottenham play and not to appear disrespectful, he’s probably only half-interested in watching games. It was an investment.”

What have the non-English clubs said?

As Wednesday wore on, the dominoes continued to fall. In Italy, Inter Milan confirmed they were backing away from the Super League but said they’re “committed to giving fans the best football experience” and didn’t offer an apology or explanation to their supporters. City rivals AC Milan made a similar promise, but also conceded that they “must be sensitive” to club’s fans when making decisions.

But Italian rivals Juventus took a much stronger stance, hinting that the clubs backing away from the proposal weren’t following correct procedure and reaffirming their support of the project on a long-term basis, even if they must step away in the present.

A club statement read: “With reference to the press release published by Juventus Football Club S.p.A. on 19 April 2021, relating to the proposed creation of the Super League, and the ensuing public debate, the issuer clarifies to be aware of the request and intentions otherwise expressed by certain clubs to withdraw from this project, although the necessary procedures envisaged by the agreement among the clubs have not been completed.

“In this context, while Juventus remains convinced of the soundness of the project’s sport, commercial and legal premises, it believes that at present there are limited chances that the project be completed in the form originally conceived.

“Juventus remains committed to pursuing the creation of long-term value for the Company and the entire football industry.”

The only Spanish side to back away from the table so far, Atletico Madrid said that they were pulling out due to “circumstances that no longer exist today”, while they reasoned that “harmony” between the groups that make up the club, including the fans, is “essential”.



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