The news of plans for 12 of Europe’s top football teams to break away and form a European Super League has shocked and outraged the footballing and wider world.
In a joint announcement Sunday night, six English clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – alongside three teams from Italy – AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus – and three from Spain – Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid – laid out plans to form a breakaway competition, referred to in the announcement as the Super League.
While fan groups for the clubs themselves expressed their opposition to the plans and threatened to forego their support of their club – The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust called the club’s agreement to join “the death of Arsenal as a sporting institution” – clubs outside the 12 had their say.
22-time Russian Premier League winners Spartak Moscow offered to welcome fans of the proposed European Super League members if they choose to jump ship.
“Dear AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético, Chelsea, Barcelona, Internazionale, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham fans,” it wrote on Twitter.
“If you need a new club to support, we’re always here for you.”
Current Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Ander Herrera became one of the first high-profile players to speak out on the European Super League, saying: “I fell in love with popular football, with the football of the fans, with the dream of seeing the team of my heart compete against the greatest. If this European Super League advances, those dreams are over.”
Former Arsenal and Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil also condemned the changes.
“Kids grow up dreaming to win the World Cup and the Champions League – not any Super League. The enjoyment of big games is that they only happen once or twice a year, not every week. Really hard to understand for all football fans out there,” he said
Hans-Joachim Watzke, chief executive officer of Borussia Dortmund, said in a statement that the members of the board of the European Club Association (ECA) rejected the plans.
Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville believes the six English clubs involved should be docked points and fined if they choose to go ahead with the plans.
“It’s pure greed,” Neville told Sky Sports. “They (the club’s owners) are imposters. They’re nothing to do with football in this country. There’s 100-odd years of history in this country of fans who have lived and loved these clubs.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis. Football clubs in the National League are going bust, furloughing players and these lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away.
“Dock them all points tomorrow. Put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously, you have to stamp on this.”
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‘This is deeply troubling and damaging for football’
In addition to the 12 founding members of the proposed Super League, the group plans to add three additional clubs before the Super League’s inaugural season, which is “intended to commence as soon as is practiceable,” according to the announcement posted on the 12 clubs’ websites.
The joint statement says the league will ultimately consist of 20 clubs and be governed by the founding clubs.
American investment bank JP Morgan confirmed to CNN on Monday that it will be financing the proposed new breakaway European Super League.
French President Emmanuel Macron supported the position of French clubs to refuse to participate in the European Super League, while his UK counterpart, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, condemned the plans, calling them “very damaging for football.”
“Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action,” he said on Twitter.
“They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps.”
FIFA, the global governing body for football, denounced the formation of the Super League, saying it goes against FIFA’s core principles of solidarity, inclusivity, integrity and equitable financial redistribution.
In UEFA’s Sunday statement, it referenced FIFA’s earlier statement stressing that Super League clubs “will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.”
Even before Sunday’s official Super League announcement, European football’s governing body along with several other governing bodies and leagues issued a joint statement condemning the new league’s formation. UEFA – which oversees all European football – along with the English, Spanish, and Italian governing bodies and the top flight leagues from those three countries co-signed the statement.
UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden questioned the fairness of the proposed changes and stressed the focus of football is on the fans.
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“Football supporters are the heartbeat of our national sport and any major decisions made should have their backing,” he said.
“With many fans, we are concerned that this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game. Sustainability, integrity and fair competition are absolutely paramount and anything that undermines this is deeply troubling and damaging for football.
“We have a football pyramid where funds from the globally successful Premier League flow down the leagues and into local communities. I would be bitterly disappointed to see any action that destroys that.”