Fans up in arms over new European Super League plan as legal action threatened
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and six other European sides have agreed to create a rival competition to the Champions League.
The controversial plans have sparked widespread criticism, including from fan groups, who are united in their opposition and feel the move is based on financial gain and “represents the death of everything that football should be about”.
Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said it would demand answers to the “unforgivable” proposals.
“Our members and football supporters across the world have experienced the ultimate betrayal,” read the group’s statement.
“This is a decision of greed to line the pockets of those at the top and it has been made with no consideration for the loyal supporters, our history, our future or the future of football in this country.
“This is unforgivable. Enough is enough.”
Liverpool supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly denounced the decision of US-based owner Fenway Sports Group (FSG), stating the club is “ours not theirs”.
“#Embarrassing as fan representatives we are appalled and completely oppose this decision,” read a statement on Twitter.
“FSG have ignored fans in their relentless and greedy pursuit of money. Football is ours not theirs. Our football club is ours not theirs.”
Manchester United Supporters’ Trust and Arsenal Supporters’ Trust also called for the plans to be scrapped.
“A ‘Super League’ based on a closed shop of self-selected wealthy clubs goes against everything football and Manchester United should stand for,” read a statement from the Manchester United group.
“We urge everyone included in this proposal including Manchester United to immediately withdraw from this proposal.”
Arsenal Supporters’ Trust said: “This represents the death of everything that football should be about.
“As fans we want to see Arsenal play in competitions based on sporting merit and competitive balance. The AST will do everything we can to oppose this.”
Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust (THST) warned the “future of our club is at stake”, while Manchester City’s Official Supporters Club felt the plans demonstrated “zero regard for the game’s traditions”.
“We call on ENIC (English National Investment Company), the temporary custodians of our great club, to distance themselves from any rebel group and to consider the implications fully before making decisions that will fundamentally change the course of history for Tottenham Hotspur forever,” read a THST statement.
“The future of our club is at stake.”
The statement from Manchester City’s Official Supporters Club, posted under an image of the Grim Reaper kicking a football, read: “This proposed new competition has no sporting merit and would seem to be motivated by greed.
“Furthermore it has been created without the knowledge or input of any supporters groups and once again shows those involved have zero regard for the game’s traditions .
“These owners, irrespective of where they come from, seem to think football belongs to them; it doesn’t it belongs to us - the supporters - irrespective of which team we support.”
The new European Super League Company revealed it has already launched legal action to try to prevent retaliatory moves amid widespread condemnation of the plans.
It is anticipated three more clubs will join the breakaway group as founding members, with the new competition, which will begin “as soon as practicable”, to eventually feature 20 teams.
It is understood that Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has stepped down from his UEFA role, where he was on the Professional Football Strategy Council, while the club have also quit the European Club Association.
After the plans emerged on Sunday afternoon, the backlash was instantaneous throughout the game and beyond, before the clubs released statements just before midnight stating their intentions.
In announcing the news, United co-chairman Joel Glazer, who is also vice-chairman of the Super League, said: “By bringing together the world’s greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid.”
Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan are the other six clubs, with Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain missing from the list.
In a letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino and UEFA’s Aleksander Ceferin, the Super League company calls for cooperation but also reveals it has already taken legal action to try to head off the threat of clubs and players being banned from other competitions, as has previously been suggested.
The letter reads: “We are concerned that FIFA and UEFA may respond to this invitation letter by seeking to take punitive measures to exclude any participating club or player from their respective competitions.
“We hope that is not your response to this letter and that, like us, your organisations will recognise the immediate benefits of the competition established by SLCo.
“We also seek your cooperation and support on how the competition can be brought within the football ecosystem and work with us to achieve that objective.
“Your formal statement does, however, compel us to take protective steps to secure ourselves against such an adverse reaction, which would not only jeopardise the funding commitment under the grant but, significantly, would be unlawful.
“For this reason, SLCo has filed a motion before the relevant courts in order to ensure the seamless establishment and operation of the competition in accordance with applicable laws.”
Former Football Association chairman Greg Dyke does not expect the project to get off the ground because of the widespread opposition to it.
He told BBC Radio Four: “I don’t think it will happen. I think it’s a game that’s going on. But I don’t think it’s good for football in any way at all. Without the approval of UEFA, but particularly without the approval of FIFA, I think this is very difficult to make this happen.
“I think it’s a big mistake. And I think the opposition to it - which has come from almost everywhere, I haven’t heard anybody in favour yet - will probably stop it.”
Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow branded the Super League a “grotesque concept”.
He added: “These proposals do away with sporting merit. It would enable a small number of clubs to be in this competition come what may and, for millions of people in football, that goes against everything the sport means and stands for.”
The clubs involved have so far addressed the plans through a joint statement but Liverpool chief Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel will both face the media later at scheduled press conferences.
The timing of the announcement was incendiary coming ahead of an anticipated announcement from UEFA confirming changes to the Champions League format later today.
UEFA, along with the Football Associations of England, Spain and Italy, plus the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A, said they would use all available means to stop the “cynical project”.