Call to punish European Super League six after dramatic climbdown

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber has called on the Premier League and Football Association to “take appropriate action” against the six English clubs who have withdrawn from the European Super League.

Victory: Chelsea fans celebrate after hearing the news that their club had withdrawn from the ESL. Picture: AP
Victory: Chelsea fans celebrate after hearing the news that their club had withdrawn from the ESL. Picture: AP

The Seagulls drew 0-0 on Tuesday night at Chelsea, who joined Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham in pulling out, and Barber said those responsible for the proposals should be held to account.

Barber told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “It’s been a very difficult 72 hours and the FA and Premier League now need to review what’s happened, who was responsible, the damage it’s done to the game over the last 72 hours and take the appropriate action.

“I think there’s real disappointment and many of the people involved, people we count as colleagues, we have worked with for many years. I think this hasn’t just happened over 72 hours, it’s been weeks and months in planning and that feels very disappointing.

Punish them: Brighton and Hove Albion's Paul Barber.

“There’s a lot of bridges that now need to be rebuilt and it needs to be the six clubs back to the 14.”

Barber said the Super League had caused “a huge amount of damage” and that the game’s governing bodies must ensure it can never happen in future.

“The Premier League and the FA now need to make sure that their rules are tightened significantly to make sure this never happens again,” said Barber.

“There’s no doubt there’s a huge amount of damage been done in the last 72 hours and it’s going to take some time to repair. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again and we learn from it.”

When asked if the six English clubs should now face a points deduction, Barber added: “I’m not the judge or jury on this one. It’s not for me to determine, that’s up to the Premier League.”

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said the club “regret the anxiety and upset caused by the proposal” while Arsenal apologised for their “mistake” in signing up for the venture.

Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea were a little more prosaic in confirming they were pulling out of the breakaway league with short statements, but the fallout is unlikely to end there.

Ed Woodward announced he will step down as United executive vice-chairman by the end of 2021, while pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher called for changes at the top at the Red Devils and Liverpool, the teams they respectively support.

In response to their departures, the Super League announced early on Wednesday morning it is considering “appropriate steps to reshape the project”.

A statement said: “Despite the announced departure of the English clubs, forced to take such decisions due to the pressure put on them, we are convinced our proposal is fully aligned with European law and regulations as was demonstrated today by a court decision to protect the Super League from third party actions.

“Given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidarity payments for the entire football community.

“The European Super League is convinced that the current status quo of European football needs to change. 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.”

Liverpool revealed their involvement had been “discontinued”, while United said they had “listened carefully to the reaction from our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders” and “will not be participating” in the Super League.

City said they “formally enacted the procedures to withdraw”, while Chelsea have “begun the formal procedures for withdrawal from the group” which they joined “late last week”.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin welcomed the withdrawal of the English clubs from the planned breakaway league.

“I said yesterday that it is admirable to admit a mistake and these clubs made a big mistake. But they are back in the fold now and I know they have a lot to offer not just to our competitions but to the whole of the European game.

“The important thing now is that we move on, rebuild the unity that the game enjoyed before this and move forward together.”

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said the position of a number of the club’s board is now “untenable”, but in the meantime fans, players, managers and pundits alike were celebrating an important victory.

Neville said on Sky Sports: “It’s absolutely incredible. There was large concern yesterday morning as a Manchester United fan thinking Joel Glazer put his name on a statement - you thought it’s going to be difficult to back down.

“But City have enacted withdrawal proceedings and Chelsea are doing the same. It’s gone, done!”

Carragher, like Neville an outspoken critic of the Super League, tweeted a picture of a headstone engraved with the inscription “European Super League, born April 18, 2021, died April 20, 2021.”

Carragher claimed the comments of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, midfielder James Milner and Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford after Monday night’s match helped swing the balance.

“After the game, I felt reenergised and was confident this would be over after those players came out. That gave me a huge lift. I said as soon as one goes that’s the end of it, and it’s finished.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson led the backlash within the club with a tweet which read: “We don’t like it and we don’t want it to happen. This is our collective position.

“Our commitment to this football club and its supporters is absolute and unconditional. You’ll never walk alone.”

Carragher says club owners Fenway Sports Group should no longer continue at the helm.

“Klopp threw the owners under the bus, the captain has, Kenny Dalglish has,” he added.

“I don’t know what they are hanging on for. I don’t see a future for the ownership on the back of this.”